Today, we had the fortune of listening to Usher's recently leaked seventh album Looking 4 Myself for the first time, and as billed by Usher, it is his weirdest, most diverse, most sonically adventurous album to date. (Is it also, as he claimed, his best? We'll need a little more time with it to decide, but we certainly won't rule out the possibility just yet.) Over the course of the next few hours, we'll be giving it our standard track-by-track review treatment, 14 tracks spanning guest stars like Rick Ross and Pharrell, producers like Diplo and Swedish House Mafia, and at least one track that sounds distinctly Australian. So, without further ado...
It's almost unfair to review Looking 4 Myself's will.i.am-produced opener as a song. It's not exactly single-worthy material—it's a hobbled-together bunch of musical cliches, where David Guetta stadium house beats meets Skrillex wub-wubs, like the brainchild of the most uncreative EDM think tank possible. The lyrics are even more hackneyed, with the Kardashian-worthy opening lines "Hey what's up / This is a jam, turn it up / Play it loud in the club / This is fire, burning it up" and a chorus ("I can't can't stop it / Can't stop won't stop") that doesn't even pretend to be trying. The most thought-provoking thing in the song is its musical interpolation of the "woah-oh-oh"s from Billy Joel's '80s throwback pop gem "Uptown Girl" into a gigantic synth hook, and while that is pretty cool, it's not quite enough to hang a whole song on.
Rather, "Can't Stop Won't Stop" should probably be judged solely as an album opener, because on those grounds, the song does its job fairly decently. It's an instant attention-grabber with that Joel-synth hook, it sounds like a wind-up for a night out at the club, and it even sneaks in a lyric that could serve as the album's thesis statement: "I don't want to do all the normal things / That all these other normal dudes do." And really, aren't you kind of glad that if there had to be a will.i.am number on this album, they got it out of the way early? Chances were it wasn't exactly going to be "OMG, Pt. 2" in the first place.
A five-bolt opener and a one-bolt song. We'll split the difference.