Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Versus is the first extended play by American R&B singer Usher, released August 24, 2010, on LaFace Records. Production for the album took place during 2008 to 2010 and was handled by several producers, including Polow da Don, Jim Jonsin, Rico Love, Drumma Boy, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Tha Cornaboyz and Max Martin.
The EP debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 46,000 copies in its first week. It became Usher's sixth top-ten album in the United States, and has produced two singles that achieved chart success, including the US top-thirty hit "Hot Tottie" and international hit "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love". Despite some criticism towards its pop-oriented material, Versus received generally positive reviews from most music critics.
"OMG this EP, srsly. Usher's tacit would-be tell-all Raymond v. Raymond spoke softly but wielded a big stick, and has emerged as one of the few albums this year to manage a pretty decent tally of moves on SoundScan. (Of course, that could indicate that Usher's party boat has inevitably sailed up a port or two, demographically speaking. With Lady Antebellum and Sade near the head of this year's list, it could just be that Usher's appeal lies strongest with the cougar set.)
Naturally, the reward for robust sales in the realm of physical media is - you guessed it - a special edition disc intended to garnish those numbers. The cherry on top for those duped into flexing their wallets in the name of democracy and maybe usurping Justin "Pygmalion" Bieber (fat chance) is Versus, a 40-minute, nine-song EP culling what I have to assume are the best outtakes and tunes unused when Raymond v. Raymond was being compiled. The songs are folded into the deluxe edition, but are also available cut-rate on a separate disc for those who don't want to buy the same album a second time. Of course, the only people I could imagine getting any pleasure whatsoever from Versus's wretched collection of failed club-sex jams are those with enough bad taste to buy Raymond v. Raymond three or four times over. And I say that as someone who would actually kick it once or twice with "OMG," the daddy disc's requisite Black Eyed Peas castaway.
Really, the less said about these nine songs the better. (Well, seven songs actually, sinceVersus peculiarly ports over the dribbly "There Goes My Baby" from Raymond v. Raymond and outright snatches the synthetically ebullient "Somebody to Love" back from Eve HarringtonJustin Bieber.) The selection is so dire that the songs that make no impression are the highlights. "Lingerie" is a fuzzed-out funker with hints of latter-day Michael Jackson burning in the aftertaste, courtesy of producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. And "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" is, while indistinguishable from any other overdriving club banger, one of the only songs in which Usher Raymond acknowledges an aphrodisiac more powerful than his own ab musk.
Otherwise, he spends the rest of the EP claiming his turf as the godfather of sex. In "Get in My Car," he repeatedly muses, "With one more drink, we're ready to cut/You're tuggin' my front, I'm squeezing your butt." And in "Love 'Em All," he inadvertently reveals one potential theory for what pitted Raymond versus Raymond: He's just too gosh-darned nice to not spread his love all through this club. With chivalrous magnanimity, he doubles up - no make that triples up - on the females so he can get through them all before the night is through. What a humanitarian." - SlantMagazine
"Usher has always been a master of infusing enough personal truth into his music to get the masses emotionally investing and trying to guess how much of the music is truth. According to him, fan response is usually conjecture, but in reality they probably aren't that far off. He tosses those nuggets on purpose, though. It's part of his charm.
Confessions came around the tail end of his highly publicized split from Chili. Raymond vs. Raymond, led by the smash single "Papers" appeared during his tumultuous divorce from his wife. Now we have Versus, an EP appended to Raymond vs. Raymond that is, hopefully, more fiction than reality.
The new songs included on the nine song release, rumored to be cast-offs from his last LP, are almost solely focused on casual carnal relations, usually grounded in the liquor and lights of club X. "There Goes My Baby" and "Somebody to Love" stick out like sore thumbs in Usher's need to flex his feelings of sexual entitlement. Is this tawdry maneuvering a way to reincarnate his super sexy man persona that was lost in marriage and fatherhood? Betting people should definitely put their money on yes.
The EP starts with "Love Em All," an ode to running through as many chicks as possible due to the burden of indecisiveness. The monotone sing-rap at the jump frames him as ice cold and ready to get back to the lover man business he left for a minute. Sparse thump, piano tinkering, a light drum reminiscent of a metronome frame the piece as a one man stroll through a harem.
The track for "DJ's Got Us Fallin' in Love Again" comes like a form letter anyone could have put together, but still serves its purpose. A heavy bass foundation plays host to synth stabs that slash out the basic melody and big, dramatic electro strings. Dance like it's the last night of your life? Sad club cliché only a bit less distressing than Pitbull's feature, but this will work in the club.
"Hot Toddy" in this case is a blend of Usher, King Hov... copy? and Ester Dean. More Illuminati rhetoric, Dean over-singing and Usher telling his piece du jour that he wants to skeet some off. (People still say skeet?) It's not a bad song, but beneath the level of the co-conspirators on this track.
The album moseys into "Lay You Down" which is a grand song in theory. The pre-convert Prince inspiration floats through Usher's delivery, which is as sexy and evocative as any other performance he's ripped. The issue is the production, which employs a few too many unnecessary karaoke style-synth effects.
"Get in My Car," an odd nod to Billy Ocean's "Get Out of My Dreams," with its minimalist thump and digitized horns, plays as sluggish beat making by Polow Da Don. There are some awfully rude lyrics here. Usher wants to cut, but if you don't hurry up with your decision, he'll ask someone else. People still say cut? Bun B adds a lively feature, but he's not dynamic enough to overcome the soggy production.
A momentary flag is thrown on all that filth flarn flarn filth with Justin Bieber's out of place "Somebody to Love." You know the song. No need to elaborate except to say this song ruins the moment almost as much as mom walking in on you would.
"Stranger" closes this shindig out, and it shouldn't have. More electro blips and bleeps with strangely incorporated percussion and vocal layers upon layers to cover up the fact there isn't much track there. The song should have been left on the cutting room floor... again.
Keep your eyes peeled ladies. If this release is any indication of what is going on in Mr. Raymond's life right now, he is hot and on the prowl. You might get a little rude boy nookie, but the chances of you enjoying the entirety of the soundtrack to your encounter are about as good as him making breakfast for you the morning after." - PlanetIll
Entertainment Weekly (p.125) - "'Love 'Em All' describes an egalitarian sexual appetite, while 'Lingerie' offers prime faux-Prince boudoir funk." -- Grade: A-
Billboard (p.29) - "[T]he new set alternately bumps and throbs as a reinvigorated Usher further paves his comeback path.
Recording information: Al Burna's Crib, Miami, FL; Conway Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Lotzah Matzah Studios, New York, NY; Maratone Studios, Stockholm, Sweden; Midnight Blue Studios, Miami, FL; Music House Studio, Atlanta, GA; No Excuses Studio, Santa Monica, CA; Short Bus Studios; Star Studios, Doraville, GA; Studio At The Palms, Las Vegas, NV.
Photographer: Walid Azami.
Versus is a companion release to Raymond v. Raymond. Its contents are identical to the second disc of the deluxe edition version of Raymond v. Raymond, released months earlier -- a fan-friendly, smart move on the part of the LaFace label. These nine cuts are heavy on guest appearances, including Jay-Z and Ciara ("Hot Toddy"), Justin Bieber (a remix of "Somebody to Love"), Pitbull ("DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love"), and Bun B ("Get in My Car").
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- Usher vs. Miguel (Miguel (R&B))