R&B sensation Usher is back with his sixth studio album, Raymond v Raymond. On it, this self-proclaimed “triple threat” entertainer—actor, singer, dancer—sings the praises of no-commitment sex, beautiful women and his own fame.
In a recent Good Morning America interview, Usher was asked to describe his latest effort. He responded, “I began to tell the story between two characters—Raymond v. Raymond—where there’s a perception of what it is [that] I am and who I am, and what I have to do as a responsibility. … There was a story here. There was an evolution of a person.”
Evolution and responsibility? Only if you redefine those terms.
Some lyrics on “Papers” suggest Usher doesn’t want to divorce his wife (though other lyrics are supportive of married couples who decide to call it quits). “Foolin’ Around” ponders, “Why do you love a fool/With all the things I do?” Usher eventually suggests, “You deserve more”—a sentiment that definitely applies to the remainder of this album.
Explicit, erotic tracks frequently glorify casual sex. “Monstar” instructs, “Tell me how deep you want me to go.” “Lil Freak” involves group sex, exhibitionist lesbianism and masturbation. On “Hey, Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” Usher brags, “Can’t nobody do your body like this.” There’s more of the same on “There Goes My Baby,” as Usher gushes about his lover’s physical attributes—never mind that they’re not married (“You don’t need a ring”). “OMG” leeringly objectifies a woman’s body (“Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow/Honey got some boobies like wow, oh wow”). “Making Love (Into the Night)” is about exactly that. Elsewhere, Usher is “Okay” with the fact that he doesn’t know an anonymous lover’s name. And “So Many Girls” exalts the way he uses his celebrity status to woo women of every race.
“Mars vs. Venus” insists that in the power struggle between genders, “[the] objective is to conquer.” “Pro Lover” finds Usher articulating his philosophy on relationships: “I’m better when I touch and go/I’m tryin’ to add yo’ name to my hall of fame/Not just a playa, I’m a pro lover. …/This ain’t about fidelity.” On “Guilty,” Usher goes clubbing while his girlfriend (or possibly his wife) doubts his faithfulness. She’s upset, but Usher retorts that she “should have let me be.” Similarly, “Foolin’ Around” offers an insincere apology to Usher’s wife for cheating before they even got married. “Papers” encourages divorce, telling married couples, “If you had enough and you’re ready to sign, say ‘Ready.'”
Numerous songs contain partially bleeped f-words and s-words, while “a‑‑,” “h‑‑‑” “d‑‑n” and the n-word aren’t censored. References to drunkenness pop up too. Highlighting Usher’s “playa” status, two liner-note photos feature a woman wearing only panties (we see her bare back) as she leans against him.
As I noted above, Usher would have fans believe his latest effort represents a step forward. But if Raymond v Raymond’s shameless celebration of sexual excess constitutes progress, I’d hate to see what backsliding looks like. Instead, I’d be more than happy to see Usher “devolve” into a faithful, committed man who treats women with respect. But I’m not holding my breath.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about Usher is the influence he wields over the fans—many of them teens—who propelled this album to No. 1. For example, Usher’s 16-year-old protégé, Justin Bieber, told People magazine that his mentor is “like a big brother.”
Trust me: Usher isn’t a suitable chaperone for any 16-year-old … or anybody else, for that matter.