Album Review

Usher extends, hits the bull’s-eye

August 30, 2010

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As so many artists do these days, Usher is supplementing his most recent platinum seller “Raymond v. Raymond’’ with a deluxe EP.

Whether purchased in conjunction with the original or as a standalone, “Versus’’ feels like more than an afterthought. In fact, with its compact running time “Versus’’ is in some ways better than the album that spawned it. It’s also yet another reminder that the tendency to overstuff albums, so prevalent in the last decade (especially in contemporary R&B), does a disservice to both artists and fans.

Instead of ho-hum filler, “Versus’’ offers the strongest arrows in Usher’s quiver.

There is current hit, dance thumper “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love’’ exhorting listeners in the most inviting way to lose themselves in the music. “Lay You Down’’ is an urgent boudoir jam that draws a neat line — thanks to its sexy pleas and keening falsetto — from Marvin Gaye to Prince to Usher. Jay-Z bumps up the fun factor on the burbling “Hot Tottie.’’ And the strongest “Raymond’’ track, the creamy “There Goes My Baby,’’ a sort of urban-pop gloss on “Wonderful Tonight’’ complete with slinky computerized beats and a stately string breakdown, is reprised here. The frivolous lite-funk trifle “Lingerie’’ features producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis at their lightfooted best.

All of the above make leering club bumpers like “Get in My Car’’ and “Love Em’ All’’ — an uncomfortably skeevy ode to loving every woman in the joint, in pairs if necessary — a little easier to take. (Out now)


ESSENTIAL “Hot Tottie’’