Essential Mixes

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With Usher's recent output veering further into dance-pop territory, this 11-track compilation from the Essential Mixes series handily revisits his previous forays into the club scene with floor-filling interpretations of nine of his hit singles, all of which originally appeared as B-sides. Those mourning the departure of his early sensual soul sound will be pleased to hear that two of the three '90s tracks stick closely to the source material, with Jermaine Dupri's remix of "My Way" indistinguishable from the original and Timbaland's retooling of chart-topper "You Make Me Wanna" retaining its slick urban melancholy, while also adding his trademark vocal tics, stabbed piano chords, and staccato rhythms. Only the acoustic ballad "Nice and Slow" is given a more radical makeover, thanks to the fusion of crunk beats, lolloping synth-bass lines, and old-skool electro vibes of B-Rock's Basement Mix. Indeed, the reworkings of his slow jams provide the more authentic dancefloor anthems, from the summery guitar licks, video game-style production, and 2-step garage of Soulpower's Artful Dodger-esque "U Got It Bad," to the bouncy minimal dancehall of Monk & Prof's remix of "Trading Places," to the dirty bass-led electroclash treatment afforded to "Moving Mountains" on the Pokerface Remix, which despite its title doesn't bear any relation to Lady Gaga. Less successful are the Pound Boys Boogie Vocal Mix of "U Don't Have to Call," which eschews the sparse Neptunes funk of the original in favor of formulaic filtered house; the trashy Euro-disco of the Bimbo Jones' radio edit of "Caught Up"; and the generic urban-electro of the Full Phatt Main Mix of "Burn." Like most other collections in the Sony series, this overview of the smooth R&B seducer's HI-NRG remixes is a mixed bag, but there's plenty here that would quite happily grace the sets of many a DJ.