Usher will be hitting the Super Bowl stage tonight (Picture: FilmMagic)
At the age of 14 in 2004, I had no business being able to resonate with the relationship-inspired songs on Usher’s Confessions album.
But, somehow I believed I could – and that’s just how powerful it was.
By the time Usher’s fourth studio album was released on March 23 2004, I was already an OG fan of his with songs like My Way, U Remind Me, Nice and Slow and You Make Me Wanna reeling me in and making me adoringly starry-eyed over this R&B superstar.
Especially by today’s struggle standards of music, it’s remarkable that by the time Usher – who’s performing the Super Bowl this Sunday – had got to his Confessions album, he’d already released not just two average albums but masterpieces in My Way and 8701.
Usher – full name Usher Raymond IV – was miles ahead of his competition and, probably not since Bobby Brown in the 80s had there been a male singer who could legitimately be considered the modern-day king of R&B.
Many would have argued that R Kelly claimed this title before his legal issues but, while a talented singer and songwriter, it was Usher who perfectly embodied it all; the singing, the songwriting, the hits, the dancing, the boyish charm, the sex appeal.
Just as Bobby did in the decade before.
Then, the ultimate pop culture moment happened when he dropped the Grammy-winning Confessions nearly 20 years ago.
Confessions, a forever classic (Picture:
I distinctly remember buying the CD as soon as it came out (a legit event in those days), grabbing my heavy portable stereo and heading to one of the local parks with my friends to play the album at least four times in its entirety.
I remember feeling so proud that I had the CD first and never letting it out of my sight in case anyone tried to sneakily pinch it – hilariously, I gave it the level of protection security guard Julius gives Beyonce.
My friends and I poured through the booklet that accompanied the plastic case and sang along to the tunes as though we’d heard them for years already.
To say that I had an obsession with music in my teens was an understatement, devouring all things pop, hip hop and R&B, but I knew there was something particularly special about Confessions.
At that point, I’d not heard many albums that made you feel like you were getting a peek into the artist’s diary, as though they were telling you their deepest darkest secrets.
On Confessions, we all believed Usher was spilling his own tea about his relationship with another R&B icon, TLC star Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas.
Usher and Chilli were one of the most prominent Black power couples at the time, although we knew very little about them due to them being so private. So when the record dropped and Usher started singing about ‘having a chick on the side’ and a baby ‘on the way’ our heads were in a spin, convinced that Usher had been cheating on Chilli in real life.
Usher broke the mold when he made Confessions (Picture: Getty Images)
It’s not R&B if someone isn’t singing in the rain (Picture: WireImage)
Confessions was rumoured to be inspired by Usher’s relationship with TLC’s Chilli but it’s also said to have broken them (Picture: Getty Images)
Until Confessions, we’d never heard a ‘confessional’ album quite like it.
The rumours that stemmed from the lyrics took on a life of their own but kept steam in the Confessions train going for months. Chilli and Usher split later that year thanks to the album’s contents, but it turned out that the record wasn’t just about Usher’s life – producer Jermaine Dupri wrote some of the songs about his own relationship with Janet Jackson, as well as the other songwriters.
But Confessions is so much more than the cheating rumours, it’s an album that had everything; the scandal, the club bops, the baby-making songs, the vocals descended straight from the music gods, the cultural impact.
Most importantly, it’s an album that has stood the test of time and will continue to.
In the two decades since Confessions was released, it remarkably hasn’t aged a day, recently proven by silky smooth album track Superstar enjoying a resurgence and Usher creating the viral ‘watch this’ meme while singing the title track on Tiny Desk.
Yes, even in the TikTok age, Confessions is still able to create the conversation.
Each song is special in its own right; Throwback (recently sampled by Chris Brown and Chloe Bailey) was unique with its edgy guitar riffs, Burn is the ultimate break-up song, Superstar is a stunning tribute to that special person in your life, Can U Handle It?… well, that one’s purely for the adults if you get my drift.
Usher, our R&B king (Picture: Getty Images)
In one album, Usher nails all the elements that make R&B so special. It’s a genre you can dance to, feel all the emotions, be vulnerable and feel like you’re the coolest person in the room.
That’s not to say there aren’t other phenomenal R&B albums – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is generally one of the greatest albums ever made but I feel that transcends the one genre given that Lauryn raps on so much of it.
Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige, D’Angelo, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey are just a few who have produced outstanding and timeless bodies of work… it’s just that Confessions as a whole, when taking into consideration the musical content and pop culture reaction, offers something in a different realm.
It embodies exactly how classic R&B should sound and, when it comes to cultural impact, nothing else comes close.
That is why our R&B king deserves his spot on that Super Bowl stage.
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