Album: Looking 4 Myself
While R&B stars with non-traditional sounds—or, at the very least, non-traditional marketing strategies—grabbed headlines throughout the year, it was Usher's mainstream crossover slow jam "Climax" that made for one of the genre's most memorable moments in 2012.
The production has a sparse, restrained airiness that allows for one of Usher's most striking vocal performances, shifting between the familiar choral melody into evocative uncertainty. The backdrop is detailed but subtle, a smooth, tactile canvas, while Usher's vocals have a tantalizing sincerity that gives the song an almost abstract eroticism. —DD