Review Summary: "Confessions" is a great album, mainly supported by its singles but still noteworthy without them. If only it were 10 minutes shorter...
Contemporary R&B is not one of my strong points (not that much is, but I digress…). I usually turn off the radio if I hear Robin Thicke or any of those guys, as I just can’t stand to hear the same song over again. Sure, there’ll be a good tune once in a while, but for the most part the genre in the mainstream is stale. Sometimes a guy will come in (who is white) and seal up the genre with massive successes, and make it virtually impossible for anyone else to get any attention. Usher is one of those types of guys.
I, of course, was forced into listening to the album by a rather close female friend. Having to download “Burn” to put on a mix I was being forced to make for her, I decided to take a listen. What I found was a tightly produced, well performed song that had some of the best hooks I’ve heard since I last listened to Justin Timberlake so many months ago. The lyrical matter was pretty average (I mean, another break up song? No way!), but Usher had a way about singing it that gave it an added sense of emotion, that someone like Ne-Yo just couldn’t do.
So, I checked out all of Confessions
, and what I found was an excellent collection of singles (and would be singles), surrounded by some decent filler material. Everyone’s heard “Yeah~” the giant club hit from the summer of ‘04. ‘lil Jon’s shining moment as a producer, “Yeah!” combines an infectious beat with one of the simplest hooks ever imagined (…yeah) with the genius of Ludacris to form a song only matched by “Hot in Herre” as a club hit.
In an intelligent move, it’s the only club banger on the album. Some tracks, like “Caught Up” and “Bad Girl” are still dance tunes, but are much less gritty and bring up fewer images of bad club lighting. The albums made up in majority of slower, confessional tunes. As evidenced by the albums title, its loose concept is one of a man confessing all the wrongs in his life. Doesn’t lend itself well to grinding, does it? In general, the slower tracks work, with tunes like “Confessions Pt 2” and particularly “Throwback” (arguably the best ballad on the album) being extremely soulful and well sung.
The album is certainly make or break on how much you enjoy Usher’s voice. He’s way ahead of his age, showing a great range (including a falsetto that isn’t as annoying as f*ck) that makes all the tracks on the album be at least slightly unique. The production is slick and strong throughout, but if you’re expecting something on the level of Timbaland, you’ll be sorely disappointed. However, with Usher normally making up for it by taking command of every song with his voice, it usually isn’t a problem.
What unfortunately is a problem is how weighted the album is in its first half. The first 7 tracks (which include all the singles) are pop brilliance, with not one moment being a letdown. The album keeps on going strong for a few more songs, but by albums end Usher starts to repeat ideas and vocal melodies to often. The constraints of the albums “concept” also limit any sort of variety he could have had lyrically, and those themes are also repeated far too often in the album. “Take Your Hand” ends up bringing something new to the table, but its too little too late, especially after the debacle that is “Do it to Me,” which is a piss-poor attempt at sexuality that utterly fails.
With “Do it to Me” being the only bad
song on the album, however, Usher has certainly crafted something strong. Despite my complete lack of knowledge of the genre, or point in which to compare it to, Confessions
blew me away for a good portion of its duration, and kept me entertained during the rest of it. The albums frequently criticized for its length, and I can’t help but agree; at an hour in length, Usher could have cut 15 minutes off the time and had a near flawless release. As it stands, Confessions
is a truly good album, mainly supported by its singles but still noteworthy without them.
“Take Your Hand”