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Atlanta’s Finest’ releases a personal narrative

Shawtina Ferguson | Thursday, April 15, 2004

Blending to perfection a mix of hip-hop, rap and rhythm and blues, Usher’s highly-anticipated fifth album has exceeded the expectations of fans and welcomed new listeners with a mosaic-style that his contemporaries are unable to match. In “Confessions,” R&B megastar Usher proves that an autobiographical music compilation is seemingly more gripping than other conventional styles. Selling more than 1.1 million copies in its opening week, Usher has sent a melodious message across the world: ATL’s Finest is back and better than ever!The tracks are brilliantly crafted to narrate a story so personal to Usher. The track, “Confessions Part II” penned by Jermaine Dupri, Bryan Cox and Usher, is an upbeat ballad which documents rumored personal moments of infidelity, disappointment and pain. Usher sings, “Now this is going to be the hardest thing I think I ever had to do / Got me talking to myself asking how am I going to tell you / Bout that chick from part one that I was creepin with, creepin with / Say she’s three months pregnant and she’s keeping it.” This heart-wrenching mid-tempo groove is followed by arguably the most captivating ballad on the album, “Burn.” Accompanied by a light piano and a soft drum, this track is telling of a relationship in which one partner is still in love but wishes to call it quits. The opening words to this track, in which Usher whispers in a sweet yet compelling tone, “See it’s burning me to hold on to this, / I know this is something I gotta do, / But that don’t mean I want to. / What I’m trying to say is that I love you … I just feel like this is coming to an end, / And it’s better for me to let go now, / Than hold on and hurt you. / I gotta let it burn” set the mood for a cleverly composed yet emotionally powerful track from which the audience is sure to relate. Throughout the song Usher cries aloud the fiery phrase, “let it burn” referencing the conflict he feels between loving his current beau and not wishing to remain in the relationship. Both “Confessions Part II” and “Burn” share the same authors.While his previous platinum album, “8701,” simply hinted at intimate moments, tracks like “Do It to Me” both written and produced by Dupri and Cox and “Can You Handle It” written by Robin Thicke, produced by Thicke and Pro J, underscores the very active, sensually sexy side of Usher. The former is a pulsating track that playfully describes bedroom activity. Ushers croons, “I want to feel you / Touch my body, baby / I guarantee you won’t regret it / Let me set it out like you never had it.” The latter begs the title question throughout the track and is meant for an adult audience.By now, most are familiar with the club-banging hit “Yeah.” Usher, Lil John and Ludacris team up to create what has claimed the rights to the no. 1 spot on Billboards Hot 100 for several weeks. However, taken together “Confessions” has far more to offer than the occasional party mix. The grown-up Usher finally accepts the challenge that accompanies soulful ballads. It is this masterful combination of soft balladry blended skillfully with mid and fast tempo hip-hop tracks that has rocketed Usher to a world stage. His commitment to his craft evidenced in his matured vocal abilities, and dedication to performance will provide Atlanta’s Finest with the longevity needed to survive in an ever-changing world of rhythm and blues.

Contact Shawntina Ferguson at sfergus2@nd.edu