Usher grows up on his new CD

May 30, 2008 1:19:50 PM PDT
In the four years since his last album - the nine-million selling, Grammy-winning "Confessions" - Usher has apparently undergone a personal and musical maturation.

On the homefront, the Atlanta-bred R&B singer now has a son, Usher Raymond V, and wife, celebrity stylist Tameka Foster (despite breakup rumors in the blogosphere). And where his previous CD dealt with themes of infidelity and mixed emotions, his latest release "Here I Stand" is a near-180-degree shift, full of solid songs about true love and committed relationships.

However, Usher hasn't lost his sense of sexual drama nor his skill at delivering well-crafted, soul-pop jams. He's just more straightforward in his ability to titillate and romance. "Love In This Club" featuring Young Jeezy is a right-here, right-now sexy, dancefloor-packer on which Usher gets all hot-and-heavy. He croons: "You know all you gotta do is tell me what you sippin' on/ And I promise that I'm gonna keep it comin' all night long."

Meanwhile, the swaying, lovey-dovey vibes of the Jermaine Dupri-produced "Something Special," built on spare guitar strums, is perfect for summer wedding playlists. And for the honeymoon, he's got the necessary mood music: the slow burn of "Love You Gently."

There are moments where Usher's gooey sentiments seem overwrought - the synth-heavy ballad "Moving Mountains" and the sentimental "What's A Man to Do." But so much of "Here I Stand" is classy R&B that it's hard to fault Usher for playing the good-guy.