V OPINION: Can Usher Make Divorce Sexy?

Released yesterday, “Papers” is the first single off Usher’s upcoming sixth album, Raymond vs. Raymond, initially titled Monster (good grief!). Neither a hit nor a clunker, the song is typical Usher–great melody, smooth vocals, double-time flow, lots of “oh!”-ing. With its salacious subject matter, it’s already been deemed an official “divorce anthem.” But does anyone want to hear Usher sing about divorce?

Maybe! Judging from Confessions and Here I Stand-both based on real-life situations-much of the material on this new album will touch on Usher’s failed marriage to his ex-stylist Tameka Foster. Meanwhile, we’ll be parsing the lyrics to decipher what went wrong. The Zaytoven-produced “Papers” is a reasonable preview of things to come, as Usher croons about being fed up with his nuptials and “ready to sign them papers”: “I’m losing my mind trying to figure out who’s wrong or right/I know it’s you I love/But then I also know it’s you I don’t like/You claim you hate who I was/That’s the reason you here now/You think I don’t know what’s up/Well, sweetheart that’s what ruined us.”

A la 808s & Heartbreak, we know this woman Usher is-and will be-singing about, which makes it all the more juicy, not to mention weird. Usher knows this, of course, because he’s been here before.

Confessions, wherein the singer milks his public breakup with Chili, is widely considered his best album, and for good reason. The way he approaches infidelity, secrecy and the general airing of dirty laundry is dangerous, scandalous and, more important, sexy. Have an affair, act like an adult for once, right?

Well, there’s nothing sexy about filling out paperwork and arranging custody agreements for Usher IV. On the surface, Raymond vs. Raymond will seemingly hearken back to the drama-filled Confessions. But in reality, those weren’t Usher’s stories, at least according to Jermaine Dupri, who claimed the concept came from his “cheating on my steady girlfriend, having a baby with that other woman and having to confess to everything that happened to my main girl.”

Still, Usher took those tales and, quite skillfully, made them his own. This time, it’s real. If he can sing about divorce and other really grown-up topics of his life while preserving his sexy-and without sounding stuffy, i.e. Here I Stand-then it’s a step in the right direction. –Clover Hope