Perhaps the most surprising and accomplished R&B album of the decade
For years, Usher was an R&B vampire, siphoning the best from a previous generation: Michael Jackson's moves, Aaron Hall's purr, Tevin Campbell's smile. Then, he came back to life. After some fun, airy early singles, Usher broke up with his girl (TLC's Chili) and jumped in the booth. The results became perhaps the most surprising and accomplished R&B album of the decade. Confessions initially scored because of "Yeah!" the hyperkinetic crunk hybrid lead single with Lil' Jon and Ludacris. But it's a sore thumb on a bejeweled hand. If Usher rarely gave more than a brief glimpse into his inner life, Confessions seemed like straight turmoil. He details his infidelities and subsequent shame, while agonizing over a pregnant mistress and the end of both relationships. After the album's release, Jermaine Dupri, Confessions' primary architect, claimed many of the songs were his story, not Usher's. No matter. The gut-punch realism makes authenticity mean less. And the warm, expansive productions, from Just Blaze's "Throwback" to Dupri's R. Kelly-esque "Burn," to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' beguiling "That's What It's Made For," allows an elegant transition from docudrama to sonic exploration. In many ways, this is the last mega-album, selling more than 9 million copies and becoming an R&B fixture. And rightfully so.