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Usher 

Here I Stand (LaFace/Sony BMG)

Wednesday, Jun 4 2008
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You really can't fault entertainers who claim "playa for life" status. At least they're being honest; everyone from Rod Stewart to video performer-turned-tell-all-author Karrine "Superhead" Steffans knows the promiscuous can't be reformed. Once you get a taste of the easy-lovin', high-livin' lifestyle, it's almost impossible to let go. That's what made Usher's last album, Confessions, so interesting. He essentially admitted that he was the cheater and scumbag former lover Steffans and others had accused him of being. But his follow-up finds the singer a married father, and he confesses to little more than cybercruising. "I'm chatting, this ain't cheating, just telling myself a lie," he sings on "Appetite." Rest assured, though, he will "bend them a bit, but never break the rules." Suuuuuure. Elsewhere on the CD, Usher leaves the debauchery to will.i.am — whose stale, crass, "What's Your Name" will hopefully mark the end of that Black Eyed Pea's era –- and Jeezy and Weezy, whose verses on the two versions of "Love in This Club" somehow don't ruin a true monster of a track. The latter is the kind of song that makes you almost forgive Here I Stand's blatant disingenuousness while whetting your appetite for Confessions II.

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Ben Westhoff

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