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My Way is not only the title of LaFace Records' teen sensation Usher's much anticipated sophomore album, but also how this 18-year-old singer is handling his transition into manhood, his career and his explosive return to the music scene. Usher first surfaced in 1994 with his self-titled debut album and instantly earned the hearts of many fans, young and old, male and female, with his powerful voice, charming smile, adorable babyface and electrifying performances. The following this kid from Chatanooga, TN, received immediately was so impressive. His self-titled debut album co-executive produced by Sean "Puffy" Combs (Bad Boy Entertainment), yielded one gold top ten hit "Think of You" produced by label mate Donell Jones, which introduced Usher to the world.
Usher's self-entitled debut album
This time around Usher is taking no chances. The creative control and personal input he had on this album is evident in all 10 melodic tracks. The combination of Usher's matured voice, self-confidence and youthful flavor displays much of Usher's vibrant personality through his music. "This time around I wanted people to know Usher," he explains. "So, Jermaine and I just hung out a lot so he got to see my life," Usher said about Executive Producer of My Way and super producer Jermaine Dupri (So So Def Records). "What we ended up writing and recording about is my life--about what I've dealt with, being a teenager who's going into manhood. It's my feelings."
"If it was ever his time, I think it's right now," says Dupri who produced seven tracks. "He's older and definitely ready to take it to the next level." And he definitely does with his first single off the album "You Make Me Wanna..." a Dupri produced signature track laced with a thumpin' bass line and outstanding guitar chords guaranteed to make you move. Usher leaves no question on his superb vocal abilities, providing a variety of ranges and deliveries through great strength. Destined to be one of the summer's most played jams, "You Make Me Wanna..." is the perfect track to re-introduce this charismatic star to the world.
Usher did more than voice his opinion about the production of My Way, he decided to add his words to the record by co-writing six of the album's 10 tracks including "You Make Me Wanna..." along with Dupri. "I want to show people that I've grown a lot since my last album, and writing was a part of that process" says Usher. "I wanted to keep this project simple, work with fewer producers--people who could help me tell my experiences."
Who better to do that than three of today' hottest producers--Babyface, Teddy Riley, and Dupri. Babyface adds his golden touch to My Way with two beautiful ballads displaying the romantic side of Usher. The dreamy ballad "Bed Time" will leave you falling for your love while Usher professes his love with a little help on background vocals from Shanice Wilson. "Whenever I'm near you my love just comes down, Whenever I see you I just want you around, 'cause I want to feel you all through the day and the night, Whenever I'm near you it feels like Bed Time."
Babyface also added a classic to the album when he produced one of his first hits, Midnight Starr's "Slow Jam." He placed in an additional bridge and invited Arista Recording artist Monica to match Usher's powerful vocals and recreated another hit. Riley (Blackstreet) also contributed a ballad, "I Will" to this well-balanced collaboration of emotional slow jams and funky party tracks. "The album had to be half and half," says Usher, "I wanted enough of everything so there's always a song you want to hear."
The other six tracks on My Way are credited to Dupri who dedicated a lot of personal time to ensure Usher's project spawns hits into next year. They include the sensual ballad "Nice and Slow," the midtempo groove "One Day You'll Be Mine," which samples the Isley Brothers "Footsteps" and "Come Back" a bumpin' dance track laced with JD's classic raps. The Queen Bee, Lil Kim also lends her risque vocals to a slammin' mid-tempo track with a hard bassline entitled "Just Like Me."
While graduating from high school and finishing his sophomore album, Usher also made time over the past couple of years to polish one of his greatest strengths. His show. "I love the stage, to dance and perform," says an excited Usher. "The stage is my first love." And it shows. Antonio "L.A." Reid describes Usher as "the ultimate entertainer" and attributes much of that to his "great vocie, fashionable looks and superstar presence." Dubbing him "the king of hip hop soul," Reid explains, "there hasn't been an artist with this much excitement in many years. Usher makes a serious contribution to urban culture."
That is true both on and off the stage. Understanding the responsibility of being in the limelight, Usher feels it's very important to portray a positive image to America's youth. He has involved himself in several community activities including serving as the national spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportations's "Get Big On Safety" campaign. Usher participated in the NBA Stay in School program and performed at several of the franchises' jamborees entertaining students while showing them the importance of education. He also appeared on NBC's Inside Stuff. Much of Usher's level headed attitude and responsibility comes from strong family values and a good old fashioned church upbringing.
My Way is another step on the ladder of success Usher is confidently climbing. "This is still just the beginning," says the young star enthusiastically. "I'm only 18 years old. I feel like I've accomplished so much already, but I still have my whole life ahead of me and much more to do. I'm learning to play instruments, I want to get into acting, I'm open to do so much."