Raymond v Raymond (Expanded Edition)

Raymond v Raymond (Expanded Edition)

By 2010, it still felt like USHER had room to rest on his Confessions-era laurels, even though he was coming off of releasing 2008’s Here I Stand. That album was more conventionally pop than anything he’d done up to that point, maybe due to the fact that the Atlanta-based superstar had room and capital to experiment as he pleased. But 2010’s Raymond v Raymond saw USHER getting back into his stride, making music that was timely without being overzealous in its pursuit of guaranteed chart-toppers. “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” one of the lead singles, brandishes his sweet falsetto, and “There Goes My Baby” features a similar delivery, while rejoicing in how good it feels to be in love. An ascendant Nicki Minaj shows up on “Lil Freak,” and USHER’s regular collaborator Ludacris shows up for the solid "She Don’t Know.” The clearest improvement on Raymond v Raymond from its predecessor comes with the will.i.am-produced “Omg,” a super time-specific hit that expands and improves upon their work on Here I Stand. “Guilty” with T.I. shares similar pop sensibilities, as it tells the story of a man who’s deeply in love even though he’s not yet ready to give up his participation in the nightlife. In many ways, it seems like the crux of the message that Raymond v Raymond is trying to convey is that there’s always an inner battle one feels as they mature. Should they start the process of slowing down and finding their one and only? Or should they revel in their fleeting youth by continuously indulging in the party life until they can’t anymore? Or can you have your cake and eat it too?

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