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‘There Was Literally This Phobia’: Usher Recalls Record Label Not Wanting Him to Talk About His Relationship on Album 

Usher Raymond is another one of the most successful R&B singers to recently admit to not always having had his label’s support. The Grammy-winning vocalist claims they didn’t 100 percent back his “Confessions” album despite his healthy catalog of hit records and Grammy Awards that came before it.

In an interview with Vulture, the 43-year-old opened up about a bigger lesson he learned during his time in the music industry. He said “artists need to build strong catalogs around the hits, and audiences must give the music this time and respect it deserves.” He added, “Don’t make singles, make an experience.”

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JULY 07: Usher attends the 2022 Beloved Benefit at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 07, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

2004’s “Confessions” is probably Usher’s most popular and best selling album to date, with over 10 million copies sold in the United States alone. The album under Artists Records was rumored to be based on his breakup with TLC singer Chilli, but she totally disputes the claim. “Confessions” won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album and two more for his singles, “Yeah!” and “My Boo.” Clips from the “Confessions Part II” video and from Usher’s Tiny desk performance this year are arguably two of the most frequently used memes on the internet.

He mentioned that some “people,” or maybe record labels, didn’t believe in new artists sharing details about their relationships.

“I feel it was partially on the story that we were telling and people getting acclimated to this new artist and having respect for or understanding of what it was for the guys who grew up with the Princes, the Michael Jacksons, the Whispers, the Isley Brothers, and the Luther Vandrosses,” he explained.

“They were looking at a new frontier. I do wish critics celebrated what I was working on in that time. It’s OK that they didn’t, because it made me work harder.”

Usher followed up his fourth album with his fifth effort, 2008’s “Here I Stand.” He recalled, “going through a human moment” at that time and wanting to transfer that into his music. 

“I realized in R&B and hip-hop songs at the time, people didn’t share the fact that a relationship was the inspiration for the songs. They were only giving you the experience of the player in the nightclub,” he shared.

By December 2008, Usher welcomed his second son, Naviyd, with his then-wife Tameka Foster. The former couple also share Usher’s oldest, Usher Raymond V, making him the fifth generation of Usher Raymonds. He claims musicians were not celebrated for being in romantic relationships back then.

“If they did, they were begging for a woman to forgive them or figuring out how to seduce a woman. There was literally this phobia. It was damn near recommended by record companies. … ‘If you talk about your relationship, the girls ain’t going to love you. They’ll disconnect from you,'” the dad of four adds. 

“Here I Stand” reflects music from a different time when artists talked about love, according to Usher. He felt his female fans would “celebrate … a man dedicating songs to them based off how he feels about them, who ain’t hiding the relationship.”

“Now, turn the page. We got the Keyshias and Gucci Manes, all these people who are celebrating their relationships. ‘Here I Stand’ was the beginning,” he declared. “The type of music they were creating in the ’70s and the ’80s, when the O’Jays were talking about their love for their wives. That’s what ‘Here I Stand’ was.”

Fellow R&B singer Ciara shared a similar message about label executives who didn’t believe in her now-platinum hit “Level Up.” During an interview, she said major labels “hold the power to tell you when your next song can come out or your album can come out. And then if they’re not happy with it they decide they want to stop the process.”

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