Usher arrives at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards held at...

Usher arrives at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (May 20, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Usher has always had so many things going for him -- the soulful voice, the smooth dance moves, the movie-star good looks and, more recently, the business savvy -- that it becomes really easy to coast.

That's not to say that Usher doesn't work hard, since no one lasts 18 years at the top of the music industry without working for it. But on "Looking 4 Myself" (RCA), Usher doesn't take it easy for one minute. His seventh studio album pushes the boundaries of R&B and dance music to offer surprises at every turn.

The leadoff single, "Climax," is a gorgeous electronic ballad that showcases Usher's tender falsetto and Diplo's sweeping production that never goes over-the-top. He channels James Brown and the Jackson Five on the funky good time "Twisted," with the help of Pharrell. On "Numb," he hooks up with Swedish House Mafia for a soaring slice of EDM that rivals his hit with David Guetta, "Without You."

Regardless of the sonic situation, though -- he tackles a bit of Gotye-ish pop simplicity in the title track and the heavy hip-hop jam on "Hot Thing" with A$ap Rocky -- Usher makes sure his vocals are still the song's focus. He has so much confidence in his vocals that he even tries to keep up with Rick Ross using only his falsetto in "Lemme See."

"Looking 4 Myself" may not match the four No. 1 singles that flew off "Confessions" in 2004-2005, but it's actually his best album yet.


"Looking 4 Myself"


BOTTOM LINE Digging deep, finding an artist's soul

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