We last heard from Usher when he appeared alongside City Girls on their delightfully frothy “Good Love” track last summer. With “Glu,” Usher slows down the tempo several notches to deliver a downright nasty ode to both pairs of lips. Written and produced in collaboration with Lil Jon, Avila Brothers, and Sean Garrett, “Glu” finds Usher walking in the spirit of Prince. Throughout the sensual track, he resides almost exclusively in his falsetto — resulting in a vocal performance that encapsulates both the frenzied feel of the seconds before sexual release and the tantalizing allure of connecting with a partner on multiple levels at the same time.
Anchored by a soulful piano line and ornate strings that offer a softer complement to the rollicking electric guitar, “Glu” moves away from the spacious, atmospheric soundscapes that continue to dominate R&B. Instead, Usher & Co. opt for instrumentation that feels structured; it is Usher’s voice, as malleable and impressive as ever, that is able to find, highlight, and innovate new pockets within the layered arrangement. At once frantic and in control, Usher’s vocal performance is the, well, glue that holds “Glu” together. “Glu,” most importantly, feels fresh. The song doesn’t sound like a feeble attempt a recreating a current trendy sound (one of the pitfalls of 2018’s “A”), nor does it sound stuck in the sonic territory of Usher’s past. This is grown R&B — a strong balance of the explicit and metaphorical, and an overarching sound that speaks to the soul foundation of the genre. We don’t call him the king for nothing!