Usher has been mostly quiet for the better part of four years. He has released a dud here, a solid single there. But since R&B is less interested in the vocal acrobatics, washboard abs, and lithe dance moves that are this star’s stock and trade, he appears content to sit back, enjoy the hundreds of millions of streams he amasses annually on his hit-filled back catalog, and wordlessly make fun of Jacquees.
While Usher bides his time, though, other singers keep making Usher songs. In October, Summer Walker took his breakout single, “You Make Me Wanna,” and re-did it as “Come Through.” As a testament to the strength of the original, she barely changed a thing aside from the drums; Usher showed up to try his hand at some bizarre rhymes (“predicament” and “creep discrete”). The resulting single has earned over 100 million streams and become Walker’s second-biggest radio hit.
Brockhampton also drew on throwback Usher for their remix to “Sugar,” released earlier this month. “Sugar” may be the group’s first mainstream hit — it’s their biggest record on Spotify (over 180 million streams), and it’s been getting steady play on American Top 40 radio, where it reached an audience of around five million listeners last week. To give the song extra oomph in the pop world, Brockhampton added Dua Lipa to the remix; they also nodded to Usher’s first Number One, “Nice & Slow,” in a brand-new intro. The result is a music publisher’s nightmare, with 16 different songwriters credited on Spotify. But pop radio likes to keep things familiar, and a famous Nineties line — “It’s seven o’clock on the dot, I’m in my drop-top” — never hurts.
And then there’s DVSN, who turned to Usher for inspiration on their new single “Between Us,” a collaboration with Snoh Aalegra released on Thursday. This is business as usual for DVSN, who are signed to Drake’s OVO label: On “Too Deep,” they borrowed the bass line from Ginuwine’s “So Anxious;” on “P.O.V.,” the duo cribbed the falsetto pyrotechnics from Maxwell’s biggest hit, “Fortunate.” This time the source material is “Nice & Slow.” Like Walker, DVSN maintained the simple guitar melody and sliding synth line of Usher’s original but beefed up the drums.
The good news for these younger singers? Usher has a lot more hits they can borrow from.