Looking 4 Myself
"Walking with my head down/Counting every step/Hoping that the next one/Brings me closer to the man I was." So confesses Usher on the reflective title track of Looking 4 Myself. Could it be that, on his seventh album in 18 years, Usher Raymond IV is suffering from an existential identity crisis? Never fear, folks: The almighty star confidently displays various sides of himself, proving that he can be all things to all people with another R&B-pop blockbuster. He's the Ibiza-ready club kid on electro thumpers like current single "Scream" and the Swedish House Mafia-produced "Euphoria" that build on the success of "OMG," "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" and "Without You" (with David Guetta). He's also the silky-smooth loverman on ambient slow jams like the hit "Climax" and the P.M. Dawn-esque "Dive," showing, as he lays on his creamy falsetto, that he's a better singer than ever (despite occasionally toying with Auto-Tune). Then he's the old-school soul man on the funky James Brown-ish "Twisted" and "Sins of My Father," which, produced by Amy Winehouse collaborator Salaam Remi, inspires Usher to look for the Marvin Gaye inside of him.
Punching Bag |
On Punching Bag, Josh Turner comes "fighting out of the traditional-country-music corner," says a ring announcer in the intro. And he hits you with plenty of good old-fashioned hooks, from the classic weepie "Cold Shoulder" to "I Was There," on which he uses his authoritative baritone to adopt the voice of God. Meanwhile "Pallbearer," a funereal ballad, finds him channeling the spirit of Johnny Cash.
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3 THINGS I'M LOVING NOW!
1 RADIOHEAD ON TOUR When I saw the alt-rock gods perform the first of two sold-out shows in Newark, N.J., it was truly a mystical experience. A haunting "Give Up the Ghost" (from The King of Limbs) gave me chills.
2 DIANA ROSS ON DVD Perhaps the diva's most supreme moment, from 1983, is captured on Diana Ross Live in Central Park. After a massive downpour shortens the first concert, she storms back the next day. No wind, no rain can stop her, babe.
3 FLORENCE + THE MACHINE'S NEW VIDEO The clip for "Spectrum"-the latest single off Ceremonials-is a colorful spectacle codirected by David LaChapelle and featuring a troupe of ballet dancers with a mini-Flo lookalike.
GARBAGE'S SHIRLEY MANSON
ON GARBAGE'S SEVEN-YEAR RECORDING HIATUS
We needed to have a life and regenerate ourselves. I traveled a lot, bought a house, got married, adopted a rescue dog and was on a TV show [Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles]. And I learned how to drive at 40 years old. It was really exciting!
ON WOMEN IN MUSIC TODAY
What breaks my heart is there are very few women out there making a rebellious statement. It seems like all of today's female pop stars are really beautiful girls who have 10 million followers on Facebook. Nobody wants to hear from a provocative woman at the moment unless she is dressed in crazy costumes.
ON ROCKING IN HER 40s
It doesn't matter how many glasses of water I drink or how much moisturizer I put on my skin. I am going to age like everybody else. I try to concentrate on stuff that I can control-like having as much fun in my life as I possibly can!
EMELI SANDE Our Version of Events There's a reason why this Scottish singer-songwriter was tapped to open for Coldplay on tour this summer: Her album, which opened at No. 1 in the U.K. in February, is one of the year's best debuts. With shades of blues, jazz and gospel, she makes richly toned and textured R&B. Highlights include "Clown," a ballad that will make you cry until the makeup runs down your face.
ED SHEERAN Like Sande, this Englishman is one of VH1's You Oughta Know artists, and the video for first single "The A Team"-a heartbreaker about a young woman dealing with drug addiction and prostitution-is in heavy rotation. Folkified tunes like this evoke James Blunt and Damien Rice, but the more soulful Sheeran also boasts a bit o' B-boy swagger, busting out some hip-hop flows.