In celebration of the 10th anniversary of "Confessions," an elite group of contributors who were involved in its creation share the story of making the album.
There aren’t many albums that make you feel as if your life is being recited back to you or as if you have your very own role in the storyline. Usher’s "Confessions" -- which was released 10 years ago on March 23, 2004 -- had me, a 19-year-old girl who had not yet had a boyfriend, believing that I had been cheated on or had been witness to a steamy and lingering act of infidelity.
I wasn't the only one who fell victim to the mystery nested in Usher’s fourth studio album. His girlfriend at the time, TLC's Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas, took the album's single of the same title and cradled it as her own. A team of incredible writers and producers – Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, Dre & Vida and more – created a bed for Usher to not only lay in, but tussle in. "Confessions" started as secrets and struggles being shared among close friends, and ultimately became a collection of stories that set ablaze a man's fight with love.
"Confessions" introduced the becoming of a man. The singer-songwriter took his artistry to a higher level when showcasing his vocal prowess at its fullest potential through engaging, relatable storytelling; all at a time when R&B was dominating countless charts and hearts.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Usher's "Confessions," an elite group of contributors who were involved in its creation and imperative to its plaitnum success share the story of making the album.
Andre "Dre" Harris (from Dre & Vidal): "Confessions" producer
Bryan-Michael Cox: "Confessions" producer and songwriter
Jermaine Dupri: "Confessions" producer and songwriter; founder of So So Def Records
Jimmy Jam: "Confessions" producer
Just Blaze: "Confessions" producer
Lil Jon: rapper and "Confessions" producer; performs on "Yeah!"
Terry Lewis: "Confessions" songwriter
Jermaine Dupri: "We have just come off 'U Got It Bad,' one of the biggest songs off '8701.' We were coming off the success of 'U Got It Bad' and 'U Remind Me.’ The conversation with L.A. [Reid, then the head of Arista Records] and Usher was about where we he was heading with this album. The topic of interest of people not being interested in Usher the person was the main subject matter at that point. The media wasn't completely sold on Usher and Usher’s interest inside and outside of the music. 'How do we make him interesting?' was the conversation. This was his prior getting married, getting divorced, having kids, prior than his canvas having many colors. It’s about showing interest in the person who was singing. When we write about a song, try to make it a little more interest through the story. 'U Make Me Wanna' was a story, a story of him leaving who he was with to be with someone else. It just wasn’t a song; It was a story. I took that concept and applied towards 'All Bad' (Confessions Part I). [Note: The song was first called 'All Bad.'] This is the song that defined the title of the album and the mind state of the rest of the record."
"'Confessions' was the best of A&R, the best of production, and the best executive [expertise]. It was made with a bunch of hits and feel good records. Usually those are the main ingredients to make a great album. It was the perfect selection of both. I think that if people wouldn’t have had the chance to hear feel good records, and it would have been hit after hit, then it wouldn’t have been the great album that it is or sold as much as it did. Five records on this that were on the radio, but there are also five records that weren’t on the radio that are fan favorites. I look at that as a blessing."
Terry Lewis: "While confessing is a great thing, I think that from a male perspective, men don’t want to hear you confess, because that just prompts issues with their relationships. What people want to hear in a confession is what you did to get yourself in trouble and the fun you had and how you went about that, 'cause those are the things people live every day. We went out and produced songs that portrayed that; what makes the picture a well-rounded story."
Jimmy Jam: "Terry and Usher have a whole other type of relationship. I think Terry is more of a father figure and mentor to Usher. They talk a lot even when we're not working on a project; about life. They had many conversations on personal things, and how much to reveal. My goal with Usher is to create music and production that show off how good of a singer he is. I think sometimes it gets overlooked what a great vocalist he is. He's one of the greatest vocalists. So since '8701,' we've tried to give Usher songs that' make you say, 'Oh Usher can sing!' Since he's a naturalist vocalist he can get away with singing and it sounding good but Usher won't let him get away with just singing good. He can't fool Terry and say, 'This is the best I can sing it.'"