Classic albums: Usher – Confessions (2004)

With this time of the year being kinda quiet on the music side of things, it’s time to do another classic album review where I look at albums that I loved from my past or ones that I have given enough time to listen to and have come to appreciate as a classic record. Last year, I did Maroon 5’s debut album in Songs About Jane. Today, it’s finally time to talk about my favorite album of all-time in Usher’s 2004 project, Confessions.

This was the fourth full-length LP to come from Mr. Raymond IV. Prior to this, he was dropping records in his teenage years with his self-titled debut in 1994 and his breakout in 1997, My Way.

You Make Me Wanna…”, and “Nice & Slow” are just some of those unforgettable songs from that record.

Then, there was 8701 in 2001. While not better than My Way, one could argue that the quality tracks on the former are more memorable. “U Remind Me”, “U Got It Bad” and, arguably, my favorite Usher track, “U Don’t Have to Call”, still hold up to the R&B standards of today, and in some cases, supersede them.

The problem with those records was the consistency. You got one great track and the next was pretty underwhelming — until Confessions came around.

Now, many will say that Confessions is an anecdote of Usher’s personal life, specifically, his former relationship with TLC member Chili Thomas, but producer Jermaine Dupri and other collaborators on the record have said this album was inspired by others in this situation.

What makes Confessions my favorite album ever is the consistency of quality, the lack of skips and the range of emotions one can feel while listening to this record.

The album kicks off with the club anthem in “Yeah!”. Now, this song will forever be historic with its catchy hook and overall sense of fun. However, I don’t see this track as one of the main highlights on the record. One can’t forget that ridiculous chime that plays consistently throughout the track. It sticks out like a sore thumb and makes you want to stop listening to the song at certain points. Regardless, you can’t ever hate the song.

If you eliminate the Jadakiss feature, “Throwback” has the chance of being one of Usher’s finest, classiest songs. He instantly regrets cheating on his girl and didn’t appreciate what he had until she was gone, so he wants to throw it back to before the moment he cheated. I love the subtle guitar riffs that play across the track. It’s our first glimpse of an R&B & rock fusion, which wasn’t a thing for R&B or hip-hop during the bling era.

For the next three tracks, we get in our feels as Usher states his regret for cheating and all the terrible things he did behind his lover’s back. We have the two parts of “Confessions” where he lists off every single mistake he made and is finally telling him to his girl. He comes to the terms that he isn’t a good person with the gut-punch of a line, “I bet you probably believe you got a good man. A man that never would do the things I’m about to tell you I’ve done. Brace yourself, it ain’t good, but it would be even worse if you heard this from somebody else.”

As a five-year old, I didn’t understand the emotional impact of a track like “Burn.” I just thought it sounded good. Especially with what I went through recently, I can relate to some of the inner demons one faced during that tumultuous period. You have to let go and let those memories burn so you can move on. Now, the end of the relationship wasn’t of my own doing or anything involving infidelity, but there are still tidbits to pull from the track.

“Caught Up” returns the liveliness we heard earlier on the record, but now sees Usher being manipulated and played with instead of being the manipulator. It’s the instant karma moment on the album.

The next three tracks on the record are quite laidback and the most underrated on the album. Sonically, I love “Superstar”, despite the overly-clinging lyrics that see Usher visioning himself as being a groupie for a woman who he has put on this celebrity-like pedestal. Also, this track might possess the most “down bad” verse in music history with,

It’s still a great song despite the corniness of the content.

“Truth Hurts” sees the karma continue as Usher suspicions of his girl cheating reach a peak, but the plot twist here is that he’s pouring his insecurities on her and is in denial of his own infidelity. By the end of the song, he, again, comes to terms that he’s the problem.

While Usher has been so caught up in sex and love, he’s forgotten to enjoy the “Simple Things” in life. This track is the feel-good Listerine one may need by the time you get to the latter stages of the record. The instrumental is pleasant on the ear and Usher’s remarkable vocals don’t get any less appealing.

Then, out of left field, we get that second R&B/rock fusion with “Bad Girl.” Usher’s only been with faithful women, but for one night, he decides he wants to get down and dirty with someone from the club and be tamed. Oh yeah, and only Usher could make singing about his package classy on the intimate “That’s What It’s Made For.” He even stresses the importance of using protection — a true king.

While a bonus track, the last song I’ll mention here is the Hall of Fame collaboration with Alicia Keys “My Boo.” The chemistry is too good between the R&B legends that rumors started about the two having a relationship. It’s just a very wholesome song about two people reminiscing about their feelings for each other even though they haven’t been together in quite some time.

This is THAT album, folks. It is the bar for R&B in the 21st century and no artist has been able to match the consistency and quality of this record in it’s 17-year history. Not only is it the greatest R&B album of the 21st century, it may just be the greatest album of the century.

Richest Tracks: “Yeah!”, “Throwback”, both parts of “Confessions”, “Burn”, “Caught Up”, “Superstar”, “Truth Hurts”, “Simple Things”, “Bad Girl”, “That’s What It’s Made For”, “My Boo”

Worst Track: “Follow Me”

Rating: 10/10

Listen to the album:

Spotify:

Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/confessions-expanded-edition/386153476

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