When he stepped on the scene everyone knew him as a mack. Little did we know he’d be able to back up his claims, even as a fresh-faced, not-so-legal 15-year-old. Usher Raymond IV initially found his way into our hearts with his debut single “Call Me A Mack” for the Poetic Justice soundtrack, and since then he’s held a special place on our playlists. After getting signed by LaFace Records, who at the time boasted the hottest chart-topping artists like TLC, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, OutKast and more, the young Tennessee-bred crooner started recording. Usher debuted his self-titled album on August 30, 1994, under the production and tutelage of one Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who we can thank for showing the singer how to navigate the music industry. With the help of Diddy, L.A. Reid, DeVante Swing and Al B. Sure! just to name a few, the just-out-of-puberty singer graduated from a mack to an experienced lover — at least if the songs on Usher are to be believed.
From the 14-track album, three singles were released, “Can U Get Wit It,” “Think of You” and “The Many Ways.” The singles came complete with music videos of Usher doing his sexiest body rolls and often going shirtless to convince us he was finally a man. He hadn’t mastered the art of dance just yet, but his footwork started to develop.
In “Can U Get Wit It,” it was pretty clear someone with a little more life experience penned Usher’s first single. The track was written and produced by none other than DeVante Swing of Jodeci fame. Through Swing’s words, Usher let us know that he got around and made it clear he was just in it for the sex, no diamond ring included. In the video, with Diddy playing his sidekick, Usher could hardly see in front of the steering wheel of the car he was driving but he wore silk pajamas and leather outfits revealing his developing bird chest. Despite the young singer falsely advertised as a man, we were still suckers for his dimples and curly high-top.
Usher’s second single “Think of You” did better than “Can U Get Wit It” in the charts and by then, Usher was most likely on the bedroom walls of every tween girl across the country. Labelmate Donell Jones and Bad Boy Records’ Faith Evans co-wrote the song with Usher, which later got a Bad Boy remix with Craig Mack supplying a few bars to ensure it became a hit. This time Usher focused on one girl versus the block, which made for a better equation. By now we were thinking of Usher, too. He satisfied the high school boyfriend fantasy every young girl held onto, even though the girl he sang about wasn’t doing him right. The age-appropriate single made it to No. 7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 70 on the UK Singles Chart.
While “Think of You” satisfied our needs there were some other singles on the album where Usher showcased more of his puppy dog love. On “Crazy,” the bubblegum sweet and borderline raunchy album cut, he sings about a significant other he can’t take his mind off. Al B. Sure! added some more mature material on the album with “Slow Love” and “The Many Ways.” You’ve never been summoned to get “this good love” until you’ve been summoned by Usher. Granted, we’re not sure if he knew what “good love” meant at the time, but what matters is that he sang it confidently and we were ready to answer his call. Ready to fulfill your fantasies, the entire album was written by grown men who had wooed more women than Usher had ever even met.
After releasing his debut album, Usher graduated high school and continued to grow into himself and his clothes. The singer went on to gain fame from his second album My Way, released in 1997. Today, he’s a chart-topping and GRAMMY-nominated singer, songwriter, dancer, actor and father who has earned his place in R&B royalty. Influenced by the likes of James Brown and Michael Jackson, Usher could literally dance toe-to-toe with his idols and sing right next to them with no one questioning whether he should share the same stage.
Now a veteran in the industry, Usher has paved the way for any R&B crooner who wants to make a mononym for himself. Usher set his foot in the ’90s R&B factory and sang and danced his way into a house of hits. Staying true to his sound and on the hearts of women across the world, even when he admitted infidelities and such with his Confessions, he remains one of the most successful R&B singers in the world. While we’ve watched his height, talent and abs grow, we can always hit play on Usher to reminisce about our school-girl crushes and feel those good ol’ butterflies in our stomachs.