DAR Music: Usher's Confessions

By @TrueGodImmortal

1. Intro 
2. Yeah 
3. Throwback 
4. Confessions (Interlude)
5. Confessions Part II
6. Burn 
7. Caught Up 
8. Superstar (Interlude)
9. Superstar 
10. Truth Hurts 
11. Simple Things 
12. Bad Girl 
13. That's What It's Made For
14. Can You Handle It
15. Do It To Me 
16. Take Your Hand 
17. Follow Me
*18. My Boo
*19. Red Light 
*20. Seduction 
*21. Confessions Part II Remix

We've done a couple of albums so far for our greatest R&B albums of the 2000s series, but there was absolutely no way possible that we could avoid this album. It is the single greatest R&B album of the 2000s and truthfully it might be in the running for the greatest R&B album ever, or at least in the top 10-15. From the moment this album released to massive first week sales of 1.096 million copies, Usher affirmed himself as a legend forever with this album. It would be the largest first week sales for a R&B artist and Usher would join a small club of artists who have sold 1 million copies in the first week. The album is one of the very few albums to be certified diamond in the 2000s, and remains the 2nd highest selling album of the entire decade. On top of selling 10 million in the US, the album would sell almost 20 million copies worldwide, making it a landmark moment not only in Usher's career, but in music period.

The album itself starts off with a somber yet optimistic intro, as Usher welcomes us to this experience and leads us right into the first single, the Lil Jon produced and featured "Yeah!", which also continues the chemistry of Ludacris and Usher, as Luda drops a solid catchy verse on this song as well. This song is what I have always felt sold the album mostly, as it was such a massive hit and everywhere. Usher would take the Crunk craze, mix it with his R&B sensibility, and blend the genres together with a standard and slightly generic yet catchy Lil Jon beat, a simple call and response style hook, and the magic just flowed together perfectly.

Following this hit, Just Blaze took a very familiar sample and flipped it alongside some of those usual Just Blaze drums for a pretty dope track in "Throwback" which featured a Jadakiss verse at one point, but it was removed on this album version. While this isn't my favorite song on the album, it's a solid listen and the production is still dope. What carries every song here is Usher's ability to create catchy hooks and his superior vocals. This leads us into the saga of "Confessions" as the interlude and the song itself (titled "Confessions Part II") are interesting in their own right. Usher tells the lady he's been with that he's not the man she thought he was, and that he has a chick on the side who is currently pregnant. For those of us who've dealt with anything similar, the song hits home (sort of), but one thing that stands out here is the honesty from Usher, and as straightforward and heartbreaking as it may sound, it's real (to an extent).

The album moves at a rapid pace to the somber yet slightly boring "Burn", which sounds very similar to the previous hit from Usher, "U Got It Bad", at least in cadence and production. This doesn't make the song bad by any stretch, it's just a bit too familiar, and falls in the same category. The lyrics themselves also fall a little bit short, but Usher's delivery of them is top notch. In some ways, that's the story of the entire album. The lyrics, written usually by Jermaine Dupri or Bryan Michael Cox, aren't necessarily the greatest on paper, but when given to a vocalist like Usher, his delivery and prowess as a singer helps them sound much better than they really are. This works well on both "Confessions Part II" and "Burn", as I don't feel these songs would have worked with anyone else.

While I consider this album a classic, I'll be the first to admit I have a few songs that just don't hit the mark for me, and while I like the production, "Caught Up" has a tendency to fall short when compared to some of the other songs. It's still catchy and enjoyable, but if I feel the need to skip a song or two on this album, this is likely one of them. The lyrics here sound like 2004, or in reality, 1998, as Usher sings "my homies say, this girl is cramping my style", which makes the song sound a bit more dated than it was, but regardless, when these lyrics are delivered by Usher, you just sit back and sing along, no matter how silly it sounds. When we reach the interlude for "Superstar", it's almost as if we've gotten all the filler out of the way, because the album is simply flawless from here on. That's the strange part about this album. The singles were perfectly fit into the story of the album, but they still felt like filler. From "Yeah" to "Throwback" to "Burn" to "Caught Up", while these are all good songs, they pale in comparison to the rest of the album. Regardless, once we hit the smooth interlude for "Superstar", we enter the apex of the album.

When I first heard "Superstar", I had to run it back a few times. The production, the hook, the layering of vocals, the way it was put together, everything about it was great, and it might be my favorite song on the entire album. If not my absolute favorite, it's certainly top 3. The song itself is centered around Usher being like a groupie for the woman he loves. It's an interesting play on the concept of a groupie or biggest fan, but it works. The hook is simple, but it inspires you to sing along:

"I'll be your groupie baby
Cuz you are my superstar/
I'm your number one fan, give me your autograph,
Sign it right here on my heart/
Girl I'll be your groupie baby
Cuz you are my superstar/
And as your number one fan, I'll do all that I can,
To show you how super you are/"

As we move on from "Superstar", we go right into the insecurity laden "Truth Hurts", which fits perfectly with the theme of the album, as Usher begins the song with a simple "I got reason to believe that you been fooling around", then following it up with the reasons for the suspicions. As the song continues, Usher makes it clear that it's his insecurities that have him so worried about the woman he's with and what she's doing, but later near the end, it seems as if Usher was the one fooling around and trying to blame on his girl out of his own guilty conscience. The song can be slightly confusing at times because you'd almost believe Usher was speaking from the women's perspective in the beginning and then his own at the end, but regardless the song flows well, and the production is one of my favorites on the album. This leads us into another smooth track in "Simple Things", where Usher talks to his fellow men, and tells them not to focus so much on providing the material for your woman, but just be there and take care of her with love and attention. The first verse into the hook and then right into the 2nd verse is a seamless transition and paints the picture perfectly. Check the lyrics:

"Just copped your girl a brand new Rolex,
But you can never find the time to spend at home/
Thinkin' it's gon' keep her happy,
When time is all she wanted all along/"

"It's the simple things in life we forget/
You hear her talkin' but don't hear what she said/
Why do you make something so easy so complicated/
Searching for what's right in front of your face/
But you can't see it"

"So you think that you know what's important/
Steady chasing your fame and your fortune/
But you don't know
You're chasing a dime losin' a treasure/
Those dollars don't make sense to me at all..."

