Usher - 'Moving Mountains'
The brilliant thing about 'Umbrella' by Rihanna is that it's a cold, sad song with reassuring, warm lyrics. Rihanna's frosty delivery and the icy synths added drama to the lyric, and left the listener in no doubt that it must be raining cats, dogs and frozen blue whales, and that being offered a space under her umbrella (ella ella ey ey ey) is the most magnificent gesture anyone could ever make towards another human being.
This, on the other hand, is a cold, sad song with cold, sad lyrics. It's still howling it down - the blue whales are now being ridden by sperm whales in crash helmets - and silly old Usher has managed to do something wrong, and finds himself without an umbrella (ella ella ey ey ey) to shelter under. It doesn't look like he's going to be able to convince his special someone to budge over either, so he just wants everyone to know that he's trying...and failing.
I'm not just talking metaphorically either, if you've seen the video for this song (embedding is disabled by request, sadly) you'll know that Usher has been filmed literally climbing a mountain in a violent storm, then standing on its snowy peak in a soaking wet T-shirt and pleading with a ghostly figure. Seriously, if anyone needs an umbrella (ella ella ey ey ey...I bet you get tired of this before I do), it's the Ush.
And it's about to get worse. Cos actually, no matter how he wails and cries, and no matter how hard he tries to play at being heartbroken, there's just not quite enough song here to be properly convincing.
There's your 'Apologise' four-chord trick, there's some pretty piano tinkles and chuntering sequnced synths, it builds well, ends with what seems to be the audio version of the end of the world, but ultimately there are just too many sections of the song in which Usher seems to be unable to pick which of the not-quite-up-to-scratch melodic ideas he wants to go with.
Which is frustrating, given how much singing Usher does. I mean he really sings his little heart out here. But apart from chorus, it's hard to remember any of the melody. This is partly because it changes so frequently throughout the song, and partly cos he sometimes just jumps between two notes in a rhythmic way. It sounds improvised, ready to be plundered for good ideas, when it's time to finish the song off properly.
Course, it's hard to get it together to pick between strong melodic ideas when you're caught in a downpour, so maybe that's the idea. It's like method acting, in song form.
PS: I may be wrong, however. The Urban Review blog claims this as the best song on Usher's current album, and I can sort of see why...OH THE AGONY OF INDECISION!