First Hit #1: May 22, 2004
Confessions was Usher’s defining album. He had popular albums before, he has had popular albums since, but Confessions was where he became more than just a pretty talented R&B guy. This was a statement album, Usher plumbing the depths of his relationships and those of his friends and collaborators. It wasn’t a subtle statement – it was called Confessions right after a highly publicized breakup, which is as subtle as a brick to the face – but it was Usher coming into his own as an artist, an attempt to be vital rather than quite good.
I mention it on the second single because that’s more representative. Yeah! was a good club hit, but it wasn’t really a track that could be called confessional in any way. Burn, however, is a song about a relationship that has to end is a much better glimpse into the album proper. It’s also not subtle, but it is heartfelt, and the conflict between ending a dying relationship and continuing to cling to it provides a compelling base for a song. It’s also a showcase of Usher as a performer, with layered vocals contrasting with the chunky synths that had suddenly become a big part of the musical scene. Usher is really good at embracing new sounds without going in an alienating direction, adapting trends and choosing collaborators who compliment his style – he’s almost Madonna-esque in that way.
This also won a Kids Choice Award, which is almost worrying, because how many kids are dealing with a relationship flaming out?