By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Usher Raymond is a star. The faithful have thought as much for years, but recently the masses affirmed it when 1.1 million of them trooped down to their local retailers and purchased Confessions, giving Usher the biggest first-week sales for an r&b album ever. Those kinds of Norah numbers, from an r&b singer, make the otherwise indifferent mainstream media pay attention.
A former teen heartthrob, 26-year-old Usher is a creamy-voiced, washboard-stomached, former Chili datersaid cheatage on whom, the streets will tell ya (and Usher will deny), inspired the R. Kelly-esque baby-mama-drama ballad and radio fave "Confessions Part II." The track, which is about a guy (not Usher) knocking up a groupie behind the back of his main squeeze (not Chili), indicates that Usher would make a shitty boyfriend, since his major defense is that he should be given extra points for letting his girl know he's a dog. The preceding interlude doesn't present Usher in a flattering light either, since he's admitting his protagonist's infidelities are so brazen he actually took another chick to the Beverly Center while his main girl (not Chili) was long suffering back home. If you ever need reminding that musicians make lousy love mateys, just pop this in the boombox.
Usher's (alleged) character flaws are easily forgiven, though, because he can sing his cheating ass off. Listen to the joyfully lusty "Caught Up" and try not to excuse his sexual A.D.D. The only downside is that, as cutie-pie as he is, Usher comes off a bit aloofas if he forgot to ask for extra charisma (or any) at the loveman-supply shop.
That said, Usher still churns out some seriously solid songs: One of which, the Lil Jon-helmed cyber-crunk mash-up "Yeah," has spent so much time at No. 1 that the post office probably delivers Usher's mail there. Like 2002's big-selling but underrated 8701, Confessionsis a top-of-the-line pop-soul showcase thatthanks to perennial A-listers Jam and Lewis, Jermaine Dupri (who keeps maturing as a songwriter and producer), and Rich Harrisonmanages to be commercially savvy without coming off as too desperate. Sorta like Usher himself.