Hard II Love

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Hard II Love
UsherHardIILove.jpg
Studio album by Usher
Released September 16, 2016
Recorded 2014–16
Genre
Length 57:30
Label RCA
Producer
Usher chronology
Looking 4 Myself
(2012)Looking 4 Myself2012
Hard II Love
(2016)
Singles from Hard II Love
  1. "No Limit"
    Released: June 9, 2016
  2. "Crash"
    Released: June 10, 2016
  3. "Missin U"
    Released: August 26, 2016
  4. "Rivals"
    Released: August 30, 2016

Hard II Love is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Usher. It was released on September 16, 2016, by RCA Records. Recording sessions took place between from 2014 to 2016, including the executive production from Usher, alongside Mark Pitts, Jaha Johnson, and its co-production by Coup D'etat. It features contribution for its album's production by Brandon "B.A.M." Hodge, Rock City, Pop & Oak, PartyNextDoor, D'Mile, Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Metro Boomin and Raphael Saadiq, among others. The album was supported by four singles: "No Limit" featuring Young Thug, "Crash", "Missin U" and "Rivals" featuring Future.

The album was available for online streaming on June 13, 2016 exclusively through the streaming service Tidal, which Usher co-owns.[1] On June 16, 2016, it was released for paid purchase on other digital download and online streaming services on September 16, 2016. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200.[2]

Background

In an interview with Rap-Up, singer and songwriter Eric Bellinger explained that himself, along with Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox and Brian Alexander Morgan, were working on Usher's next album. Bellinger compared the album's music to Usher's Confessions, saying that it is "more urban" than Looking 4 Myself.[3] The latter declared that his next album would show that he is "still Usher". In an interview with Billboard, Bellinger explained that Usher created music for his previous albums based on what people wanted to hear. For his follow-up project, he chose to do music based on "what he wants to do in his heart", placing R&B as the album's main focus.

On January 6, 2014, RCA Records CEO Peter Edge described Usher's album as "one of his best records," and stated that new music from the record would be released in conjunction with his return on the sixth season of The Voice, on February 24. The album would feature several guest appearances and contributions from Nicki Minaj, Pop & Oak, Steve Mostyn of Public School, Pharrell Williams, Jermaine Dupri, Diplo, Ed Sheeran, Skrillex, Drake and Chris Brown. Usher teamed up with Honey Nut Cheerios in a conjoint promotional effort, where the singer is shown dancing to the album's second single "She Came to Give It to You" with the Honey Nut Cheerios bee. During the outset of the commercial, the album's title was rumored to be UR, the singer's initials.

On September 8, 2014, Usher told Billboard, that the album would be indefinitely delayed, though wouldn't divulge further details due to the album not being finished; it was to be originally released in September 2014. On January 14, 2016, after continual delays of his eighth album, Usher announced via Instagram that the official title of the album would be titled Flawed. On August 2016, an iTunes New Zealand link popped up with a new Usher album, with the title of the album being called Hard II Love. He then confirmed the title on the late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[4]

Cover artwork

The album's cover art is a portrait sculpture of Usher that was done by Daniel Arsham. The cracks and erosions in the sculpture represent flaws and that things and people are not always as perfect or beautiful as they appear on the outside, relating to some of the themes in the album.[5]

Promotion

On August 26, 2016, Usher released the instant-grats from these tracks such as "Missin U" and "Champions" with the latter to be featured on the upcoming boxing film Hands of Stone, where Usher portrays Sugar Ray Leonard. On September 2, 2016, Usher appeared on the BBC Radio 1, Live Lounge, where he performed "No Limit" and "Crash" as well as singles from his previous albums. Usher performed "Crash" on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen Show.[6][7] Usher held multiple private listening sessions for Hard II Love. On September 13, 2016, Usher had an exclusive playback listening session put on by Tidal held at the Ace Theatre in Los Angeles, California.[8] Radio host Big Boy led the intimate session, where Usher talked about the new album track-by-track. On September 16, 2016, the evening of his album release, Usher hosted and performed songs from the album at his private listening party hosted by iHeartRadio and AT&T Live at Pier 15 in New York City.[9]

Singles

On June 9, 2016, Usher released the album's first single, titled "No Limit" to the music streaming platform Tidal. The song features guest rap verse from a American rapper Young Thug, with production by B. A. M. and Rock City. Usher performed it at the BET Experience and first live televised performance of the song at 2016's BET Awards, which took place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California on June 26, 2016. The song peaked at number 32 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 9 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and at number 4 on the rhythmic charts.

The album's second single, titled "Crash" was released for all digital platforms on June 10, 2016. Its music video was uploaded to Vevo on June 16, 2016. The song was produced by f a l l e n, and Carlos St. John.

On August 26, 2016, "Missin U" was released for online streaming and digital download, along with "Champions".[10] The former was produced by Andrew Wansel and Autoro Whitfield.[11] "Missin U" impacted US urban adult contemporary radio as the album's third single on September 13, 2016.[12]

On August 30, 2016, Usher released "Rivals" and its accompanying music video on Tidal. The song features guest rap verse from a Atlanta-native and fellow American hip hop recording artist Future, with production by K-Major and Murphy Kid. "Rivals" impacted US urban adult contemporary radio as the album's fourth single on September 13, 2016.[13]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
AnyDecentMusic? 6.9/10[14]
Metacritic 74/100[15]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[16]
Entertainment Weekly B-[17]
Idolator 3.5/5 stars[18]
The Independent 4/5 stars[19]
The National 1.5/5 stars
Pitchfork 6.6/10[20]
PopMatters 5/10 stars[21]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[22]
USA Today 3/4 stars[23]

