Chart Rewind: In 2004, Usher Got Intimate & Ruled the Charts With ‘Confessions’

2024-04-10T19:57:46+00:00April 10th, 2024|News|

The set became the best-selling album of 2004 and Usher’s first Billboard 200 No. 1.

By 2004, Usher had achieved a level of success that any artist would envy. Just shy of seven years since his commercial breakthrough, the star had become one of the leading R&B/pop crossover artists, his last two albums had collectively produced six top five Billboard Hot 100 hits, and he was fresh off a pair of Grammys — the two-time champ for best male R&B vocal performance. Yet for all the accolades, there was little intrigue about the man behind the music.

“The media wasn’t completely sold on Usher and Usher’s interest inside and outside of the music,” Jermaine Dupri, the singer’s frequent collaborator, told Billboard in 2014. “‘How do we make him interesting?’ was the conversation.”

From discussions with Dupri and other A-list creators — including Bryan-Michael Cox, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Just Blaze and Lil Jon — the creative hive found its answer: Confessions. Just 25 at the time, Usher broke new artistic ground with songs that explored the painful subject of infidelity that many speculated were references to his failed relationship with TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.

Dupri has since claimed that some of the songs — including perhaps the album’s central track, “Confessions Part II” — were inspired by his own personal drama, but whatever the case, Confessions‘ intimate tone unlocked a new public fascination with Usher. Its lead single, the crunk-laced club-banger “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, earned resounding approval from audiences and flew to No. 1 on the Hot 100, holding the spot for 12 consecutive weeks.

The next two Confessions singles, torching breakup ballad “Burn” and the tell-all “Confessions Part II,” were also clear winners. “Burn” knocked “Yeah!” from the Hot 100’s apex in May and logged its own eight-week nonconsecutive reign (interrupted for one week by American Idol winner Fantasia’s “I Believe,”), but soon gave way to “Confessions Part II,” a two-week champ in June.

After a dominant spring and summer, Confessions didn’t relent for the autumn. An expanded special edition landed in stores that October, led by a new duet that united the reigning king and queen of R&B: Usher and Alicia Keys. With both artists on a hot streak, their collaboration “My Boo” was a no-brainer hit that landed a six-week Hot 100 domination from October to December.

Confessions-mania, of course, made the album a titan as well. The set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 1.1 million in its first week, according to Luminate. Thanks to the parade of hit singles, Confessions ruled the albums chart for nine weeks and was the top-selling album of 2004.

Since that Confessions tidal wave, Usher kept churning out more hits in the ensuing years, with two more Hot 100 No. 1s. “Love in this Club,” featuring Young Jeezy (2008), and “OMG,” featuring (2010), and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs leaders “There Goes My Baby” (2010) and Climax” (2012) were among the highlights.

While his output cooled in the 2010s, his momentum was reinvigorated to huge acclaim in the early 2020s. His Las Vegas residency, My Way, was a major commercial success and cultural discussion point, with several videos from the show translating into viral social media moments. That triumph set him up for the biggest stage of all: Usher headlined the Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show, the highest-rated in U.S. history and, of course, featured tracks from his most successful album. Keys joined for a much-memed rendition of “My Boo,” while “Yeah!,” with Lil Jon and Ludacris in attendance, wrapped the set.

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