Usher and 8701 might as well be . . . well, take your pick. Adopting a post-New Jack style and tougher rhythms and rhymes, this could be any generic, hip-hop-flavored soundtrack of the month. Crooning ballad? Check. Booty call? Check. Ego-boosting street shout-out? Check. They're all here, and with hotshot producers like the Neptunes behind him, they sound damn good. But just try to find the soul beneath the surface gloss. U.K. import Craig David, who mines similar territory, makes Usher sound like an R&B robot. But the return to the studio has paid off. 8701's first single, "U Remind Me," rocketed to No. 1, and Usher is more or less guaranteed a multiplatinum album akin to 1997's My Way. With 8701, he's giving the current pop/R&B market exactly what it wants -- which, of course, will fill his pockets. But it isn't good for the soul.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.