One thing people don’t know about Usher is that he is the topmost successful black young artists of the 1990s (worldwide). He has totaled over 50 million records in the US and 75 million records worldwide. This makes him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He also has a Diamond-certified album in Confessions, two multi-platinum albums in My Way and 8701, two platinum albums in Here I Stand and Raymond v. Raymond. These are just some of the accolades that Usher has. So with this editorial, I will deep dive into his life and career. As one of my favorite artists ever this will one of my favorite deep dives I will ever do.
Usher’s career begun after he sang alongside a local group called the NuBeginnings back in 1991. He recorded ten songs with the group and was apart of their album, Nubeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV. After the project’s release, Usher left the group and pursued a solo career. After meeting up with A. J. Alexander, who was Bobby Brown’s bodyguard Usher began to perform at talent shows including Star Search. Shortly after Star Search, he was granted an audition with L.A. Reid the co-founder of LaFace Records where he was signed on the spot.
Usher’s first track as an artist on the label was on a song he recorded for the soundtrack for Poetic Justice. The song was titled “Call Me a Mack.”
Shortly after the single dropped Usher started to prepare for his self-titled debut album Usher. During the recording process, Usher had issues adjusting to his new voice due to puberty. After all, he was 14 years old. With the help of Puff Daddy (Diddy), Usher got through it all and released Usher in 1994. The album received a lot of backlash because of the content. It was hard for listeners to want to hear a 14-year-old talk about sex and the sales reflected that. Because of this L.A. Reid had reservations about Usher being signed to the label, but his mother helped Usher build a bigger fan base helping Reid gain more confidence in Usher.
Doing It “My Way”
Usher set out to make a statement in 1997 with his second album My Way. The album was supported by Jermaine Dupri, a friend of Usher, who co-wrote several tracks. The two actually wrote six of the nine tracks. My Way was Usher’s first gold and platinum album here in the US. His lead single ‘You Make Me Wanna…” reached number one in the UK. His second single “Nice & Slow” was his first US number-one single. My Way served as Usher’s breakthrough into the industry. With the help of L.A. Reid, Babyface, and Dupri Usher found a good balance on this album that he carried with him throughout his career. It’s what I consider the foundation of his career.
By the end of 1998 Usher’s stock started to skyrocket. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. He was nominated for the same category and won at the Soul Train Awards a month afterward. In 1998 he also started his acting career by appearing on The Bold & Beautiful as well as a part in The Faulty. Usher’s goal at the time was to use his popularity to other areas than just being an R&B artist.
What made Usher so appealable was his ability to connect with listeners of various ages. He didn’t need raunchy lyrics like R. Kelly to be successful. He was the artist that parents didn’t mind their daughters listening to.
In 2001 Usher dropped his third album 8701 on Arista Records. The title of the album referred to its release date August 7, 2001. The album title also referred to his career start in 1987 and the album’s release date in 2001. During the time of the album’s release, Usher began his relationship with TLC’s Chilli. The two were label mates on LaFace Records where he was first signed. They started dating after filming the visuals for ‘U Remind Me’. Chilli also stared in the visual for “U Got It Bad” which solidified that they were an item. Eventually, they broke up and moved on from one another right before the release of the biggest album of his career in Confessions. The split helped fueled the album and the stories Usher sung about.
Confessions was released on March 23, 2004. The album was mostly produced by Jermaine Dupri. The album generated rumors that Usher cheated on his ex-girlfriend at the time Chilli, but in the end, the songs weren’t about his own relationships. In its first week, the album sold 1.1 million copies. This was a huge feat during the height of the bootlegging age. It was named the second best selling album of the 2000s by Billboard behind Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP.
The album was named Confessions because at the time he felt it was the most personal album he’s created. After it’s release fans dissected each and every song trying to figure out what exactly happened between the singer and his ex-girlfriend Chilli. The speculation was fueled after a 2004 interview when Chilli claimed that he “cheated” on her. Rather it was a marketing ploy or not, it helped sell albums. I say marketing ploy because Chilli recently stated she was with him during the time he recorded the album. She also said he didn’t cheat on him, that they had just had differences. Usher did admit that “Burn” was in reference to the dying relationship between the two.
The album gained Usher numerous accolades. He was nominated for eight categories at the 47th Grammy Awards in which he won three: Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for “My Boo” and “Yeah”. He also won awards at the Soul Train Music Awards, AMAs, and the Billboard Music Awards.
Post Confessions Usher
After Confessions Usher has had a hard time finding the same level of success he has once had. Some attribute this to him getting married twice and giving up his appeal to his female fans. He’s released a total of four projects after Confessions and none of them came close to the reception that album received.
Next year all of that may change. As of late, Usher has been working hard touring doing shows and festivals in preparation for his rollout in what many believe will be the release of Confessions II. Adding on to the rumors Usher appeared on his Instagram live in March teasing a song that may be on the project. Just a day after the tease he shared a photo in Jermaine Dupri’s studio alongside a whiteboard with “Confessions 2” written on it.
So far this year he’s been featured on tracks with Black Coffee, Summer Walker, and Ella Mai. Usually, when an artist is being featured heavily it means they may have a project on the way.
Do you think Confessions II will drop before Spring 2020?