Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review: Billy Joel is Really Back This Week as Usher Samples a Lot of “Uptown Girl” Amid Forgettable Songs On 1st New Album in 8 Years


What is the point?

On Usher’s new album, “Coming Home,” the R&B star covers Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” He calls it “A-Town Girl” — meaning Atlanta — and then adds 9 other writers to the credits besides Joel.

Again, why? Because it’s one of maybe two songs on the new album that has a discernible chorus or melody. The rest of the collection is the usual mish mash of material that’s instantly forgettable.

You’d think after all this time, Usher would get the idea and record actual songs by songwriters. Eight seems to be the magic number, although some of these non tunes have just six or seven writers. There are two tracks previously available in other places including the excellent “Risk it All,” written by HER (Gabi Wilson) for the movie “The Color Purple.”

The only other track that stands out is called “Keep on Dancin'” with five songwriters. But it least it has a normal structure and it sticks in your head.

This isn’t to say that Usher won’t have a successful Super Bowl show on Sunday. He’s got enough older hits to get through, and he can throw in these two as well. But if he’s going to have everyone in the Las Vegas arena singing “Uptown Girl,” he might as well include Billy Joel as his special guest. There’s a reason Billy is back this week with a hot new record and Grammy appearance. The good songs and songwriters never go away.

“Coming Home” is self-released by Usher and LA Reid, and not on a regular label. The distributor is the new Apple backed company, Gamma. Apple is also underwriting the half time show on Sunday. But the computer giant probably won’t be able to use these lyrics in its commercials, like: “Won’t just open your legs (Ooh-ooh) / And then leave you for dead (Oh)”

this one is classic, too: I seen a million girls, but ain’t seen none like you
I got options, baby, but you still the one I choose

That’s the way to make a girl feel special!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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