Usher

Here I Stand (LaFace/Sony BMG)

You really can't fault entertainers claiming "player for life" status — at least they're being honest. Everyone from Rod Stewart to Karrine "Superhead" Steffans knows that the promiscuous can't be reformed, that once you get the taste of the easy-lovin', high-livin' lifestyle, it's almost impossible to let go. That's what made Usher's last album, Confessions, so interesting. He was essentially admitting to being the cheater and scumbag that former lover Steffans and others had accused him of being.

But his followup, Here I Stand, finds him a married father, and he admits to little more than cyber-cruising. "I'm chatting, this ain't cheating, just telling myself a lie," he sings on "Appetite." Rest assured, though, he will "bend them a bit, but never break the rules." Suuuure. Elsewhere on the CD, he mostly leaves the debauchery to Will.i.am — whose stale, crass "What's Your Name" will hopefully mark the end of his era — and Jeezy and Weezy, whose verses on the two versions of "Love in This Club" somehow don't ruin a truly monster of a track. It's the kind of song that makes you not worry too much about Here I Stand's blatant disingenuousness. It simply whets your appetite for Confessions II.

 
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