Usher Lets Skeletons Out Of The Closet On Confessions

R&B singer addresses past infidelity, breakups on new LP.

“Yeah!,” Usher’s collaboration with Lil Jon and Ludacris, wasn’t intended to be a proper single from his upcoming album, Confessions. Released to street DJs and mixtapes, the song was just meant to tease the appetites of Usher fans who’ve waited three years for the singer’s fifth studio disc.

But quickly the appreciation for that song has grown — in the clubs, on the radio and in the streets. “It just sort of happened,” Usher said recently. “You know, you get Lil Jon on a record — that’s crazy. Ludacris? Bring him in. It’s lights out, man.”

“Yeah!” could be called the first consciously styled “crunk R&B” record. It’s an ode both to the distinct grind of Southern rap beats and Usher’s own signature soul croon. Even though Usher doesn’t want to be known as a hip-hop artist (“Strictly R&B — we’re bringin’ it back,” he boasted), he thinks he could be onto something with this mash-up of genres. “I think you’re going to get more R&B/crunk records,” he said. “I’m happy that I could be the one to kick it off.”

Usher titled his album Confessions because he feels it’s his most personal yet. He wrote more songs on this one than on any previous album. “All of us have our Pandora’s boxes or skeletons in our closets,” he explained. “I let a few of them out, you know. I’ve got a lot to say. I’ve got a lot of things and stuff built in me that I just want to let go of.”

He was expressing the same sentiment back when he was in the studio (see “Usher To Share His Confessions In March” ), and now Usher has the songs to prove it. On the track “Confessions II,” he sings, “Got me talking to myself asking how am I going to tell you/ ‘Bout the call I got from the girl/ That I was creepin’ with, creepin’ with/ Says she’s three months pregnant and she’s keepin’ it.”

“It wasn’t a specific situation that happened in my life right now,” he elaborated. “In other words, I wasn’t in a relationship and got another girl pregnant — right now. But it is something I can relate to and it’s something that has happened to me in the past. As I said, I have a few deep, dark ones that I’ve kept stowed away in a closet for a minute.”

A window into his inner thoughts is also there on “Burn,” a song about breakups and letting relationships flame out. Said Usher, “It’s unfortunate when you have to let a situation go because it’s not working. Although you may want to stay, you’ve got to let it burn.”

His explanation has added resonance, since he just broke up with longtime girlfriend Chilli from TLC. “Yeah, I’m single,” he smiled, sheepishly. “We’re still friends. It’s just something that happens in life.”

Usher recruited a number of producers to work on Confessions, which drops March 23. Jermaine Dupri, the Neptunes, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have all written songs with him. Other producers include Vidal and Dre, Lil Jon and Rich Harrison.

Track list for Confessions, according to Arista Records:

  • “Yeah!”
  • “Red Light”
  • “Confessions II”
  • “Burn”
  • “Caught Up”
  • “Superstar”
  • “Truth Hurts”
  • “Simple Things”
  • “Bad Girl”
  • “Can U Handle It”
  • “Do It to Me”
  • “Take Your Hand”
  • “Sweet Lies”
  • “Follow Me”

You don’t have to wait until March 23 to hear all of Usher’s Confessions. Stream the entire album exclusively on MTV.com’s The Leak from March 16 until the CD hits shelves.