To say Usher Raymond's maturation into manhood was an easy transition would be a complete lie. His journey from a smooth, dancing preteen crooner in 1994 to an international superstar in 2010 has been met with turbulence. It has shaped him for his newest body of work, Raymond v. Raymond, a win-win situation for all.
Much of the album is based on truth, and Usher lays it all out on the table. "(My fans) want honesty; they want to feel like they've been connected to your experience … and Raymond v. Raymond is that. I feel like I'm my own worst enemy and my greatest supporter at the same time. And I'm not hiding behind an alter ego of any sort, but really dealing with me," Usher tells the Canadian Press.
Much of that honesty comes from dealing with a very drama-filled love life. He fired his long-time manager, his mother Jonetta Patton, amid rumors that his then-fiance, Tameka Foster, didn't get along with Patton. Raymond divorced Foster in 2009.
Enter Raymond v. Raymond and his first single, "Papers." It seems as if the same thing that set him back personally, continues to propel him forward professionally. Usher uses Raymond v. Raymond to shake off a lot of his frustrations about his divorce, but the album also embraces his new freedom as bachelor.
But Usher isn't battling dueling personas a la Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce, or T.I./T.I.P; Usher's real conflict is attempting to reformulate what made his 2004 album Confessions a hit, and to stay as far away as possible from his 2008 "wedding album," Here I Stand. So is Raymond v. Raymond a knockout? Check out The Root's score card:
Round 1: Revenge Record
"Papers" vs. "Guilt"
"Papers," Usher's first single from the album was recorded before he went through his public divorce, according to MTV News. However, the song's lyrics are very detailed: "Damn near lost my mama/ been through so much drama." "Guilty" is dripping in subtle sarcasm and features the recently freed rapper T.I., and Usher does his best to keep his composure on the up-tempo track. Usher expresses his frustration with being in a relationship in which he is always being accused: "Tired of your little games/ f*** it, I'll take the blame."
Round 2: Miss You Melody
"There Goes My Baby" vs. "Hey Daddy, (Daddy's Home)"
Intended to be a dance-circuit-ready hit, the pop-ish "More" does its best attempt to become a crossover sensation like 2004's "Yeah." But it's the horn-heavy "She Don't Know," featuring Ludacris, which provides the bounce. Nodding your head is natural as Usher describes the challenge of getting close to a woman who knows how to play hard to get.
Winner: "She Don't Know"
Raymond vs. Raymond in stores and available for download today.
Shirea L. Carroll is an lifestyle/entertainment writer and event consultant. Follow her on Twitter.