Let some critics tell it, R&B superstar Usher‘s new album, ‘Hard II Love,’ does not live up to its title.
Noted by many-a-reviewer for its tracklist being lined with moving ballads and daring departures from mainstream R&B, the set’s lead singles –‘Crash,’ ‘No Limit’ (ft. Young Thug), and ‘Rivals’ (featuring Future) – have proven themselves a clear, yet strategic and intentional attempts to draw today’s younger listeners.
From where we (the buying public) stand in relation to the boardroom (on the outside looking in), however, it appears the strategic tactics stopped there. For, with a surprise early release and few promotional appearances to announce its availability, the absence of buzz for the project may see ‘Hard II Love’ very ‘Hard II Find’ in the upper rankings of the Billboard 200.
An alarming fact given the high hopes many had for ‘Hard’ to help return the one-time chart champion back to his former glory…
History has shown us Usher is an anomaly when it comes to the class of R&B stars he graduated from the 90s with (see: Brandy, Monica, etc.). Indeed, despite a number of commercial and critical hiccups over the past decade (as it’s no secret Ush has had difficulty finding solid sonic footing), he’s still maintained a level of relevance that has allowed the buying public to forgive his previous efforts and maintain high levels of hope and anticipation for his future releases.
While in theory that level of dedication is an asset it also puts serious pressure on him to outdo himself – a feat even more challenging for a 37-year-old R&B star who has inconsistently tried to balance the desires of his core fan base with attempts to reach new audiences (EDM, “trap,” etc). ‘Hard II Love’ is evidence of yet another try at this and lends itself to the recurring theme of Ush’s career over the past decade: walking the fine line between eclecticism and “throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.”
Will ‘Hard II Love’ stick? The official sales projections, which are due any day now, will tell the true story. Until we find out, tell us: