Usher - My Way (1994, USA)
Favorite Tracks: You Make Me Wanna..., My Way, Nice & Slow
Similar to Aaliyah's One in a Million, I always thought this album was the first for Usher, but he had a self-titled debut in 1994. I've never listened to it and I probably never will...at least for a while. So, why am I reviewing this album instead of Usher? Well, most people probably got into Usher around this time and this was the first album of his that I owned on CD. So, let's move onto the review!
"You Make Me Wanna..." was my introduction to this fine young R&B talent. I think back then I had an instant crush on Usher, but also this video was just different than anything I've seen when I was younger. It was a solo artist with a very easy, but subtly sexy vocal style and amazing dance moves. The technology back then was pretty impressive by making multiple Ushers while he did chair choreography with himself, but also mixed it up with back up dancers. The style and beat had a nice balance of hip-hop and R&B. The visuals were simple and very 90s, but the song is something that's hard to forget. It's a song to make the ladies pay attention to the smoothness of Usher and for the men to learn how to be smooth. He was the perfect young talent to mix it up back then.
"Just Like Me" is a track I don't even remember listening to. It is a smooth R&B track featuring the rap stylings of Queen Bee herself, Lil' Kim. It's a nice song to nod along to. Lil' Kim's contribution is very...her. It doesn't deviant too far from the topic at hand and makes me yearn for the days when rappers didn't stray far from the main subject of a song that they're guesting on.
If I didn't already develop a crush on Usher, then "Nice & Slow" would definitely guarantee to get me drooling. Young me didn't fully grasp the contents of this sexy R&B track, but all I knew was a little something awakened for this man...some sort of appeal. Listening to this song now, I can admit that this is still the most amazing "panty dropper" track ever. From the intro of Usher's whispered phone call in nothing but a towel to the memorable sensual chorus, this song is a dangerous trap of wetness. Forgive me for my lewdness, but this was an effective R&B song to keep fans happy. The video has some odd gangster story or whatever. I don't know. It's kinda random for this sensual song and it's probably laughable on mute, but as a song, it's still very enjoyable to this day and a great follow up. Also, Rain reminded me how dangerous this song is. It really is too sexy for its own good.
I remember going to my cousin's sleepover, listening to this album, and having to power through "Slow Jam". It was a song that her and her friends loved to repeat and I would be in the background rolling my eyes or trying to ignore how boring or perhaps adult it is, meaning that this song really wasn't for young me. Back then and now, I can acknowledge that it is a good duet with Usher and Monica. Their voices compliment each other's very well and I can see this being a great choice for a first dance at a wedding or even one for the older crowd to push the young crowd off the dance floor to show them what real love is. Nonetheless, past me and present me would rather skip this ballad as it really isn't our thing.
"My Way" solidified my love for Usher. While "You Make Me Wanna..." was charming and flirty and "Nice & Slow" was sensual and mature, "My Way" was a humorous but confident track. I remember enjoying the music video a lot. It had an amusing concept featuring R&B singer Tyrese as the rival. Looking at it now, I see that the visuals have taken some influence from Clockwork Orange and I believe Warriors. The song is more upbeat compared to the other two music videos, but it still had this connection of getting the girl's attention. If I had to pick one video from this album that showcases Usher's talent the best, it would be this one. His voice has versatility in tone and delivery, it has a fun beat and visual concept, and the choreography is very entertaining.
"Come Back" is a track...I really don't remember listening to. Honestly, I want to say that I stopped listening to the album after "My Way" or just skipped ahead to the final track. Anyway, it features producer Jermaine Dupri opening the song with a not so great rap. The song is...okay? It's definitely not the best track compared to the first half of the album. The beat kinda overpowers Usher's young developing vocals and the content is a little silly.
"I Will" is a pseudo-R&B ballad...well, it would be a pseudo-R&B ballad by today's standards. It's another mature track that focuses on "you" the listener. It's a sensual song to make the fangirls squeal, but it pales in comparison to the effortless "Nice & Slow". It does offer a nice beat and the vocals are good, but it's not very memorable to me.
Just looking at the title "Bedtime" doesn't even sound like a promising song and...it really isn't. It's another slow R&B track that's a little more romantic than sexual compared to "Nice & Slow". The vocal arrangement is pretty impressive and beautiful, but not really a track that I would listen to often.
"One Day You'll Be Mine" kinda rounds off this slight narrative throughout this album. It's a slightly more upbeat song compared to the previous three tracks and samples a familiar beat by the iconic Isley Brothers. Ah, we meet again gentlemen. Of course, I think most people my age would think of Ice Cube's "Today is a Good Day" before they think of The Isley Brother's "Footsteps in the Dark", which honestly I had the help of Wikipedia for that. Listening to it now, I think I'm more distracted by the beat to even pay attention to the lyrics, which is not a good thing, but it is cohesive to the album.
The album concludes with an extended version of "You Make Me Wanna..." which has this weird sound distortion at the beginning and a longer intro. I have no idea why this track exists in the first place, since the original does a pretty effective job with the length it is.
My Way was a successful gateway for myself and I'm sure many others around my age to appreciate and drool over the new talent that is Usher Raymond. Jermaine Dupri did a great job polishing him up and getting more people to notice him because he's had a great career. Sure, he's had some questionable moments with his music career, but there is no doubt that he has been an amazing influence for future R&B talents worldwide.