Artist: Usher

Title: Looking 4 Myself

Label: RCA

Thirty-three-year-old R&B singer Usher became a bona fide superstar with worldwide sales past 19 million copies of his 2004 album Confessions. Ideas of him being the next Michael Jackson were tossed around, but the following two studio efforts (Here I Stand in 2008 and Raymond v. Raymond in 2010) stalled in the low millions and were eclipsed in the news by his personal life (marriage, children, divorce).

Looking 4 Myself, his seventh effort, appears to get Usher back on the music-dominant track with more attention being given to his craft than what happens away from the microphone. The songs are well-written, the production innovative, and his dynamic voice entirely confident. Note for soulful note, it's a fresh urban pop experience that shows engaging creative growth.

With that said, there's little to commend from a lyrical/thematic point of view. Although the title suggests some level of introspection, Looking 4 Myself is too often just skin deep. "Can't Stop Won't Stop" is an irresistible club hit waiting to happen—trunk thumping bass and break beats, a sample of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl," plus production from Black Eyed Peas'—but words like girl you are my sugar shop . . . work on my body won't win any poetry contests.

Ditto for "Scream" where the throbbing European rhythm and Usher's vocals really take off, but noncommittal hookup couplets like got no drink in my hand but I'm wasted, getting drunk on the thought of you naked fail to impress. "Dive" takes that thought to graphic fruition, turning bedroom phrases that might even make an open minded person's stomach turn a little bit.

"Climax"—opting, surprisingly, to pass on the sexy wordplay opportunity—is a relatively gentle ballad about a relationship that has run its course. Usher's falsetto delivery is remarkable and will melt many hearts. "Twisted," featuring a cool guest rap from Pharrell of production team The Neptunes (Justin Timberlake, Madonna) is another standout with a rubbery rhythm section that feels like James Brown meets Motown.

The title track, with its straight ahead ‘70s pop radio vibe, and the infectious dance floor anthem "Numb" are relatively safe and fun listens. One wishes the same could be said for the especially catchy "Lemme See." Unfortunately, the cut devolves into tired money-women-alcohol clichés.

If racy lyrics don't seep into your heart (not likely), then Looking 4 Myself may be your jam. Otherwise, keep looking.

*This Review First Published 6/20/2012