Usher’s 10 Best Pop and R&B Songs
Usher was signed to a recording contract by L.A. Reid at the age of 14. However, he did not have his first major hits until his second album My Way was released in 1997 when he was 19. Since that time he has been one of the most successful of all male recording artists regularly hitting the upper reaches of both pop and R&B charts. These are his 10 most memorable songs.
“You Make Me Wanna” (1997)
“You Make Me Wanna…” was released as the lead single from Usher’s second album My Way. It became his breakthrough pop hit. Usher was only 18 at the time it was released. The uptempo R&B track climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The use of acoustic guitar gives “You Make Me Wanna…” a warm, organic sound. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Male Vocal. “You Make Me Wanna…” went to #1 on the R&B chart and spent over 70 weeks on the chart, one of the longest-running R&B hit singles of all time.
The music video for “You Make Me Wanna” was directed by Bille Woodruff and features five clones of Usher performing together.
“U Remind Me” (2001)
“U Remind Me” led off Usher’s album 8701 by climbing to #1 on the pop and R&B charts. “U Remind Me” earned Usher his first Grammy Award winning Best Male R&B Vocal. R&B production legends Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis co-produced the song.
The accompanying music video for “U Remind Me” was directed by Dave Meyers, known for his work on Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Missy Elliott’s “Work It” among many others. It features Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas of TLC as well as lookalikes for singers Mya and Brandy.
“U Got It Bad” (2001)
“U Got It Bad” was the second single and second #1 hit from Usher’s album 8701. It is a slow R&B jam and features some of Usher’s most exposed and beautiful vocals. Reportedly, the song “I Don’t Know” produced by the Neptunes was in line to be the second single from 8701, and Usher himself decided to release “U Got It Bad” claiming it demonstrated his unique sound better. “U Got It Bad” spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It reached #5 on the UK pop singles chart.
According to co-writer and co-producer Jermaine Dupri, the lyrics of “U Got It Bad” were based on a true story. While he was attempting to work with Usher in the studio, Usher was continually distracted by a girl he brought with him. After they argued, the girl left. Shortly after, they began talking on the phone prompting Jermaine Dupri to say, “You got it completely too bad right now.”
The music video for “U Got It Bad” was directed by Little X. Chilli of TLC plays Usher’s girlfriend in the clip. It earned two nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Male Video and Best R&B Video.
“Burn” was the song that “Yeah!” replaced as the first song from Confessions. It is the most compelling of Usher’s slow burn love songs. At its heart “Burn” is a wrenching breakup song. Many fans saw it as alluding to Usher’s own real-life romantic troubles. It was recorded at the time that Usher’s relationship with TLC’s Chilli was on the rocks. “Burn” replaced “Yeah!” as the #1 pop song in the US. It received Grammy Award nominations for Best R&B Male Vocal and R&B Song of the Year. “Burn” spent eight weeks at #1 in the US and hit #1 in the UK as well.
The music video for “Burn” was directed by Jake Nava, a frequent collaborator with Beyonce. It was shot at a Hollywood house that formerly belonged to pop music icon, Frank Sinatra. The concept of burning and fire is used throughout the video.
“Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris (2004)
Usher’s “Yeah!” was a last minute choice as the lead single for his album Confessions, and it was a truly inspired choice. “Burn” was originally planned as the first single from Confessions, but when “Yeah!” was completed it was recognized as an “event” record. Simply put together with crunk beats and a minimalist melody, the song captured the imagination of pop fans worldwide. It won a Grammy Award for Best Rap / Sung Collaboration and earned a nomination for Record of the Year. “Yeah!” spent 12 weeks at #1 in the US, sold over one million physical copies and later over three million digital copies. It hit #1 in most major pop music markets around the world.
“Caught Up” (2004)
The upbeat “Caught Up” was the fifth top 10 single from Usher’s album Confessions. It is known as one of the top party tracks on the album. “Caught Up” received strong critical acclaim and hit the top 10 on the pop singles charts in both the US and the UK. It also climbed all the way to #2 on the mainstream pop radio. The songwriting and production duo Dre & Vidal, aka Andre Harris and Vidal Davis, were key in putting together the record. They are also known for their work with Mary J. Blige, Mario, and Jill Scott among others.
“Love In This Club” featuring Young Jeezy (2008)
“Love In This Club” appeared as Usher’s first single from the album Here I Stand. Polow da Don produced it. The producer reported being influenced by a weekend stay in Las Vegas when working on the song. The beat structure is strongly influenced by Eurodance music. “Love In This Club” spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also soared into the top 5 on the pop singles chart in the UK. Usher performed “Love In This Club” live to open the 2008 BET Awards.
The Brothers Strause directed the music video for “Love In This Club.” Singer Keri Hilson plays Usher’s love interest in the clip. It also includes cameo appearances by Kanye West, Diddy, Nelly, and others. The music video earned an MTV Video Music Awards nomination for Best Male Video.
“DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” featuring Pitbull (2010)
“DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” found Usher venturing strongly into Eurodance territory. Songwriting and production are handled by pop mastermind Max Martin and his team. The song was originally offered to Rihanna, but she turned it down. Rapper Pitbull is featured on the record. “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” became Usher’s 16th top 10 pop hit. It sold over three million digital copies and became a top 10 pop hit around the world including in the UK. Usher performed “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” along with “OMG” at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. His dance routines received strong praise and earned comparisons to Michael Jackson.
“DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” was released as the first single from the EP Versus which was considered an extension of the album Raymond v. Raymond. In addition to its pop success, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” reached the top 20 on the dance chart and at adult pop radio while cracking the top 10 on the Latin songs chart.
“OMG” featuring will.i.am (2010)
“OMG” introduced Usher’s sixth studio album Raymond Vs. Raymond. It was written and produced by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. Some critics complained about the liberal use of auto-tune, but pop fans were excited by the thumping beats and stadium crowd sounds that animate the song. “OMG” went to #1 in the US and the UK and sold over four million digital copies. It gave Usher at least one #1 pop hit from five consecutive albums. Usher joined the Black Eyed Peas to perform “OMG” at the 2011 Super Bowl halftime show.
The accompanying music video was directed by Anthony Mandler, known for his frequent collaborations with Rihanna. The director said, “The video is a spectacle. It emphasizes what we love about Usher and the character and the icon that he is.” The dance-heavy video earned MTV Video Music Awards nominations for Best Dance Video, Best Choreography, and Best Male Video.
Usher returned to the eurodance sound of “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” on “Scream.” He worked once again with Max Martin. The song kicked off his Looking 4 Myself album and became Usher’s 18th song to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Scream” also climbed to the top of the dance club chart and reached #6 on the mainstream pop radio. Usher performed “Scream” live at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards.
The accompanying music video was directed by the duo known as BB GUN. The clip includes footage shot at a performance of the Off-Broadway show Fuerza Bruta where Usher first performed “Scream.”