Usher feat. Alicia Keys – My Boo

First Hit #1: October 30, 2004

Usher caps off a triumphant year with a fairly straight up love song, though the video starts with an entirely different song for some unknown reason. It’s not about a current relationship, something more nostalgic about a particularly memorable old relationship. It’s somewhat sweet, and as a cap to a good year it ends on a largely positive note. It is, like the rest of the Confessions singles, more complex than it has to be, and Usher and Alicia Keys are extremely well matched vocally – when they trade the line “oh, my boo” it fully explains why the song was popular, it’s actually an exciting moment entirely because of the harmonies. Sure, My Boo is just a silly term, but that kind of makes the song too, since it’s nostalgic for first love it stands to reason that it’d need a silly pet name to really work. I’ll argue that this is what radio pop should be, or at least should have been in the middle of the ’00s. Listeners agreed.

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One Response to Usher feat. Alicia Keys – My Boo

  1. RBerman says:

    Time to talk about an ugly music trend of the last decade: Special Edition albums. The basic idea is nothing new; the first couple of Beatles albums released in America took songs from different UK albums, plus non-album singles, to make a sort of compilation. That made sense when (a) the artist was unknown, (b) the original albums were geographically unavailable and thus not a source of confusion, and (c) the songs were coming so fast and furious that a new compilation could issue every year.

    But these days, it’s all about the Jacksons. Not Michael or Janet; you non-USA folks may not know that President Andrew Jackson is on our $20 bill. Back in the 70s and 80s, the music industry was living high off the hog reselling the same software (music) on different hardware: LPs, eight tracks, cassettes, and finally CDs. How to recapture those heavenly days after CDs killed off all competing formats? Release the album, get a bunch of sales, and then six months later re-release it with a couple of surefire hits added. (Alternatively, now some Special Editions are released at the same time as the regular album, with a 50% premium on the price. Ouch.) Perversely, when some ringers are withheld, the original album is less than it could have been, and confusion increases in the mind of the consumer, as well as for accounting on the sales charts.

    “My Boo” was such a ringer, originally intended for the first release of “Confessions” but held back (yes, and worked on some more) for the “Special Edition.” Boo indeed– on greedy industry practices. If a song isn’t ready for the album release, save it for the next full album; don’t make us buy the whole first album again just to get it. This sort of consumer insensitivity is precisely what drove people into the illegal piratical arms of Napster, and the legal but still brigandish practices of Spotify. When the consumer can’t get what he wants, everyone suffers.

    The music video for “My Boo” begins with an extended clip from Usher’s “Bad Girl.” Its guitar hook sounds suspiciously like the 1978 instrumental track “Follow Me Up” (here in a recent live version, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaFIIdaCAs8) by guitar wizard Phil Keaggy, except that the chord order is reversed so that the guitar hammer-ons are now pull-offs (here’s a demo of those guitar techniques: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yih1gFKSBng). It’s s cool riff, so it makes nice backing for Usher too. Interestingly, on the Confessions album, the song “My Boo” is directly preceded by a track called, “Follow Me.” Is this some hat tip to Phil Keaggy’s “Follow Me Up,” or just one of those weird coincidences?

    Anyway, the actual “My Boo” song begins 50 seconds into its video. It’s a fairly standard R&B duet, but Keys keeps up with Usher well, considering that her own niche is playing piano, not singing with Mariah-like melisma. The little bit of rap at the end seems out of place; there either should have been more or none. Unusual for a song lyric to portray both parties as sad about the end of the relationship, even though she’s now a big star with a big boyfriend to match. As Stryper crooned in the 80s, “There is no love like the love of your first love.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrOvNwhhRDk, but watch out for the hair).

    Supposedly there’s another version out there in which Usher has a different duet partner. I can’t find solid information on it, just a lot of misinformation attributing the vocal to either Beyoncé Knowles, her sister Solange, or Brandy Norwood (the latter claim found here, but the song did not appear on the Brandy album described:http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1488661/usher-duets-with-beyonce-brandy.jhtml). Apparently I’m not the only person who thinks many of these Mariah wannabes lack their own voice.

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