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8701 is Usher's third studio album that was released on August 7, 2001 by Arista Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Intro-Lude 8701 0:45
  2. U Remind Me 4:27
  3. I Don't Know (featuring P. Diddy) 4:27
  4. Twork It Out 4:58
  5. U Got It Bad 4:13
  6. Pop Ya Collar 3:39
  7. If I Want To 3:53
  8. I Can't Let U Go 3:35
  9. U Don't Have To Call 4:42
  10. Without U (Interlude) 0:56
  11. Can U Help Me 5:51
  12. How Do I Say 6:23
  13. Hottest Thing 3:50
  14. Good Ol' Ghetto 4:01
  15. U-Turn 3:12
  16. T.T.P. 3:38
  17. Separated 4:24

Album BackgroundEdit

Usher had initially planned to release the album entitled "All About U" as his third studio album on October 31, 2000; the album was to follow his previous album, "My Way" which to date, has sold over seven million copies.

On March 13, 2000, multiple tracks from the album had leaked on to online music store Napster several months prior to its release, including "T.T.P.", "U R the One" and "Pop Ya Collar."

Following the event, the album's release was delayed twice, on December 5, 2000 to July 17, 2001.

During the taping of "MTV Icon Janet Jackson" special, Usher explained that he returned to the studios to record new songs, stating: "I didn't want that to be the way my record was remembered or the way I would present that to my fans [...] It turned out a lot better" while adding that tracks that were available for download on the site were not going to be included on the new album.

With new tracks produced, Usher's publicist announced a new name for the album, under the title "8701", who claims that it is "practically a new album".

The origin of its new name was initially unknown, with speculation that it subsides with its US release of August 7, 2001 (8/7/01), though Usher's publicist claimed that this was purely coincidental, and was not the reasoning for the title.

Usher hinted that it was derived after something significant to him, and he would disclose it in the upcoming months.

Eventually, Usher's spokesperson revealed that the '87' segment of the title refers to the year 1987, when Usher sang in public for the first time at his church in Atlanta, with the '01' referring to the year 2001.

RecordingEdit

"8701" was recorded in the United States, in the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis and Atlanta.

The album's production was handled by several producers including The Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri, P. Diddy (who had produced the majority of Usher's previous album, "My Way")Babyface, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Mike City, Bryan Michael Cox and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

Both Jam and Lewis were asked by Usher's mother (and then manager) to contribute to 8701's production, during the 2000 MTV Music Awards. According to Jam, his mother had said, "Oh my God, Usher's got this track and we thought you guys would be perfect to produce it".

Several months later, Jam and Lewis produced the song "Separated", along with multi-platinum producers Ric Atari & Daron Jones (who also wrote the record) to which the producers then turned in to L.A. Reid, who liked the track, and asked them to produce more.

Following this, Usher asked both producers to create a song similar to their 1985 "Tender Love", performed by R&B vocal group Force MDs. Though he wanted it to be his own unique record, which contains a small similarity, to which Jam and Lewis created "Can U Help Me".

Following the completion of the album, Jam and Lewis were sent back to the studio by Reid to revamp the album's second single "U Remind Me", explaining "we already know he can dance, and he's got the style and that whole thing. But I want people to just go, he can sing."

CompositionEdit

In an interview with MTV, Usher commented that lyrically, "8701" represents his "soul", and elaborated by explaining that he was inspired by love and heartache.

According to Usher: "I listen to a lot of Donny Hathaway's, Stevie Wonder's, Marvin Gaye's and Michael Jackson's earlier records, those Motown greats. There's a little bit of all of that in the album. I really appreciate what music was back then as well as in the early '90s when you had artists like Troop and Jodeci, and Michael Jackson was in his prime."

He explained that the album's lyrics also reflect on what has been going on with his relationship.

"8701" is predominantly an R&B album.

"Can U Help Me", is about a deep relationship to which Usher experienced.

"U Don't Have to Call" is a hip-hop song inspired by Jackson, while "U Got It Bad" is an R&B slow-jam. Kyle Anderson of MTV wrote that "U Got It Bad" makes use of the acoustic guitar and a "slow-burning bassline" throughout.

The album's lead single "U Remind Me" is also an R&B track and its lyrics is based on meeting a woman who reminds Usher of an ex-girlfriend, and therefore cannot date her.

Chart PerformanceEdit

"8701" debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, selling 210,000 copies in its first week. It was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA.

As of March 2010, the album has sold 4.7 million copies in the United States.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"8701" received generally positive reviews from music critics.

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 67, based on 11 reviews.

NME's Lucy O'Brien commended Usher for producing a more mature album, that "reflects his emotional experience" writing "Versatility is the key here: staccato beats with mellifluous melody, rich slow-jams and edgy harmonies – but woven through with Usher's own perspective. A winner."

BBC Online's Christian Hopwood also favoured the album, commenting on how Usher has developed "his producing, singing and song writing skills to a new level" noting his contribution to twelve of the seventeen tracks.

Dan Leroy of Yahoo! Music declared the album an improvement "over Usher's "old" new album ("All About You") and depicted it as his best work to-date. Leroy credited the production groups The Neptunes and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, depicting that they have done "some of their best work" on the album.

J. D. Considine of Blender commented that the album "does what it's supposed to, giving Usher a grown-up R&B sound without reducing his boyish charm".

Kathryn McGuire of Rolling Stone described Usher's vocals as "velvety" and further wrote that "Amid all the playboy pouting and preening, Usher's vocals are impressively adaptable [...]. McGuire noted the album's primary fault is that "Usher never surrenders his meticulously groomed veneer", with every track being formulaic, or "radio-safe."

Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine noted the distinction between several of the album's songs with Janet Jackson's, while comparing Usher's vocals to that of another Jackson member, Michael Jackson "[...] bring out the other Jackson in Usher, bolstering falsetto vocal bridges on "I Don't Know" and "U Don't Have to Call" that are undeniably Pop Royalty.

Vibe's Jason King complimented some of the material on the album, but was disappointed with the "heavyweight producers" not producing any "masterpieces".

Stephen Erlewine of Allmusic gave a positive opinion on Usher's development, writing "He looks good, his material is smooth and seductive, and he has a nice voice, even if he tends to favor melisma".

Erlewine also labelled the album as "a classy, seductive affair" but was ambivalent towards its material, due to the lack of memorable tracks.

Entertainment Weekly's Josh Tyrangiel said that the tracks "blend harmlessly together", but was ambivalent towards the quality of the songs produced after Usher's four-year hiatus.

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