Usher: Painting By Numbers "OMG," from Usher's just-released Raymond vs. Raymond, marks something of a departure for the singer. In "OMG," center stage is given over to the song's inner workings -- and collaborator -- rather than Usher's pleading voice.


Usher: Painting By Numbers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(Soundbite of song, "Oh, My Gosh")

USHER (Singer): (Singing) Oh, my. Baby, let me love down. There's so many ways to love you.


And that, for those of you may not know, is the number-one song in the country. On the Billboard chart it says: "OMG" by Usher, featuring But this song is practically engineered by producer of the Black Eyed Peas, and that's what music commentators Maura Johnston and Jay smooth are talking about as part of our Pop Off series.

Mr. JAY SMOOTH ( Okay, so this song starts out with's highly auto-tuned voice.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh, My Gosh")

Mr. WILL.I.AM (Music Producer/Singer): (Singing) Oh, my gosh.

Mr. SMOOTH: And then we hear the beginning of Usher's vocal, but then it stops right in the middle of a syllable.

USHER: (Singing) Baby, let me - I did it again so I'm let...

Mr. SMOOTH: And then comes back in. And then...

USHER: (Singing) Oh, my. Baby, let me love down....

Mr. SMOOTH: ...Usher's voice starts again, back on the beginning. It's as if is letting us know Usher is simply a button that I'm pushing in this mix.

Ms. MAURA JOHNSTON (Writer/Editor, Totally. He's so known for his super-expressive singing. Even on his last big club hit, he sang. He would belt out the chorus. And here, he's just sort of like chopped into these little food processor parts.

USHER: (Singing) I want to say, oh, oh, oh, oh...

Mr. SMOOTH: Right. So why do you think Usher is going this route?

Ms. JOHNSTON: Usher, you know, he's trying to make a comeback. His last record was sort of a flop, and it's basically a way to sort of capitalize on the Black Eyed Peas' success last year. The Black Eyed Peas had the number one song in the country for 26 weeks of calendar year 2009.

Mr. SMOOTH: Right. It reminds me of the movie "Pulp Fiction," where the guys are really in trouble and they go call in the cleaner.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMOOTH: And it seems like is the cleaner of pop hits.


Mr. SMOOTH: You call him in, and no matter what's going on, he'll have the perfect formula. He's like an evil scientist...

Ms. JOHNSTON: He really is.

Mr. SMOOTH: ...of session pop music. And even just the title of the song, when I saw it was "OMG," I assumed that meant oh, my God. But only would think to change that to oh, my gosh - just to make sure you don't alienate the two percent that might be put off by actually saying oh, my God.

Ms. JOHNSTON: It's funny because how many who are saying OMG on, say, Twitter, really do mean oh, my gosh? I guess we'll never know.

Mr. SMOOTH: I had never thought of it, but is the man who would think of that.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh, My Gosh")

USHER: (Singing) Got me like oh, my gosh. I'm so in love. I finally found you, it make me want to say oh, oh , oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh my gosh.

Ms. JOHNSTON: A very canny move by to import this crowd noise, because then that's something that can easily be played over a stadium loudspeakers at a baseball game, say, when somebody makes a crazy catch that's worthy of an OMG.

(Soundbite of song, "I Gotta Feeling")

Mr. SMOOTH: With the Black Eyed Peas, he's always focused on making the perfect Twinkie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMOOTH: He's like, you know, there's sort of trend in the culinary world -at least here in New York - of gourmet chefs seeing if they can make the perfect donut or hot dog or something. I feel like that - the Black Eyed Peas has been that project for And I guess it's an apt analogy, since his records stay on the charts so long and Twinkies have a shelf life of...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMOOTH: ...uranium or something.

(Soundbite of song, "I Gotta Feeling")

BLACK EYED PEAS (Pop Group): (Singing) ...a good, good night, I feel it. And tonight's going to be a good night. And tonight's going to be a good night...


That's music writer Maura Johnston and Jay Smooth, who blogs at

And, Lynn, didn't you interview the Black Eyed Peas earlier this year?

NEARY: I did, indeed. And that song "I Gotta Feeling," you know, it's like mind control.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: And there's a link to our Black Eyed Peas interview at the website:

NEARY: And this is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.