Looking 4 Myself is Usher's seventh studio album. It was released on June 8, 2012 by RCA Records (his first album for the label since Jive Records disbanded).
Several producers were involved in the production of the album such as Diplo, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, Salaam Remi, Pharrell Williams & Max Martin. The album also features guest vocals by Rick Ross, Pharrell, Luke Steele and ASAP Rocky.
Inspired by the electronic duo Empire of the Sun and listening to music originating from several locations, Usher intended the album to contain a more experimental sound, that remained relevant to the music of its time. Defined as "revolutionary pop" by Usher, critics noted that the album incorporates the genres R&B, pop, hip hop, electronic, Europop and dubstep.
Upon its release, "Looking 4 Myself" received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics.
Most of them praised the album's diversity in music genre, while some were ambivalent towards its pop material and lack of structure. The album debuted atop the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 128,000 copies in its first week, becoming his fourth number one album in the country.
As of December 2012, the album has sold 438,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Worldwide, it attained top-ten positions in over eight other countries including Australia, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.
"Looking 4 Myself" spawned five singles: "Climax," "Scream," "Lemme See" (feat. Rick Ross) "Numb" and "Dive."
The first single "Climax" peaked in the top-twenty on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for eleven weeks.
The second single "Scream" peaked in the top-ten on the Hot 100 and several other countries. The fourth single "Numb" obtained moderate international chart success and peaked at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Usher promoted the album by performing in several shows including the off-broadway show "Fuerza Bruta: Look Up," "Saturday Night Live" and "Good Morning America."
A tour that would further promote the album was planned, however, it was cancelled due to his obligation as a coach on NBC's "The Voice."
In 2010, Usher released his sixth studio album "Raymond v. Raymond" to a mixed critical response and commercial success; the project went on to earn two Grammy Awards at the 2011 ceremony.
His follow-up record was originally rumored to be titled "The Shanetance" and due for release on March 23, 2012, though Usher later refuted the speculation.
According to Rico Love in an interview with Billboard:
"What he wanted to do [on Looking 4 Myself] was explore himself musically. He stepped outside of what was safe and normal. He wanted to make an album that expressed where he was going sonically and not just where he's been for the past 12 to 15 years. He's growing, developing, moving, shaking, and being something that's new, cultural, and that's affecting people sonically. That's kind of forcing the people to grow and elevate."
While on hiatus between the release of his first EP "Versus" and "Looking 4 Myself," Usher told AOL Music that he mainly traveled to various locations to listen to music which he "felt was really significant in terms of energy."
Some of these locations included the Coachella Music Festival, Ibiza, Germany, Las Vegas, Miami and Southern France. He described some of the music as a "little bit more electronic, some of it a little bit more dance. Some of it, a bit more world."
It was Australian electronic music duo Empire of the Sun that inspired Usher to produce the album's title track, with producer Rico Love which led to him collaborating with producers he normally wouldn't work with or admired, such as Diplo. Usher's intention for the album was one "that was not genre-specific but just experimental."
During an episode of NBC's The Voice, Usher called the album "by far one of my most risky records ... I wanted to challenge myself." The album was chosen as the album's title as it described Usher's "musical journey."
RCA Records CEO Peter Edge spoke to Billboard on which two specific groups they want the album to appeal to, stating:
"By the time the album is available, Usher's collective audience will have had a chance to really sample a number of songs from the album [...] the end result will be an Usher album that appeals to his earliest fans, and people who may have never listened to or owned an Usher album before."
Prior to the album's release, Usher was put under the management of Grace Miguel (whom he is in a relationship with) replacing Randy Phillips (who managed Usher for a short period after he split with his mother, Jonnetta Patton for a second time) in 2008.
On May 3, 2012, the cover art and track listing for both the standard and deluxe edition of the album were revealed on May 3, 2012. On June 4, 2012, thirty-second snippets of each track were leaked on the internet.
In March of 2012, Diplo, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, Salaam Remi and Max Martin were the first producers confirmed for "Looking 4 Myself."
After Usher had attended the Coachella Music Festival, he worked with electronic music duo Empire of the Sun to produce the album's title track; he described the band's music as an "incredible sound." The collaboration and the band's music inspired Usher to produce more experimental music, and to produce records with producers he normally wouldn't work with or admired.
DJ and producer Diplo was one of them, and so both collaborated on the album's lead single "Climax." They discussed the concept throughout the song's development and how it relates to Usher's lif as Diplo "tried to help realise these lyrics and feelings."
After conceiving some melody lines, they wrote the song in about an hour. Usher and Diplo worked on the song's production for two months, recording in studios in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta.
Usher wanted to work with Swedish electronic dance music trio Swedish House Mafia since their joint performance at the American Music Awards in 2011. The group later agreed to work with Usher where they intended to travel to Atlanta to work on track production, writing and to "move the ball forward."
Steve Angello (a member of Swedish House Mafia) told MTV News that the group hung out with Usher in Ibiza after the awards ceremony; they worked with him in Atlanta for five days They produced the final tracks "Numb," "Euphoria" and "Way to Count" (with the latter not making the final cut).
