While we wait for the new UR album, Usher’s team has got him dropping obnoxious singles like I Don’t Mind, and his manager and business partner Grace Miguel somehow found a new place for bling on her fourth finger. Who would have ever thought Usher would stoop to the old “we’re engaged” publicity stunt just to stay uppermost in his fans’ minds? Well, silly them. All the low-brow misdirection hid his most mature work to date. Clueless shuffled into the world this past November just like Usher’s New Year, not with a bang, but with a whimper. And that is a shame.
I don’t know when Usher started listening to 70’s and 80’s ambient music, but he nailed its melancholic fog so well that I’m wondering if he really has been fretting whether “the one” will ever appear and decided to go look for her in a Honey Nut Cheerio’s box. Or maybe Clueless was just a much needed escape from his usual tawdry smut into the lost tradition of excellent B-sides and rare finds. Its nostalgia won’t touch many souls in his fan base, so he dropped it where it wouldn’t matter. At any rate, Clueless evokes the experimental music of artists like Dave Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto. It also pulls on the loose chunky spank of 70’s acid funk a la (but not exactly) Isaac Hayes and George Clinton.
Check it out. Clueless is lovely. Usher’s voice expresses rare colour and the song’s production states musical depths in simple terms. It’s extraordinarily well balanced. I can name only a handful of songs that contain sounds as familiar to me as the beating of my heart, but somehow remain mysterious and unknown. It’s that ineffable feeling shared by an artist who has tapped into the mystical. Clueless has it. It’s a great and sophisticated work.