Review #432: Confessions, Usher

Karla Clifton
3 min readSep 4, 2023

#432: Confessions, Usher

Early 2000s rap still stymies me at times — I wasn’t quite ready for rap in fourth grade, and while I’m sure I heard Usher, he seemed so far from the things I was into at the time — Green Day, the Indigo Girls, and of course, Smash Mouth. (RIP Steve Harwell: a badass musician, a hustler, and a cultural icon.)

So I had to check RS on this next fact because it seemed too unbelievable to be true, but it was: this was one of the last albums to sell over ten million copies in the US. (Adele’s 21 being the last — this was in 2004, and Adele was in 2011.) Usher collabed with a lot of people to make this record happen, including chief producer Jermaine Dupri, whose name comes in in the credits of Mariah’s Emancipation of Mimi too. Welcome to the incestuous world of 2000s club bangers.

At first I was annoyed that I had accidentally listened to the expanded edition of this record instead of the original, but after some digging I realized that this was by design. The longer edition was released just months after the OG, adding four songs (including the Alicia Keys duet “My Boo” and the “Confessions Part II Remix” with Kanye) and lengthening others (like “Confessions Part I,” which goes from only one minute to a wholly unnecessary four).

If you were older than ten in 2004, you might remember crunk. You might even have gone to a club in which they were playing crunk. If that’s true, please, I beg of you, write in and tell me what that was like. What was it LIKE? To go into a club and hear Lil Jon insist, We’re always gonna keep this motherfucker crunk? And tell me, did they play “Yeah!”? Arguably the first Crunk&B masterpiece? It was one of the last additions to the album, but it defined the next five years. There are a few other club bangers (“Caught Up,” “Red Light”) but none as traumatic as YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!(yeah!)

Most of the record isn’t all that crunk. Usher is a male diva, all smooth and high-pitched and elastically acrobatic on songs like “Superstar.” Then he proves that he can be vulnerable. He begs for an authentic relationship on “Simple Things” and pleads to a cheating girlfriend on “Truth Hurts.” These are Usher’s confessions after all, which he declares on “Confessions Part II,” and as such, he dishes on some of his own tabloid drama. “Burn” is all about ex-girlfriend Chilli of TLC, whom he cheated on, knocking up his mistress. (Kind of wild that song won a Kid’s Choice Award.)

Mostly, though, it’s just 2000s frothy goodness. Enough sex jams on this record to fill an EP: “Bad Girl,” “Do It To Me,” “Seduction,” and my personal favorite, the pro-condom anthem “That’s What It’s Made For.” Buzzy, bleepy cheesiness: “Intro,” “Superstar — Interlude.”

As usual, I did think the record was too long. See “Can U Handle It?” and “Follow Me” and also the last two minutes of every song. But I mostly enjoyed Usher. He has a pretty voice. He launched Justin Bieber’s career, and that’s pretty cool too.

Fun Fact: We have another Holland-Dozier-Holland link here: a Dionne Warwick sample in “Throwback.”

Plagiarism Accusation: Just kidding, but doesn’t “Take Your Hand” remind you of “Crazy In Love”?

Review #431: How Will the Wolf Survive?, Los Lobos

Review #433: Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem

--

--