This month I decided to pull out an album from a not-too-distant past that I haven’t heard in quite some time. I have been an Usher fan since his very first album and my all-time favorite, “Think of You”. I remember when Usher’s Confessions album was originally released in March 2004 because you could not go anywhere without hearing massive singles from the album. In those days, TRL and 106 & Park were going strong, and his videos would literally top the charts every day. When this album came out, it was definitely heavy in my CD rotation because I remember loving so many songs on this album. Click on the album cover and take a journey through Usher’s Confessions.
Confessions opens with an “Intro” that sets the tone for the album and subtly hints that this is a personal R&B album with depth. Then it immediately switches gears with “Yeah!” featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon. Everyone knows that track: it was and still is considered a club banger that gets the party started.
The story goes that Confessions was completed already, but L.A. Reid felt like it was missing something. “Yeah!” was later recorded and added to the album’s track listing even though it was rumored that Usher originally did not like the song. It is considered the first Crunk&B song and led to other similar genre songs by artists like Ciara, Chris Brown and Cherish. “Yeah” was #1 on Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks total and became the longest running #1 song in 2004. It went on to be the #2 song on the Hot 100 Decade-end chart.
“Throwback” is the next song on the album and it has always been my personal favorite. It features a sample of Dionne Warwick’s 1973 “You’re Gonna Need Me”. The Just Blaze-produced song is Usher’s lament for the long-lost love of his life, where he admits to doing her wrong. The well-written track has a driving beat that just pushes forward with lyrics that keeps Usher in the pocket.
Afterward, we enter the heart of the album with “Confessions (Interlude)” and “Confessions II”. The first is a short interlude where Usher appears to receive a phone call with information that leads him to confess about being unfaithful to his girlfriend. The third single from the album, “Confessions II”, continues with Usher’s admission of guilt and the news that the “chick on the side has one on the way”. Somehow, Usher seems to make us feel sympathetic to his situation even though it’s one of his own doing. The third single was propelled by the fact that Usher had broken up with Chili of TLC earlier in the year before the album’s release. We all assumed that this was his true story and that he had cheated on Chili, only to find out later that the song was closer to Jermaine Dupri’s reality. In the re-release of the album “Confessions (Interlude)” was re-imagined as a full song, but it was lackluster and could not outshine “Confessions II”.
“I’m twisted ’cause one side of me is tellin’ me that I need to move on. On the other side, I wanna break down and cry
“Deep down you know it’s best for yourself, But you hate the thought of her being with someone else, But you know that it’s over, You know it was through, let it burn, let it burn”
The next track and second single “Burn” (originally intended to be the lead single) was written by Usher, Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox. The song addresses the conflict of choosing to dissolve a relationship when you’ve done wrong and the difficulty of letting go. Usher hits some tender moments, and “Burn” is probably the best song on the album based on pure emotion and vulnerability. “Burn” spent eight weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2004.
“Caught Up” is an R&B dance track that switches the mood with a more up-tempo beat, snare drums, a great hook, and melody. It was released as the fifth and final track from the album. On this song, Usher sings about being infatuated with a woman who takes him to a place he hadn’t been before.
After the seventh track, we get a brief intermission with “Superstar (Interlude)”, which sets the mood for the 2nd act of the album. We officially enter the DEEP CUTS of the album with “Superstar”, in which Usher sings “I’ll be your groupie baby, cuz you are my superstar”. The song samples Willie Hutch’s 1973 “Mack’s Stroll/ The Getaway (Chase Scene).” It’s followed by “Truth Hurts” – Usher exhibits classic cheater behavior by accusing his girlfriend of fooling around. By the end of the song, Usher’s guilty conscience gets the best of him as he breaks down his own confessions and then proceeds to beg for forgiveness.
“Simple Things” is a classic feel-good R&B song that’s just right for a two-step. Usher tells the guys “don’t be a fool…” and to focus on the simplest things in relationships instead of complicating mattres. It’s followed by two of the sexiest tracks on the album, which probably explain how Usher got in trouble in the first place. “Bad Girl” and “That’s What It’s Made For” still put me in a mood as the lyrics are tame compared to today’s music. We continue along this sexual journey with “Can U Handle It?” as Usher croons “Can I go there baby with you, we gon’ set it off…”
Next up is “Do It to Me”, written by Bryan-Michael Cox, Usher and Jermaine Dupri. It’s not my favorite song on the album; however, I do enjoy the bridge closer to end of the song where he literally breaks it down for us. The album picks up again with “Take Ur Hand”, which samples Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ 1973 release, “Is There a Place for Me?” It’s a bop, and you can clearly hear the influence of artists like Michael Jackson on Usher’s music.
The original release of the album closes with the midtempo “Follow Me” where Usher seems to find peace and a new love who gives him the support he needs. The re-released special edition continues at this point with the fourth single “My Boo”, featuring Alicia Keys. As you probably remember, “My Boo” is an R&B song with a hip-hop style sung is from the vantage point of two ex-lovers that still seem to have continuing affection for one another. In my opinion, the Lil Jon produced “Redlight” feels like a monotonous throw-away that tried to be a different take on Crunk&B. It’s followed by “Seduction” which delves back into the world of sexy where he seems to excel. In this story, Usher tells the story of being seduced and making bad decisions that feel so good. The final track on the special edition is the“Confessions II Remix” featuring Twista, a Pre-MAGA Kanye, and Shyne, who phoned it in from prison. The remix does offer a complimentary track to round out the special edition of the album.
Confessions is a solid production by Usher, and at the time, it was considered his most personal album. He has since had other albums that shared more of his story, but Confessions seems to be solidified as his best work to date. This album offered listeners a different perspective in R&B and was a complete body of work with aa cohesiv subject matter. It sold over 10 million albums in the United States, earned Usher 3 Grammys, and was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Since Confessions, Usher has continued to produce amazing music that sets the trend in R&B and has influenced artists like Trey Songz, Chris Brown, August Alsina and Justin Beiber. Usher and the Confessions album will take its rightful place in music history as one of the greatest R&B artists and albums of all time.