Rivals- Usher (SSJ #30)

Happy Sunday, folks!

It’s been another while since my last “Sunday Slow Jam,” considering that I had dedicate the last two weeks to completing my “Throwback Travels” series and thoughts on the recent 9/11 anniversary. But it’s back (for now), and today I’m sharing a recent obsession with you that perhaps you’ll enjoy as well.

I’m talking about no other than R&B musician Usher’s latest single, “Rivals,” which is featured in his recently-released album Hard II Love. With a low-tempo beat and minimalist sound, this song is good to listen to in your downtime- perhaps during the weekend, like I am! šŸ™‚

What drew me to “Rivals” was how different it sounded from Usher’s “usual work” from the past two decades of him being a prominent artist in mainstream music. From his crooning R&B style in Confessions (2004) to the more electronic/hip-hop vibes in Raymond v. Raymond (2010) and Looking 4 Myself (2012), this music single seems to progress further from the two genres while at the same time staying grounded to them.

In other words, Usher still has that smooth, slick flow from his R&B influences, as well as the kicks and bass in electronic music, but also adds a new element into the mix with distortion and irregularities in meter and rhythm, thereby making it more of an experiment than an actual typical, cookie-cutter song. Considering that I wasn’t completely into Usher’s move into electronic music later in his career (found it a generic move) and preferred his old-school R&B style, “Rivals” was a good attempt at mixing both while challenging traditional music structures, and I think it worked out in the end.

Content-wise, I don’t necessarily agree with them, as it does objectify women with lyrics like “a great ass” and “she love the way I’m pull them panties in the right way,” thus reinforcing a patriarchal hierarchy in R&B music. At the same time, though, I’m willing to forgive them, as Usher also juxtaposes such lyrics with “a better mind, what a combo” and “you winning with the convo,” which shows some sort of gender equality. Still not completely convincing, but hey, the beat’s still tight, you know?

Granted, “Rivals” is a song about an uncertain relationship, in which the man doesn’t want commitment, but realizes that he’s also falling in love with his lover. I find some of the lyrics very endearing, as the man struggles to come to terms with his feelings, with moments like, “your kisses are Duracell, they keep me energized” and “make every day our love season” his attempts to convince the lover, as well as himself, that he loves her.

Any case, despite mixed feelings about the lyrics, “Rivals” is still a song worth checking out for its catchy beats and progressive sound in the R&B and electronic genres. Give it a listen, and enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

P.S. For a really good (albeit short) cover of this song, I recommend Tim Moyo’s rendition which you can watch here:

— The Finicky Cynic

Check me out on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/thefinickycynic

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