For his fifth album Confessions, due in January, Usher is peppering his sweet soul with something new: brutal honesty. "It takes guts to talk about the stuff I talk about on this album," says Usher, who cites his own infidelity and an unplanned pregnancy in the title track. "I've had trials and tribulations. I have all that shit to pull from."
The R&B singer, who just turned twenty-five, hopes the album will be a source of comfort for his male fans. "A lot of times guys can't really find it in themselves to be honest with their mates and tell 'em how they really feel," he says. "These songs will give guys that opportunity to put the record on and say, 'Look, this is what I'm going through,' or just feel confident that they're not goin' through it by themselves."
For the sexy track "Wifey," Usher joined up again with the Neptunes, with whom he won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 2003 for "You Don't Have To Call." Singer-songwriter Robin Thicke collaborated on "Dot Com," a song about cybersex that's also a nod to Seventies funkster Roger Troutman's "Computer Love." And Stevie Wonder showed up to add a harmonica solo to "All Bad."
Jermaine Dupri, who produced Usher's fourth album 8701 also returned, and noticed the change. "He is much more into talking about life and not being scared to say things about relationships," Dupri says. "He's more open."
Usher says there was no other choice: "It drove me crazy having all this stuff inside and not ever letting it go . . . I just had to let it go."