For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Second Listen Sunday: Usher, Rhythm City Volume One
R&B superstar Usher was on top of the world in 2005 following the release of his diamond-selling fourth album, Confessions. One of the highlights of the Confessions era was the album leaks.
Fans know that leaked songs such as “Red Light” and “Seduction” would eventually make their way to the expanded edition of Confessions. While tracks like The Neptune’s collaboration “Wifey” and the Rich Harrison produced “Ride” (which later became the genesis for J-Lo’s hit “Get Right”) would go unreleased.
My favorite leak during this time was the sensual slow jam “Dot Com .” The track would end on the bonus CD of Usher’s long-form music video DVD Rhythm City Volume 1, this week’s pick for Second Listen Sunday.
For this song, Usher linked up with Pro-Jay and Robin Thicke to create a sensual where Usher correlates a sexual experience to computer terms and technology. It may not seem like it would work on paper, but Usher sells the material.
“Doin The Most” was up next, and Usher reunited with the legendary Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who he worked with on 8701 and Confessions. Bobby Ross Avilla, currently working with Usher on his Vegas residency, also provided his talents to the song. A lush ballad in the Jam & Lewis style we’ve come to know, and love finds Usher pledging his love to a woman with vocal ease. Anyone dating numerous people before settling down will relate to this song. There’s always one that stands out and does the most to show you they care.
Usher eases away from the balladry for the EP’s third track, “It Is What It Is.” The song is another collaboration with the Jam & Lewis camp. Usher sings about accepting that situations in life cannot be explained and that we must move on. It speaks to the idea that while it is difficult to let go of what we thought was true or mattered to us, it’s important to recognize when the reality of the situation doesn’t match what we wanted it to be.
In the song, Usher is trying to make sense of a relationship that’s no longer working and is telling himself and the other person to accept it and let it go. In the chorus, Usher says, “It is what it is/Don’t know what to call it/’Cause I’m feeling something else/It is what it is/Just don’t let yourself get caught up/When it’s really something else.” This lyric emphasizes that there’s no point in dwelling on what could have been and that it’s better to accept reality and move on.
“What You Need” closes out the project. If memory serves, Jermaine Dupri produced this one along with Rich Harrison. The only dance floor song on the album, it’s a solid album track that finds Mr. Raymond bragging about his bravado to a Go-Go-influenced beat. The song is a solid album track and would come across as a vibe in concert.
Usher hasn’t released an album or EP since the atrocity that was 2018’s A, as he is currently thriving with his Vegas Residency. Nevertheless, the Rhythm City Volume 1 EP takes us back to a magical time when Usher became a full-fledged superstar.
Final Grade: A-
Rhythm City Volume 1 is available on all streaming platforms
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.