While it is a bit funny to hear a millionaire preach these things, it makes sense. Presumably one would say Usher tried to entice his ladies of the past with material things, but learned the hard way that this strategy cannot make up for what most women crave and want: time and attention. In an almost shift from the vibe of the album, Usher goes right to "Bad Girl", which is a dope song, but was just peculiarly placed in sequencing. It's merely just Usher giving love to the women who have it going so to speak (even that sounds dated), and telling them to get at him (and again...), which makes for an entertaining listen at least, as Usher carries the song.

However, we reach the trilogy of seductive anthems, and this is where the album begins to wind down. I remember wondering what made Usher sequence these songs like this, but it certainly works well. The first of the trilogy is "That's What It's Made For", which seems to honestly be about the usage of condoms (which... I mean... condoms are trash in some way, but if you started the album telling your girl that you got your side chick pregnant.... maybe you need them). Granted, the song is about more than just that, but it's a central theme of the lyrics. For example:

"Game rules, no cap no cut/
But even Superman couldn't turn your love down/
I slipped up, slipped in
Hey man what the hell you doin?
Raw dog is a never/
I know, I know better/
Heard her whisper, don't worry I'm safe/
Didn't matter cuz it's already to late/"

Couple that with the hook saying "we got protection, that's what's it made for", and you get the point. The ending conversation between Usher and the girl is also pretty hilarious to me, and it fits the song regardless. I've always found conversations on R&B songs to be hilarious or entertaining and though this one doesn't add anything to the song itself, it gives me a good laugh or two. Usher would usually a more comical approach within the seductive music for the first part of the trilogy, but the 2nd part is probably the biggest bedroom anthem of the entire album.

From the opening sounds on "Can U Handle It", you know you're in for something that will likely make some panties down by the end of it. The production is slow, seductive (of course), and oddly enough, when I revisit this song, the way Usher sings it makes much more sense knowing that it was written by Robin Thicke now. The falsetto is employed throughout the song and all over the vocals, and this definitely sounds like a Robin Thicke song now that we know who Robin Thicke is (we didn't really know back in 2004 like that). This is another one of my favorite songs on the album, as Usher vocally coasts over this production, and makes this song a classic.

I'm not as big of a fan of "Do It To Me" as I am the first two songs in the trilogy, but this is also a great song. The production once again is booming yet smooth, and Usher leads with the first verse to set the tone for the night with the lady of his choice:

"I've got two-dozen roses
And a card that says, “Baby I can’t wait to see you later"/
We made dinner reservations/
At Nobu, Mr. Chow’s, you just pick the location/
Now we’re sitting at the table
Sipping the finest wine/
Having a damn good time/
I know what’s on your mind
I want you/
You want me too/
Stop fronting/
I know exactly what you want, you wanna..."

He leads from this right into the hook, and while this isn't as seductive as "Can U Handle It", or as comical "That's What It's Made For", it is a tone setting track. A mood setter, so to speak. Out on a date and the tension is building? This might be the song for you. Next up, there's the dope "Take Your Hand", which is a really fun listen, and for some reason, I'm surprised Usher didn't have a video and dance routine for this one. I feel like that would have fit perfectly for this album and the song definitely was calling out for a Usher video with a dance routine. Missed opportunity.

As the album closes out (the regular version at least), another one of my favorite songs follows, as Usher ends the standard edition of the album off with "Follow Me". The beat itself is a booming production, and Usher floats over it, and the verses themselves inspire you to sing along. Though the verses are extremely dope, the hook is what really grabs me, as the layered vocals are too infectious. Check the hook:

"Ooooh I can't believe it/
You came just in time with what I needed/
And you're not like the other girls I meet everyday/
You stay down like them girls from around the way/"

So simple in essence, but it works so well. As the standard edition of the album finishes, we find ourselves listening to the 4 bonus tracks and I won't dwell on them too much, but I have to mention the dope Alicia Keys collaboration "My Boo", which is a bit cheesy now when I look back, but it fit well. Two of the biggest stars in R&B combining for a huge duet at the time? Easy hit. It fueled Usher to take the album from 4 or 5 million to over 10 million I believe. The album was still selling well, but the deluxe edition just furthered the success even more and "My Boo" had everything to do with it, but that isn't even my favorite track out of the 4 Deluxe Edition songs. Don't get me wrong, "My Boo" was great, and it is a classic in R&B when reflecting on it, but the song that truly stood out was "Seduction". It's Usher in his element. Smooth production, smooth vocals, and lyrics that border on seductive along with comical (to me at least). These two songs are honestly the only two noteworthy songs on the deluxe edition, as the Confessions Remix isn't anything to speak about and "Red Light" is just okay. Nothing special.

So there you have it, an album that's not flawless, but is certainly a classic. Confessions features Usher at his best, as we get seduction, resentment, hurt, pain, and a yearning for love. It encompasses everything you'd want in a R&B album. That's what makes Confessions so special. It's not exactly perfect, but it's imperfectly perfect in its own right. It is the crown jewel in the Usher discography, and of course his highest selling album, but it marked a huge moment in time and music. For that, Confessions will always be remembered. When speaking of R&B albums in the 2000s, there is no album greater than this in legacy or impact. Hands down.



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