If one word can be used to describe Usher's latest album, his eighth studio long player, it’s underwhelming. Regrettably, considering Mr. Raymond’s otherwise stellar discography to date, much of Hard II Love sounds like the recycled and insipid trends we’re currently inundated with on the radio, from Drake's tropical-flavored "One Dance" to Future's southern trap hit "Jumpman." The 15-track suite also includes more than its fair share of superfluous obscenities, with superficial references to drinking and sex that sound little more than contrived.
The silver lining is that Usher's vocals remain near-flawless, and just so longtime fans aren't totally lost, there is some quiet storm R&B ("Crash"), uplifting spirituality ("Stronger"), and the "Dive"-style slow grind ("Tell Me"). The Pop & Oak-produced "Missin' U" is the only moment that finds Usher exploring something new, blending Houston Screwed hip-hop with classic R&B.
In an attempt to be everything at once, Hard II Love steers away from what Usher's actually good at doing. For his next project, it would behoove him to assemble a smaller team of producers (instead of the 15 employed here) and revert back to the more organic R&B sound he’s best known for.
Notable Tracks: “Crash” | “Missin U” | “Stronger”