Hard II Love received generally positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 74, based on 8 reviews.[24] Maura Johnston of Rolling Stone expresses that Hard II Love, "stretches the boundaries of R&B while winding toward the brooding atmospherics that have enveloped much of pop over the past 12 months."[25] Chris DeVille of Stereogum wore that the album "suggests Usher will continue to make hits, headline arenas, and be one of the world's most beloved musical superstars. The guy's natural singing prowess and effortless ability to jump across genre make him a national treasure. In just about every context, he sounds like a pro."[26]

The New York Times John Pareles commented "he has all the gifts and skills he needs, starting with a genuinely expressive voice that encompasses an ardent croon, a melting falsetto and quick, singsong declamation that puts him at the border of rapping.[27] Told Wright from Vulture wrote "the album is a true return to form for the R&B artist, complete with falsetto crooning and sexy bed-thumping beats".[28] Ira Madison III from MTV wrote that "sexy bangers like 'Bump,' 'Tell Me,' and 'Make U a Believer', helps Usher meets his goals and then some on Hard II Love after seeing few years 'experimenting' with music, he told us, now he's ready to release a classic R&B album again".[29] John Reyes of Idolator wrote Hard II Love is impressive because it shows an R&B vet who's been around for two decades and has sold 43 million albums worldwide.[30] Clover Hope of Jezebel complimented Usher's vocals, saying that "his seamless melodies and fluid vocal strokes remain leaps and bounds ahead of his peers".[31] AllMusic's Andy Kellman felt that Hard II Love " is the most pleasing Usher album in over a decade. In terms of ability, agility, and creativity, Usher's vocals still crush the commercial competition."[32]

Commercial performance

In his home country of United States, Hard II Love debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200, with 38,000 album-equivalent units.[2] It sold 28,000 copies in its first week.[33] The album was also streamed 10.7 million times on Tidal in the first week.[33] It marked the Usher's seventh top five album on the chart.[2]

Track listing

Hard II Love — North American Standard version[34]
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Need U" (Conversation with Priyanka Chopra)
Epworth 4:08
2. "Missin U"
4:09
3. "No Limit" (featuring Young Thug)
3:48
4. "Bump" 4:07
5. "Let Me"
3:09
6. "Down Time"
  • Raymond IV
  • Mario Jefferson
  • Darius Ginn, Jr.
  • R!O
  • Kamo
3:28
7. "Crash"
  • f a l l e n
  • St. John
3:31
8. "Make U a Believer" 4:06
9. "Mind of a Man"
D'Mile 0:53
10. "FWM"
  • D'Mile
3:14
11. "Rivals" (featuring Future)
  • K-Major
  • Murphy Kid
3:49
12. "Tell Me"
  • Raymond IV
  • Trevian "Tre Drumz" Chandler
  • George "Geniuz League" Johnson
  • Ryan Toby
  • Tre Drumz
  • Geniuz League
  • Toby
8:29
13. "Hard II Love"
xSDTRK 3:22
14. "Stronger"
  • Raymond IV
  • Titus "Marko Penn" Stubblefield
  • Yonatan Ayal
  • Joseph Hill, Jr.
  • Taji Ausar
  • Andrew Fridge
  • Elley Duhe
  • Zachary Williams
  • J. Hill
  • Tane Runo
4:00
15. "Champions" (from the Motion Picture 'Hands of Stone')
Saadiq 5:17
Total length: 57:30
Sample credits

Personnel

Credits for Hard II Love adapted from AllMusic.[36]

Managerial

  • Nico Raat - Security director

Visuals and imagery

Performance credits

Production

  • Dernst Emile II – producer
  • Metro Boomin – producer
  • PartyNextDoor – producer
  • Brandon "B.A.M." Hodge – producer
  • Pop & Oak – producer
  • R!O – producer
  • Kamo – producer
  • Tre Drumz – producer
  • Carlos St. John – producer
  • f a l l e n – producer
  • Fisticuffs – producer
  • Geniuz League – producer
  • xSDTRK – producer
  • K-Major – producer
  • Raphael Saadiq – producer
  • Mario Jefferson – producer
  • David "Prep" Hughes – producer
  • Joseph Hill – producer
  • Yonatan "xSDTRK" Ayal – producer, programming
  • Paul Epworth – producer, programming
  • Taura Stinson – vocal arrangement
  • Kory Aaron – engineer, vocal engineer
  • Matt Wiggins – engineer
  • Sam Thomas – engineer
  • John "J-Banga" Kercy – engineer
  • Joseph Hartwell Jones – engineer
  • Seth Firkins – engineer
  • Jeff Edwards – engineer
  • Donnie Meadows – production coordination
  • Manny Marroquin – mixing
  • Tom Coyne – mastering

Charts

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c Caulfield, Keith (September 25, 2016). "Drake's 'Views' Returns to No. 1 on Billboard 200 Chart for 13th Week". Billboard. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Rap-Up TV: Eric Bellinger Talks New Usher and Keri Hilson Albums". Rap-Up. Retrieved August 28, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Everything We Know About Usher's Forthcoming Album 'Hard II Love'". 
  5. ^ http://memoirsofanurbangentleman.com/ushers-highly-anticipated-portrait-sculpture-and-hard-ii-love-album-set-to-be-released-next-week/
  6. ^ "Usher Performs "Crash" in Super Slow Motion on 'The Tonight Show'". Complex. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  7. ^ "Usher Performs 'Crash' on 'Ellen'". Rap-Up. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
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  11. ^ "No Limit / Usher TIDAL". Tidal. Retrieved June 9, 2016. 
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