Our writer takes a stroll down memory lane through one of R&B’s most scandalous albums of the 00s.
In the first quarter of 2004, R&B’s rising prince would transform into one of the all-time greats in R&B. His 2001 album, 8701, was a commercial success due to singles “U Remind Me”, “U Got It Bad”, and “U Don’t Have to Call”. He was officially transitioning from a heartthrob performer, into a grown man still straddling the line. So it was only a matter of time before he took the world by storm and became the biggest story of music.
The first single from his breakthrough album Confessions, “Yeah!”, we saw Usher join forces with Lil’ Jon and Ludacris at the respective peak of both of their careers. The collaboration was also at an all-time high for Atlanta based music on mainstream charts, as both rappers had #1 singles the year prior. The trio’s bonafide club banger, based on meeting a shawty in the club, would go onto reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remain there for 12 non-consecutive weeks, the longest stay for all three at the top. The single is one of the 25 biggest songs of all-time and was the third biggest song of the 2000s decade, behind The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” (#2) and Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” (#1).
The album’s second single, the break-up ballad “Burn”, would also hit #1 and would set the tone for an album rooted in the controversial break-up of he and Chilli, member of R&B group TLC. Or at least we thought the album addressed their breakup. The album’s contents were primarily a the backstory of it’s executive producer, Jermaine Dupri, who penned many of the album’s tunes, including the album’s third #1 single, “Confessions, Pt. 2”. But the album’s reception was one that even Usher couldn’t have expected.
Confessions debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with sales of over one million copies in the United States, the first R&B album in the history of music to do so; something that has not been duplicated by anyone, not even the likes of Rihanna or Beyonce. The large success of the album prompted a fall re-release, featuring another #1 single, the Alicia Keys assisted “My Boo”. Combined the singles from this album spent 28 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is the longest combined stay at #1 for any male solo album in the history of Billboard and the largest in music history. To date, the album has sold over 12 million copies in the United States alone.
The album was nominated for several high profile awards at the 2005 Grammy Awards, but came up short, a trend in urban music at the ceremony. The album itself is still hailed as not only Usher’s greatest, but one of the greatest R&B albums of all time. The appeal of the album was its rawness and sensual nature, two traits Usher previously hadn’t explored for an entire album since his debut. The methods worked. In an era where albums aren’t huge and singles rely on streams, it’s easy to forget just how masterful this album is if you were born outside of 2010. No album will ever sell this many records again, not even an Adele album. The impact and legacy of this album, specifically for R&B, will continue to live and thrive 15 years later and on.