PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

George Usher: Yours and Not Yours

Ryan Marr

Veteran retro-pop craftsman George Usher laments the pangs of lost love with overly polite, easily disposable folk-pop arrangements.

George Usher

Yours and Not Yours

Label: Parasol
US Release Date: 2009-09-01
Artist website

Despite toiling in obscurity for over three decades in New York City’s music scene, George Usher somehow still comes off like a sincerely nice guy. Blessed with one overly-apologetic falsetto of a voice, Usher could sing death metal lyrics and still sound like the well-mannered choirboy you’d introduce to your grandmother, hire to babysit your kids, or book for a wedding reception gig. It’s an odd choice then that Usher has decided to frame his latest album, Yours and Not Yours, within the context of a soured romantic relationship that, frankly, can’t even have offended the girl it was written about. Not only do feelings of regret and lingering nostalgia strike foreign notes with Usher’s affability, but their thematic stuffing simply doesn’t resonate with this collection of harmlessly polite folk-pop arrangements.

Usher has never been a groundbreaking artist, but, at least on previous solo outings, he’s leaned heavily enough on ‘60s pop influences to flesh out his gentle brand of pop rock with a retro-fitted flair. Here, the jangling, Brydsian guitar work and Beatlesesque melodic sensibility that so defined Usher’s earlier work have been smothered with soft piano arrangements, chiming acoustic chords, syrupy strings, rimshot snares, raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and other nice things sure to offend no one. Which isn’t to say that any of these things are inherently bad; in fact, the sum of their parts—which is essentially easy listening—makes for very agreeable background music on a rainy, overcast afternoon. It’s just that the pangs of love and loss fit don’t fit smoothly into Usher’s sonic template.

Even the most disparaging of Usher’s lyrics ring like pleasant, if not hollow, empty husks of emotion. When Usher whines to his lost love, "I would have done anything to be the one who makes you happy," without any semblance of real passion, it’s hard to believe that Usher would have really done anything, much less write her an original lyric. From falling leaves, to moonlit rivers, to "the wind that can never tell what it takes away so well," Usher sugarcoats his songs with more lyrical clichés than a poetry student in an introductory writing class. With each nasally-delivered cliché lamenting his lost love, Usher gets closer and closer to the flaw that ultimately sinks Yours and Not Yours: in attempting to please everyone, he succeeds in identifying with no one in particular.

To be fair, even if Usher’s romantic musings miss the mark, his knack for composing delicate, yet moving vocal arrangements save more than a few songs from wallowing in the muck of self-pity. As album gems "The Stranger Came" and "Comedy of Errors" undoubtedly attest, Usher possesses a true veteran musician’s talent for pop craftsmanship. Subtle countermelodies, divided up between the string section and pedal steel guitars, lend a graceful redemption to even the most lyrically lackluster of the album’s mournful ballads. Unfortunately, Usher can’t seem to translate these moments into his lyrics. Rather than plumb the depths of his failed relationships for anything resembling a redemptive arc, Usher is more interested in convincing his audience that being sensitive to the loss of love is redeeming enough.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Laura Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.