Usher contacted several producers and musicians who he endeavoured to, but ended up not collaborating with, including Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Afrojack, Kaskade, Little Dragon and David Guetta.
The latter had revealed to The Hollywood Reporter in May 2012 that he and Usher had worked on a "crazy" record even though it did not appear on the album due to a scheduling conflict. Rapper Ludacris was involved in the song's production.
English singer-songwriter Labrinth spent two studio sessions with Usher in April 2012 working on the album.
"Looking 4 Myself" opens with club track "Can't Stop Won't Stop" which contains the melody of Billy Joel's 1983 song "Uptown Girl." It contains a synth heavy hook and incorporates elements of dubstep.
The track "Scream" is another club oriented track with heavily sexual lyrics. The song makes heavy use of bass—particularly in the chorus—and is noted to be reminiscent of Usher's song "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love."
The third track "Climax" is a quiet storm slow jam built around a haunting riff, complemented by sparse drum machine and some musical accompaniment. Its lyrics focuses on Usher's anguish over a failed relationshi with its title referring to the turning point of a relationship.
The follow-up track "I Care for U" is a mid-tempo R&B song which fuses 90's R&B and hip-hop with dubstep. It was produced by American record producer Danja.
The track "Show Me" (another Danja produced record) is described by Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times to feature "driving house synth-claps with a propellant techno rhythm bubbling beneath it."
A mid-tempo track "Lemme See" contains a synth-heavy production with contributed vocals from rapper Rick Ross.
The track "Twisted" (which was produced by and features record producer-rapper Pharrell) is the seventh track. It is a 60's retro-soul track, with heavy use of percussions and bass throughout. Usher described the track as "nostalgic", and explained that his intent was to also "modernize it," similar to records produced by Cee Lo, Bruno Mars and Andre 3000.
The track "Dive" discusses a commitment to a relationship while containing a triple-entendre, according to Matt Cibula of PopMatters, initially singing about diving or oral sex, to discussing a commitment to a relationship.
The ninth track is "What Happened to U"; it is a downtempo song, sung by Usher primarily using falsetto. It samples the late The Notorious B.I.G.'s "One More Chance."
The album's title track features Empire of the Sun member Luke Steele, and is both new wave and soft rock. The title refers to Usher's "musical journey" and the song was inspired by his travelling and the latter band.
The first of the two Swedish House Mafia tracks is "Numb", a euro disco and electronic dance track. Its lyrics message was described by Erika Ramirez of Billboard to simply be "Forget your troubles and fist-pump!"
The next track is "Lessons for the Lover", a slow-tempo track with heavy production, produced by long-time collaborator Rico Love. Ramirez compared the track to songs from Usher's "Confessions" era.
The track "Sins of my Father" is a soul song with prominent blues, dub, Motown and reggae influences. It is about being a "tortured soul" in a "volatile" relationship.
The album closes with "Euphoria", the second Swedish House Mafia produced track on the album. It is described as more "tense" and "powerful" compared to "Numb."
In November of 2011, Usher told Sylelist that he is working on a new genre of music, which he depicted as "revolutionary pop." He explained that it "combines several other music genres to form a new sound."
In a later interview, Usher clarified that his latter quote was misinterpreted, in that it is not a specific type of sound, but rather what he found as inspiration behind where he was and what he was working on "was revolutionary."
The album incorporates pop styles, which Usher described as being "relevant" to its time and "what [people are] listening to". Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times summed up the production of the album, writing that it "draws on a world of styles permeating pop culture in 2012" by implementing the genres electronic dance, dubstep, pop and hip-hop to create a hybrid pop.
Allmusic's Andy Kellman described revolutionary pop as "contemporary pop-oriented R&B, or european dance-pop, or some combination of the two" and that the album is "weighted more heavily toward dance-pop" compared to his previous efforts.
Usher held multiple private listening sessions for "Looking 4 Myself."
On April 27, 2012 he debuted the album in the off-broadway show "Fuerza Bruta: Look Up" at the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City.
When speaking to MTV, he explained his reasoning for performing in the show, stating:
"It's not often that you're able to give somewhat of a visual or an emotional kind of basis of what your songs mean [...] I felt like, yeah, it would be a physical challenge, yeah it would be a lot for me, but [I want to] at least try it, there are many times I'd seen the show and I'd only hoped that I would make it happen."
Steven Horowitz of Rolling Stone commented that Usher "theatrically sequenced the entirety of the project to strobing lights and choreographed moves."
Horowitz also praised Usher's performance, concluding that "the veteran entertainer reasserts himself as a master of rapturous dance fodder, capable of turning a room into a thumping rave with ease."
Usher appeared on Saturday Night Live—hosted by Will Ferrell—where he performed the singles "Scream" and "Climax." He performed both singles again in the 2012 Today summer concert, being the opening act of the series.
