Ten years ago this week everyone’s fantasy boyfriend Usher released his diamond-selling juggernaut Confessions spawning five Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 hits, four of which reached No. 1, solidifying his reputation as a definitive worldwide R&B badass. We’ve already been celebrating the milestone of the record breaking hit, but our commemoration wouldn’t let be complete without a few words from the man himself. We hounded Usher for fifty-eleven days and um-teen hours until he graciously found time in between his busy schedule of shooting The Voice and recording a new album to answer our questions about the anniversary via email (yaaaaasssss!).
We were hoping he’d address his reply with “My boo…” He didn’t. Instead, we got some amazing insight from Mr. Entertainment about making that historic album as Usher reflected on its success a decade later. Among his revelations: how Confessions is almost a country LP, why he wishes Twitter was around in 2004, and how more than just Jermaine Dupri had some confessing to do during the making of that album.
VH1: “Yeah!” almost didn’t make the final cut. Did anticipation that it would be a big hit make you decide to keep the track?
USHER: A lot of times, until you’re at the final editing process of making your album, you’re not certain of your first single, second single, third single. The one thing that no one knows about “Yeah!” is that when I received it, it was the same beat as “Freek-a-Leek” and that’s why it wasn’t as much of a priority. So after me, Lil Jon and the label had a conversation about changing the beat, that’s when it became magic. Of course, success has a million fathers as they say, so there were many people who played into my comfort with cutting the record, but ultimately it was up to me at the end of the day to get my ass in the f*cking booth and sing it. So, I did. So no matter if I missed it in the moment or saw it later…Yeah! It happened [Laughs].
VH1: You’re hitting some high notes full out on that song. Any challenges with recording it?
USHER: The most challenging song for me to complete was “Yeah!” because of the many different steps and things that went into it in terms of reproducing it. It was not an easy vocal to sing. I couldn’t get it right, so I left the studio and ran for 30 minutes on the treadmill, and that’s the vocal that you got [laughs]. I mean…who does that?
VH1: So which track would you have chosen to be the first single?
USHER: I pushed for “Burn” to be the first single, because I felt that I was redefining the standard for the R&B ballad. It was the one thing I was most certain about. It was the one thing I felt spoke to who I was as an artist and what this album represented. I felt like with Confessions we redefined the ballad, where [they] were mostly about heartache and pain. R&B became conversationally similar to country music with this album, and rhythmic the way hip hop was.