25 Years of ‘My Way’
Today in 1997, Usher Raymond IV released his breakthrough album, My Way.
Many casual fans think its his debut album, but his actual debut was a self-titled project released in ’94 — it only managed to reach No. 167 on the Billboard 200. With such a soft start, Usher didn’t have to worry too much about the dreaded sophomore slump.
While Usher had contributions from lots of R&B hitmakers of the time — including DeVante Swing and Dave Hall — it’s clear that a decision was made to take a completely different direction on My Way as there is absolutely no writer/producer overlap between both albums (with the exception of Usher). My Way would mark the beginning of the most important creative partnership in Usher’s career, namely his partnership with Jermaine Dupri.
JD co-wrote and co-produced the bulk of the album, including all three singles. And if you thought Usher came to play, Babyface helped craft two of the remaining songs on the album, including “Slow Jam” (featuring Monica). As you can imagine, the result of the JD/Babyface combo was an album full of radio-friendly songs — and no matter what anyone says, this is a very good thing.
The lead single from My Way, “You Make Me Wanna…”, would transform Usher from D-list singer to bona fide superstar almost overnight. All three singles would go on to peak in the top two slots of the Billboard Hot 100, with “Nice & Slow” actually topping the chart.
Following the success of My Way, Usher would become the blueprint for a generation of male R&B and R&B-adjacent artists, including Mario, Chris Brown and Justin Bieber. And don’t even get me started on Justin Timberlake. The Usher style of singing, dancing and dressing was mimicked by basically every singer-boy for the next 15 years or so — the skull caps had the boys in a chokehold for YEARS.
My Way would become the first in a three-album streak of classics and would establish Usher as a commercial powerhouse, with over eight million units sold worldwide. At a time where R&B — especially among male performers — seems to be lagging, this milestone anniversary of an exceptional album should remind us of how good we once had it.