usher hard II love cover

Usher’s early release of his new Hard II Love album is old rules w/ new tricks.

Hard II Love, Usher’s oft-delayed eighth studio album has had its fair share of lead singles. There was “Good Kisser”, which gave fans a glimpse into Usher’s vibrato and still timeless falsetto. There was “I Don’t Mind” that followed in which Usher was running with revitalized old heads and operating under a modern R&B template. Few ballads, all mid-tempo dance records that praised sexuality and openness. But, those records failed to create enough buzz in one way or another. Thus, Usher’s long-awaited follow up to 2012’s Looking 4 Myself remained in limbo.

Lucky for his own sanity maybe, “No Limit” with he & Young Thug translated into not only a single with buoyancy, it breathed immediate life back into his recording process. What was once titled Flawed, Hard II Love is now Usher’s latest album with an accelerated release date and now an even more accelerated premiere date thanks to Tidal. Usher has partnered with the upstart music and streaming service to allow subscribers to take in the album, four days before its September 16 release.

Stream Usher’s Hard II Love now, exclusively via Tidal.

Beyond the fact that both Future & Young Thug are on this album, Hard II Love arriving in the wee hours of the Monday to Tuesday transfer window plays up to the old rules. The ones where albums landed on Tuesdays and the chart window didn’t ask for random releases to pop up near the weekend. Usher’s still an old head, a balladeer who owns the most dominant R&B album of the last decade and flashes of getting that throne back. The 8-minute burner of “Tell Me” should give Confessions fans all they wanted and more from the now 37-year-old Usher Raymond while “No Limit” brings him to a modern R&B/Rap world dominated by ’90s references and timely sexual puns.

There’s partnerships on Hard II Love that should make ears and eyes perk up. The-Dream & Tricky Stewart, owners of their own classic aughts album in Love Hate show up on “Bump”. “Make U A Believer” finds Usher’s voice and mind laying on top of a bed made up by Atlanta’s new wunderkind in Metro Boomin. Pharrell Williams shows up two tracks later on “FWM” and even Raphael Saadiq appears on “Champions”, a single originally meant for the Hands Of Stone soundtrack.

What fans want from Usher? Something that can rival Confessions while also playing up to the fact that he doesn’t have to do what younger artists do. He can still sing, a considerable skill that’s vacated contemporary R&B for the most part. He can still stir up emotion in the right way and sound as vulnerable as can be. Hard II Love looks to deliver that and then some. We’re just hoping that we can emotionally and wisely grade it on its own merits, not immediately thrust it into the Confessions conversation. Stream it now via Tidal.