The main requirement for the summer jam is universality. It can't only bang in the cars and boomboxes on your block; it has to have that radio love. It's got to make you dance (always), and everybody, from kids to thugs, has to be singing it.
With Usher's lyrics — "You remind me of a girl that I once knew/ See her face whenever I look at you" — tripping off the tongues of so many people, the Atlanta native's "U Remind Me" has become a serious contender for the hottest season's hottest cut.
"It wound up being the perfect song for Usher," said Jimmy Jam, who, along with partner Terry Lewis, co-produced the song with Eddie "Hustle Child" Clement. Arista president Antonio "L.A." Reid, sent Jam and Lewis back into the studio to revamp the track following the completion of Usher's upcoming 8701.
"The beat and all that was already cool," Jam explained. "All we did was try to bring the vocal up to par. I wanted people to hear Usher sing and go, 'This boy can sing. He's a singer.' We already know he can dance, and he's got the style and that whole thing. But I want people to just go, 'He can sing.'"
Fans can decide for themselves how well Usher can sing when 8701 hits stores August 8. Babyface, She'kespere, the Neptunes and Mike City laid tracks in addition to Jam and Lewis and Jermaine Dupri.
Jam and Lewis were invited aboard 8701 by Usher's mother, who also manages him, during a press event for last year's MTV Video Music Awards.
"His mom said, 'Oh my God, Usher's got this track and we thought you guys would be perfect to produce it,'" recalled Jam.
Later the same evening, Jam ran into Jermaine Dupri, who also produced tracks for the album, and Usher himself, both of whom shared her sentiments. A couple of months later, Jam and Lewis co-produced the Usher ballad "Separated" with Arista's 112 and the wheels began spinning. The producer said working with Usher was made easier because no label politics were involved, since Jam and Lewis' Flyte Time imprint is also part of the Arista family.
"It's just a dope song," Jam said of "Separated," their first contribution to 8701. "When we turned it in, L.A. said, 'I love this. You guys go back and do another song.'"
This time Usher asked the duo to dig deep into their catalog. He used to perform the ballad "Tender Love," which Jam and Lewis wrote and produced for the Force M.D.'s in 1985, and wanted something with a similar feel.
"He said, 'I want my own song. I don't want to sing somebody else's song.' So we ended up doing 'Can You Help Me' and that turned out real dope, too. Then L.A. said, 'Lets just go in the studio and see what you all come up with,' and we came up with a couple more cuts.
"He's not afraid to try things vocally," the producer added. "I hope people hear it on the single, and I think they're going to hear it on the album."