Confessions is Usher's fourth studio album which was released on March 23, 2004 by Arista Records.
Tracklisting[edit | edit source]
- Intro 0:46
- Yeah! (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris) 4:10
- Throwback 4:01
- Confessions (Interlude) 1:15
- Confessions Part II 3:49
- Burn 4:15
- Caught Up 3:44
- Superstar (Interlude) 1:04
- Superstar 3:28
- Truth Hurts 3:51
- Simple Things 4:57
- Bad Girl 4:21
- That's What It's Made For 4:37
- Can U Handle It? 5:45
- Do It To Me 3:53
- Take Your Hand 3:03
- Follow Me 3:31
Special edition bonus tracks
- My Boo (duet with Alicia Keys) 3:43
- Red Light 4:48
- Seduction 4:33
- Confessions Part II (Remix) (featuring Shyne, Kanye West & Twista) 4:28
Album Background[edit | edit source]
When Usher began recording the album in 2003, he claimed he did not want to work with any new producers. The production began between Usher and Jermaine Dupri (who produced his last two albums "My Way" and "8701").
In spite of his vision, Usher stated, "With this album I chose some new producers who I figured would definitely allow me to really articulate myself in a different way ... Every album you gotta grow. You gotta look for something different."
Dupri also invited his frequent collaborator Bryan-Michael Cox. The album features productions by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Just Blaze, R. Kelly, and Usher's brother James Lackey.
When Usher felt that the album was completed with 40 recorded songs, he submitted the album to his record label, Arista; however, he and the company's then-president, L. A. Reid, who listened to the record, thought something was missing in it. "You know what, there's like one or two more records that we just gotta get."
Usher was displeased with the decision; he felt returning to the studio was the hardest part and needed to re-motivate himself. He went on recording a few more tracks with help from fellow Atlantian's Lil Jon and Ludacris. Eventually, the team was able to produce songs like "Red Light" and "Yeah!". He also recorded songs with P. Diddy and The Neptunes during one of those sessions, but those songs were not released.
Composition[edit | edit source]
One of Usher's first steps in recording the album was deciding to reveal "his own little secrets."
Friend and former A&R rep named Kawan "KP" Prather thought the album would let the public know Usher personally. Prather said, "The music has never been the question, but people tend to buy into the artist. The more they know about you, the more they feel like they're there with you."
Primarily because of the album's personal content, Usher said that this is his chance to be real. He named the album, "Confessions" because he felt it is his most personal record to date, saying: "All of us have our Pandora's boxes or skeletons in our closets. I let a few of them out, you know. I've got a lot to say. I've got a lot of things and stuff built in me that I just want to let go of." He wrote more songs than he contributed to his previous album.
Several of the songs in this album were conceptually based on a situation; for instance, "Burn" was built around the winding down of Usher's two-year relationship with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas from R&B girl group TLC.
Dupri and Cox were talking and felt that there was a song in it, and started writing. Similarly, with the title track "Confessions Part II", they were conversing about an impregnated mistress, and its concept was written down.
Usher recorded "Confessions Part II" during July of 2003 in New York City. When e sang the song's lyrics, the theme of cheating inspired him and Dupri to create two parts; "Confessions Part I" and "Confessions Part II".
"Confessions Part I" can be heard at the beginning of the video for "Confessions Part II".
Music & Style[edit | edit source]
"Confessions" falls mainly in the R&B genre. Usher commented that he chose to work with collaborators who know "... how to interpret R&B from a jazz standpoint, an old school throwback standpoint, a new school point, a traditional classic standpoint ..."
With producers and Usher set to produce such an album; however, other musical genres including hip hop were incorporated. While he wanted to do R&B, Usher also wanted his fans to experience hip hop at the same time: "I try to think outside the box."
When Lil Jon came on the scene, crunk was introduced to the R&B-centered album, specifically on the Sean Garrett-penned song "Yeah!". Usher said, "'Yeah!' could be called the first consciously styled "crunk R&B" record."
The album also includes various slow jams and also introduces a new style for Usher, focusing on his voice and technique. Andre "Dre" Harris and Vidal Davis listened to "8701" and felt that "Usher really needs to sing hard and let people know his vocal ability."
With efforts focused on the record to demonstrate his vocal ability to listeners, songs such as "Superstar" and "Follow Me" exhibited Usher in a type of "crooner mode." The ballad-oriented "Burn" also showcases his vocal aptitude.
Chart Performance[edit | edit source]
"Confessions" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling 1.096 million copies in the United States during its first week of release, becoming the highest-ever first-week sales by an R&B artist, the second-highest first week sales of a male artist and the seventh-highest first-week sales of the recorded albums chart by Soundscan at the time of its release.
As of March 2013, the album has the 10th highest first-week sales in history.
Critical Reception[edit | edit source]
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, "Confessions" received an average score of 71, based on 13 reviews.
From an artistic viewpoint, the album has been considered as Usher's best album to date, with writers calling it expansive and futuristic.
Matt Cibula of PopMatters wrote that it "might be the best English-language pop album of the year".
Entertainment Weekly's Jem Aswad said that Usher "reveals his new-found maturity by opening with the grittiest song he's ever done."
Laura Checkoway of Vibe said that, "Though Confessions doesn't bring Usher all the way to the artistic maturity one might hope for, tracking this star's progression definitely has its satisfactions."
Q magazine observed "addictive R&B hooks and all-dancin', all-lovin' subject matter boosted with hot production tweaks."
Amy Linden of The Village Voice commented that "Usher's (alleged) character flaws are easily forgiven, though, because he can sing his cheating ass off," and concluded, "Like 2002's big-selling but underrated 8701, Confessions is a top-of-the-line pop-soul showcase that ... manages to be commercially savvy without coming off as too desperate. Sorta like Usher himself."
Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times said that near the end, the songwriting "fails" Usher on a "heavily front-loaded" R&B album, but felt that his performance is solid throughout, saying: "The pleasure of listening to Usher is the pleasure of listening to a singer who knows exactly what he's doing. 'Truth Hurts,' a seemingly innocent (if plaintive) 1970's throwback, turns nasty when the narrator suddenly reveals that the first two verses were full of lies. Which raises the question: are these supposed 'confessions' true? He loves toying with his audience this way, loves telling us exactly how bad he is, then daring us to believe him."
In a mixed review, Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian criticized its "production gloss" and said that, although Usher's "fluid delivery" redeems weak tracks, there are only two "great songs"—"Yeah!" and the title track—and "17 less so."
Rolling Stone writer Laura Sinagra said that he "is coming of age, again", but "still doesn't quite cut it as a horny roughneck".
Jon Caramanica of Blender viewed that Usher's songwriting "isn't a strength, and his ballads often drown in their own inanity."
The Washington Post's Elizabeth Mendez Berry called Confessions "Usher's strongest recording to date" but found the more sexual songs mundane.
Robert Christgau from The Village Voice cited "Confessions Part II" and "Bad Girl" as "choice cuts," indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money."