Aside from “Climax,” which you really can’t count because an outlier in every way, no track on Looking 4 Myself got more people excited than its title track. That’s entirely because of one thing, or rather, one feature: Luke Steele, of Australian indie synthpop group Empire of the Sun. It’s a rather convenient choice of feature for those who want to trumpet how much more real or hip Usher’d gotten after recruiting Diplo–expect to hear a lot of this sort of talk in the next few weeks–but it’s undeniably interesting. What would Usher sound like if, when he went synthpop, he looked less to Max Martin and more to Cut Copy?
Not much like himself, it turns out. It’s almost too easy to make a lot of lines like “Who am I? Someone remind me” when this sounds less like an Usher track with some Luke Steele involvement than an Empire of the Sun track with a buzzy Usher feature. The slightly rickety drum-machine/guitar/click beat’s not much like anything Ursh’s done and quite a bit like what Steele does; even Usher’s vocals are so restrained and sometimes processed that if you played this for someone without telling them what it is, it’d take a while and a lot of confusion for them to figure out it’s him.
So “Looking 4 Myself” is a complete stylistic experiment, and likely a one-off and/or gimmick. Once you’ve accepted that, though, it’s fairly enjoyable on its own improbable terms. The “I was looking for myself, but then I found you!” conceit would be charming from anybody, especially over such a pleasant indie-pop backing. And Usher’s caught this particular breeze, too; his spoken-word, half-rapped verse is as loose and charming as he’s sounded in a while–which, for Usher, is saying a lot. As career detours go, Usher’s had far, far worse.