Looking 4 Myself is Usher's seventh studio album that was released on June 8, 2012 by RCA Records.
- Can't Stop Won't Stop 3:51
- Scream 3:55
- Climax 3:53
- I Care For U 4:08
- Show Me 3:43
- Lemme See (featuring Rick Ross) 4:13
- Twisted (featuring Pharrell) 3:43
- Dive 3:47
- What Happened To U 4:22
- Looking 4 Myself (featuring Luke Steele) 4:12
- Numb 3:46
- Lessons For The Lover 5:07
- Sins Of My Father 3:56
- Euphoria 4:20
- I.F.U. 4:02
- Say The Words 4:01
- 2nd Round 3:22
- Hot Thing (featuring A$AP Rocky) 3:27
In 2010, Usher released his sixth studio album "Raymond v. Raymond" with 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 he later refuted the speculation.
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 the singer 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."
"Looking 4 Myself" 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, saying: "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.
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, 30 second snippets of each track were leaked on the internet.
Diplo, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, Salaam Remi and Max Martin were the first producers confirmed for "Looking 4 Myself" on March 2012.
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 life, 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, California, New York, and Atlanta, Georgia.
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, 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.
The album opens with club track "Can't Stop Won't Stop", which contains the melody of Billy Joel's 1983 "Uptown Girl" and contains a synth heavy hook and incorporates elements of dubstep.
"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 "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love."
The third track, "Climax", is a quiet storm-style 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 relationship 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 & hip-hop with dubstep, produced by American record producer Danja.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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."
"Looking 4 Myself" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, making it Usher's fourth consecutive number-one studio album in the United States.
As of October 2014, it has sold 504,000 copies in the United States.
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, "Looking 4 Myself" has received an average score of 75, based on 19 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Alex Macpherson of The Guardian complimented Usher's vocals, saying that they "are in fine fettle", and found the album "most interesting" when it "goes in directions that don't cleave to obvious aesthetics".
AllMusic's Andy Kellman felt that, despite Usher's shift to dance music, "he's more of a creative force when he's working with slower, soul-rooted material".
Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times described the album as not genre defying, but instead utilises the music styles of the [current] era– it's "more pop than it is revolutionary".
Evan Rytlewski of The A.V. Club said that "not all of it works, but none of it is unpleasant, either", and commended Usher for branching out and taking risks.
Pitchfork Media's Carrie Battan felt that his strength "lies in R&B, and he's adjusted well to shifting ground", although "not everything on Looking 4 Myself hits the mark".
At USA Today, Steve Jones stated that on the release Usher has "chosen to keep growing and moving ahead" on which he "confidently steps out of his sonic comfort zone."
In a mixed review, Now writer Kevin Ritchie said that "Climax" is one of the only few stand-out tracks.
Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson felt that the album lacks structure and found it "unavoidably uneven".
Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe criticized Usher's use of auto-tune: "the unnecessary deployment of Auto-tune on a singer who can actually hold his own vocally".
The Observer's Killian Fox wrote that "for every hit—'Lemme See' is another—there are a couple of misses: 'Can't Stop Won't Stop', the Euro-dance opener produced by will.i.am, is horribly overblown".