Confessions (Expanded Edition)
One of the more effective ways of mining your memory for years past is by associating specific times with the artists and albums that best soundtracked them. And if you have a distinct memory of 2004, then you remember how inescapable USHER’s fourth studio album Confessions was for the entirety of that year. This was Usher Raymond in his final form: No longer a boyish heartthrob under the tutelage of top producers that doubled as mentors, he’d finally reached his artistic prime. 8701, his previous album, offered the first accounts of adult feelings around romance and the maintenance of relationships. In those depictions, even when he did take accountability, he was typically in the position of the wounded counterpart. But the scandals he admitted to in Confessions were soap-opera-worthy, with a solid block of songs chronicling the progression of one story. The album’s title track tells an enthralling tale in which USHER comes to terms with the fact that he has to admit to his infidelity—a side chick across the country. The song’s sequel, “Confessions, Pt. II” (a ubiquitous single) ramps up the drama when he finds out the woman he’s been cheating with is three months pregnant. The story’s closing, “Burn,” finds him mourning the relationship he obliterated. And as affecting of a trilogy as that was, there are massive hits at every corner of Confessions. “Yeah!” with Lil Jon and Ludacris encapsulates the playful, hard-hitting feeling of Atlanta’s scene at the time. “My Boo” with Alicia Keys is one of defining duets of the 2000s, and “Superstar” is a masterfully executed tribute to a lover. Looking back at its impact and depth, Confessions has achieved a status that few albums in the 21st century can live up to, but its influence is evident in how many have tried.