Think you know the ins and outs of Usher’s gargantuan Confessions album? VIBE continues scarfing down birthday cake in honor of the 10th anniversary of Usher’s greatest LP with nine bite-sized fun facts. —John Kennedy
Beyoncé isn’t Usher’s boo
The Special Edition bonus track “My Boo,” Usher’s dedication to a first love, featured Alicia Keys’ angelic voice. But some stans also remember another version that surfaced on mixtapes back in 2004 that was thought to co-star Jay Z’s boo, Beyoncé. Wrong. The alternate is a demo, whose accompanying vocals are supplied by Kortney Kaycee Leveringston.
Faith Evans lends phantom vocals
Faith drops some background vocals on the Dre & Vidal-produced “Superstar,” but was mistakenly not credited in the liner notes. Whoops!
Paula Patton makes a cameo, too
Fortunately, she gets her just due. Robin supplies the album favorite “Can U Handle It?” while Paula P. lays background vocals. The couple got married the following year.
1973 was a good year
Because every sample that appears on the album—from Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “Is There A Place For Me” (“Take Your Hand”) to Dionne Warwick’s “You’re Gonna Need Me” (“Throwback”) to Willie Hutch’s “Mack’s Stroll/The Getaway (Chase Scene)” (“Superstar”)—was mined from ‘73 vinyls.
Usher and 50 Cent were supposed to collaborate
But the two superstars in their primes couldn’t get their schedules to sync. Rich Harrison, who produced the album’s uptempo “Take Your Hand,” had also looped up a funky, horn-based instrumental for a record called “Ride” that was left on the cutting room floor. Says album A&R Darrale Jones: “Usher and 50 spoke and they were supposed to do a song together. We ended up flying to Los Angeles [to] go to the ‘P.I.M.P.’ video to play 50 the beat. 50 loves the beat and next thing you know, I guess 50 got busy, Usher got busy, and it never really came together.” You’d probably recognize the long-lost instrumental if you heard it: The beat was repurposed for J. Lo’s hit single “Get Right,” featuring Fabolous. Usher and Fif’ still have yet to appear on the same cut.
Usher keeps it in the family
Usher’s brother, James “JLack” Lackley, produced both the album’s spacey intro.
“Throwback” was originally made for Detox
Just Blaze would’ve still been waiting to place the beat for “Throwback” if his own producer intuition didn’t kick in. The super producer told Billboard.com that plans were to feature the beat for Dr. Dre’s long-gestating album Detox—with a guest verse from Jay Z. Said Just Blaze: “Detox was supposed to be his final album, that’s why the sample on the song is singing, ‘You’re going to want me back.’ It was originally intended for Dr. Dre as an exit record… Once it became apparent that Detox wasn’t going to happen ’cause he was doing other things, we gave the record to Usher…. We ended up making it into a song about lost love which worked out perfectly.” “Originally Jay [Z] was supposed to get on it, but he was on vacation and wasn’t going to make it back in time to meet the mastering deadline. We approached Jadakiss and he was finishing his album at the time. That’s why the original version has no rapper.” Jadakiss finally made it onto the song’s Special Edition re-release, while Usher and Jay finally joined forces on wax in 2006, for Kingdom Come’s Pharrell-produced “Anything.”
Petey Pablo had “Yeah!” first
The Lil Jon-concocted beat that originally soundtracked Usher’s megahit was floating around on a beat tape that found its way to Petey Pablo’s studio. He got to it first and “Freak-A-Leek” was born. Once the double-sell was discovered, Jon tweaked the beat and came up with the “Yeah!” instrumental that we’ve all come to know and love. Usher initially hated the record, btw.
Confessions is a collaborative story
A large part of Confessions’ appeal was that fans thought we were seeing Usher’s life in music. Which is only partially true. The stories Usher kicks in the title tracks and “Burn” are taken from the real-life trials of Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox, along with his own experiences.