Usher performed "Scream" in the 2012 Billboard Music Awards. During the performance he wore a black suit, bowler hat and bow tie while dancing with a masked female who later disappeared behind a cape and was replaced by a male dancer who mirrored Usher's dance routines.
On June 9, 2012, Usher performed in the UK, appearing in the Capital FM Summer Time Ball (his second appearance in his career). He entered the stage doing the moonwalk and then performed his 2010 single "OMG."
Backed-up by female dancers while doing choreographed routines, he then performed several singles from his previous work and "Looking 4 Myself" including "Yeah!," "Without You," "Climax" and "Scream."
Usher again performed "Scream" in the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles during Microsoft's conference. He performed the dance routines presented in the video game Dance Central 3 via the Kinect to the latter song.
Usher promoted the album on its release date in the UK (June 11th) by performing in a one-off concert in the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London.
The performance was directed by Hamish Hamilton and was streamed to Usher's VEVO channel on YouTube. The same week, he appeared on BBC Radio 1 Live Loung where he covered the song "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People, and performed "Scream."
Usher appeared on Good Morning America, where he spoke about the album and discussed his legal battle with ex-wife Tameka Foster. He performed "Climax" in the 2012 BET Awards. Kelly Carter of MTV described the performance as "fairly muted" due to Usher's appearance and dancing being minimalistic.
Usher opened the 2012 iTunes Festival, performing songs from his previous studio album efforts and tracks from the album which he performed for the first time, including "Can't Stop Won't Stop," "Lemme See," "Twisted," "Dive" and "Numb"."
Standard Album Version
- Can't Stop Won't Stop (3:51) (written by William Adams, Keith Harris & William M. Joel; produced by will.i.am)
- Scream (3:51) (written by Max Martin, Shellback, Savan Kotecha & Usher Raymond IV; produced by Max Martin & Shellback)
- Climax (3:53) (written by Usher Raymond IV, Thomas Pentz, Ariel Rechtshaid & Sean "Red Stylez" Fenton; produced by Diplo & Natural)
- I Care 4 U (4:08) (written by Nathaniel Hills, Usher Raymond IV, Eric Bellinger, Juan Najera, Kevin Cossom & Marcella Araica; produced by Danja & Natural)
- Show Me (written by Nathaniel Hills, Kevin Cossom, Usher Raymond IV & Marcella Araica; produced by Danja, Natural and Cossom)
- Lemme See (4:13) (feat. Rick Ross) (written by James Schaeffer, Daniel Morris, Nickolas Marzouca, Usher Raymond IV, Eric Bellinger, Lundon "Da Bridge" Knighten & William Roberts; produced by Jim Jonsin, Mr. Morris & Natural)
- Twisted (3:43) (feat. Pharrell) (written by Usher Raymond IV & Pharrell Williams; produced by Pharrell Williams & Natural)
- Dive (3:47) (written by Rico Love, James Schaffer, Daniel Morris & Frank Romano; produced by Jim Jonsin, Rico Love, Frank Romano & Mr. Morris)
- What Happened to U (4:22) (written by Usher Raymond IV, Eric Bellinger, Noah Shebib, Sidney Brown, Sean Combs, Reginald Ellis, Norman Glover, Carl Thompson & Christopher Wallace; produced by Noah "40" Shebib, Omen and Natural)
- Looking 4 Myself (feat. Luke Steele) (4:12) (written by Rico Love, Pierre Medor, Earl Hood & Eric Goudy II; produced by Rico Love, Pierre Medor and Earl & E)
- Numb (3:46) (written by Usher Raymond IV, Klas Ahlund, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axel Hedfors, Alessandro Lindblad, Ryon Lovett and Terry Lewis; produced by Axwell, Swedish House Mafia & Natural)
- Lessons for the Lover (5:07) (written by Rico Love, Pierre Medor, Earl Hood & Eric Goudy II; produced by Rico Love, Pierre Medor and E&E)
- Sins of My Father (3:56) (written by Salaam Remi, Rico Love, Usher Raymond IV and James Lewis; produced by Salaam Remi & Rico Love)
- Euphoria (4:20) (written by Usher Raymond IV, Klas Ahlund, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axel Hedfors, Lewis & Juan Najera; produced by Swedish House Mafia & Natural)
Deluxe Edition Tracks
- I.F.U. (4:02) (written by Rico Love, Andrew "Pop" Wansel, Autoro "Toro" Whitfield & Ronald "Flippa" Colson; produced by @Pop Wansel, Rico Love, @Autorowhit & @Flippa123)
- Say the Words (written by Usher Raymond IV, Luke Steele & Surahn "Sid" Sidhu; produced by Luke Steele, Sid Sidhu & Natural)
- 2nd Round (written by Usher Raymond IV, Pentz, Ariel Rechtshaid & Juan Najera; produced by Diplo, Ariel Rechtshaid & Natural)
- Hot Thing (feat. A$AP Rocky) (3:27) (written by Usher Raymond IV, Pharrell Williams & Rakim Myers; produced by Pharrell & Natural)