A song ostensibly born out of Usher's break-up with TLC's Rozonda (Chilli) Thomas, my main 'problem' with 'Burn' is the same 'problem' I have with a lot of modern R&B in that I'm hearing less of a song and more of a production job. There's no doubt that 'Burn' is tightly plotted and tightly wrapped, with splashes of electronica and Spanish guitar runs skittering around the slow jam rhythm, but that very tightness in turn becomes the moulded plastic packaging of a high end consumer good and, like that packaging, it's just as tough to break into. There's no doubt that most modern R&B follows a template of either looking for girls, loving the girls or dumping/losing them (and sometimes all three in one song, though 'Burn' is concerned with the latter) and, rather like reading five Tom Clancy novels in a row (or listening to two Dio albums), it's wearing me down.
I'm not going to be so crass as to dismiss a whole genre on the grounds of perceived predictability any more than I'd dismiss Shakespeare's sonnets on the grounds that they're all about love, but throw in a more than passing resemblance to R Kelly's 'Ignition' and the feeling of déjà vu I get with 'Burn' overwhelms. But ultimately,the killer blow comes from 'Burn' being a song that neither speaks to me nor seems to even particularly want me to come in to play. Despite the subject matter and claims of sincerity ("It's gonna burn for me to say this, but it's coming from my heart"), Usher never sounds close to losing the studiously cool and aloof image he's careful to cultivate on the cover shot in, it permeates the song beneath too and such insularity (to the point that I'm wondering if those shades are mirrored on both sides) makes 'Burn too egotistical to enjoy - it's a song by Usher, about Usher and aimed at an audience of one. Himself. And I'm happy to leave him to it. Nice production job though.