Ranking the Best Usher Albums

Who would have predicted that the random kid on track 11 of 1993’s Poetic Justice soundtrack would become one of the most enduring voices of modern R&B?

Probably not too many people. But Usher Raymond proved ’em wrong.

In a little over two decades, Usher has scored nine No. 1 singles, five No. 1 albums (including the elusive diamond certification for his 2004 release) and has sold upwards of 75 million records worldwide.

No doubt about it, Usher has ruled R&B.

Let’s look back at the albums that made him a star, ranking them from bottom to top. The list will only include solo studio albums, excluding live sets, compilations and deluxe editions.

hard ii love

8. Hard II Love (2016)

Soul In Stereo rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yeah. This one. Look, I’ve spent six months ranting about my many, many issues with this album – read my review here if you want the gory details. I’ve said enough.

Don’t worry, it gets much better from here.

Forgotten favorites: Just go to the next post, playa.

raymond v raymond

7. Raymond v. Raymond (2010)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: While this album was seen as somewhat of a creative disappointment at the time, it’s far from a bad release. While the singles far outshine the album cuts, there’s still enough material to keep the release afloat. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jermaine Dupri, Bryan Michael-Cox, Danja, Polow da Don – the all-star roster of writers and producers provide a strong backdrop for Ursher’s trademark vocals.

Forgotten favorites: “More,” “Foolin’ Around,” “Mars vs Venus”

here i stand

6. Here I Stand (2008)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Remember that time Usher went all adult contemporary on us? A new marriage brought new maturity to Usher’s music, resulting in an album that reflected his ascent into manhood. Some fans may have been turned off by Usher’s more mature sound but we were treated to more than a few stellar ballads and tender songwriting. A few weak album cuts made the set a bit uneven, but Usher’s heart was in the right place.

Forgotten favorites: “Before I Met You,” “Appetite,” “Love In This Club II”

looking4myself

5. Looking 4 Myself (2012)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: Boy, this album took a BEATING from R&B fans back in 2012. And while Usher’s foray into pop wasn’t what a lot of fans wanted, that doesn’t mean this was a poor album. Far from it – Usher pushed the boundaries of his sound on Looking 4 Myself, creating his most diverse release yet. Look past a few screechy pop numbers and you’ll find lots of creative production and solid writing. No, this wasn’t the sequel to Confessions listeners have clamored for for more than a decade (newsflash – that “sequel” ain’t happening) but the album’s creativity makes it a breath of fresh air in Usher’s discography. Easily his most underrated release.

Forgotten favorites: “What Happened to U,” “Lemme See,” “Sins of My Father”

usher

4. Usher (1994)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: I always have to shake my head when uniformed R&B fans claim that Usher debuted in 1997 with his hit single “U Make Me Wanna.” Trust me, it happens much more than it should. How can they just leapfrog Usher’s true debut, a very promising blend of midtempo R&B cuts and hip-hop soul? This album may not have had the platinum-plated success of its successors but it was a harbinger of things to come.

Forgotten favorites: “Think of You,” “The Many Ways,” “Crazy”

myway

3. My Way (1997)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Usher showed boundless promise on his previous album, but this is the release that birthed a star. With just 10 tracks (one of which is nothing more than a glorified remix), Usher cemented himself as R&B’s next big thing, thanks to unforgettable ballads, pristine vocals and tons of star power. Yeah, the album is a little TOO ballad-heavy at times, but the set still stands strong today.

Forgotten favorites: “Just Like Me,” “Bedtime,” “Slow Jam”

8701

2. 8701 (2001)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Sometimes, the stars align at just the right time, and just the right place, for magic to happen. Usher’s third album was that moment – producers Jermaine Dupri, B-Cox and The Neptunes were at their creative peaks while Usher was hitting his stride as a vocalist. Their chemistry created 8701, one of most rich R&B experiences of the new millennium. It’s hard to find flaw in this air-tight set and it comes VERY close to being Usher’s greatest achievement – but Ursher would outdo himself one more time…

Forgotten favorites: “U-Turn,” “Can U Help Me,” “If I Want To”

confessions

1. Confessions (2004)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: I’m willing to bet that 90% of the readers who clicked this post predicted that this album would take the top spot. And there’s good reason for that – Confessions was a game-changer for R&B. Usher evolved his sound to incorporate crunk (“Yeah”), Top 40 pop (“Caught Up”) and infectious hip-hop (“Throwback”). Bearing his relationship woes on wax was a both potent creative fuel and a brilliant marketing pitch – people are STILL talking about his ill-fated romance with TLC’s Chilli today. While it’s not a perfect album – it’s a bit too lengthy, and that’s not even counting the extra tracks on the bloated Deluxe Edition – it set R&B on a new path. Without a doubt, it’s a true R&B classic.

Forgotten favorites: “Bad Girl,” “Superstar,” “Follow Me”

How would you rank Usher’s discography? Let us know below.

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