Who Should Usher Face in a Verzuz Battle?: Head to Head with Edd

Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.

These are my confessions: Since Usher and his musical legacy have been hot topics of discussion around these Innanets lately, I reached out to my guy from the Soul In Stereo Cypher, Da Brown, to debate the biggest hits and misses of Usher Raymond’s illustrious career. Best and worst albums, singles, the EDM and trap eras and the hotly requested battle between Usher and my Cousin Chris Brown all come up. Watch how it goes down.

Name Usher’s three best albums.

Da Brown:

1. Confessions

2. 8701

3. My Way

This one is pretty cut and dry here. Why Edd won’t quite agree with my statement, in my eyes, these three albums are classics. My Way broke him into a star, 8701 took him to superstar status, and Confessions solidified him as one of the best in R&B.

Edd:

1. Confessions

2. 8701

3. My Way

While I think calling all three of these albums “classics” is a bit of a stretch, I definitely agree that this trio is his best. My Way was a strong breakout after a promising but kinda overlooked debut, 8701 solidified his budding stardom and, yes, Confessions is absolutely a classic, one of the best and most influential R&B albums we’ve seen in the past 20 years. Three classics? Nah. But three game-changing albums? Most def.

And what’s Usher’s worst release to date?

Da Brown: A

Usher’s worst album has to be A. Everybody and their momma had something to say about that album. Usher was too busy trying to do what the young boys do, but was clearly out of his element. Side note: I actually enjoyed Hard II Love more than Edd for sure.

Edd: A

A is one of the lowest-rated albums in the history of Soul In Stereo so my feelings have already been made clear. Listen, I get the need for evolution – every artist must branch out and expand their sound eventually. But after the disaster that was Hard II Love (sorry playa, it was wack), he doubled down into an even more banal, paint-by-numbers release. Usher is a trendsetter, he’s too good to be doing trap karaoke.

What’s Usher’s most underrated album?

Da Brown: Here I Stand

This definitely has to go to Here I Stand. When this came out, this didn’t get the love it deserved. Since it came after the huge release of Confessions, it just could not win. Nowadays, however, it is more praised for its mature sound.

Edd: Looking 4 Myself

Here I Stand may have been unappreciated at the time but, as Da Brown said, it has found greater appreciation with Usher’s maturing fanbase. Since that one is starting to get love I’m gonna dig even deeper and go with Looking 4 Myself. Y’all tore this album APART in 2012 (outside of the great “Climax” single) but I thought the mixture of diverse sounds worked pretty well.  As I said earlier, I’m OK with experimentation and taking risks – I think Usher’s gamble paid off creatively, fans just weren’t buying it. Trust me, give it another listen.

OK, it’s time to talk singles. What’s Usher’s best?

Da Brown: “Burn”

This one is can be a toss up right here. His song “Yeah” technically performed better on the charts in terms of No. 1 hits, but I will have to “Burn.” One of my favorites off of Confessions, this one was great release, until they ran it until the ground. Still a favorite though.

Edd: “You Make Me Wanna”

Usher is at his best when he’s in his midtempo groove. To me, his greatest is somewhere between “You Make Me Wanna” and “U Got It Bad,” it’s neck and neck. I’ll go with “You Make Me Wanna” for the sake of this argument for two reasons: It’s his breakout track, and you had to be around in 1997 to see how INSANE girls went over this song, even though he’s technically talking about cheating.

How about his worst single?

Da Brown: “No Limit”

“No Limit” for sure. He just wasn’t in his element. That wack Young Thug feature didn’t help at all either.

Edd: “No Limit”

“No Limit” by a country mile, playa. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Usher’s uptempo and clubby stuff – “Yeah” grates on my nerves, for example – but I hesitate to call them bad songs. However, “No Limit” was a mess, from the lazy writing to the cringeworthy video with Uncle Usher dancing around with the cool kids. Throw it away.

Which album cut should have been a single?

Da Brown: “Superstar”

This is definitely a no brainer. “Superstar” from the Confessions album should have been a single for sure. It still gets rotation in the whip. That’s the one thing his team dropped the ball with that album.

Edd: “Confessions Part 1”

Was “Confessions Part 1” not a single? I could have sworn it was released but the all-knowing Wikipedia says nah, so we’ll go with that one. Some may consider it sacrilege, but I vastly prefer it to the more-known Part 2.

Usher has cranked out his fair share of duets over the years. Which is your favorite?

Da Brown: “Slow Jam”

I’ve come to appreciate “My Boo” in recent years, but the crown doesn’t go to that song. It goes to “Slow Jam” on the My Way album. I know it’s a cover but they both have great chemistry on that song and it was produced by Babyface. Definitely could have been a single.

Edd: “Slow Jam”

Beat me to it, playa. I wasn’t the biggest fan of “My Boo” – too cheesy for my tastes –  but the chemistry Usher and Monica showed on Slow Jam was incredible. Also, shout to “Love in this Club II” with Beyonce, it’s a forgotten gem.

Which producer brings out the best in Usher?

Da Brown: Jermaine Dupri

Usher and Jermaine Dupri are Batman and Robin when they get together. No better singer/producer duo then those two. No question.

Edd: Jermaine Dupri

When I went back to explore the linear notes of my favorite Usher tracks, there was one name that constantly popped up – J. Dupri. Da Brown nailed it, there’s an incredible synergy between those two that constantly creates hits. But I’ve gotta give a shout out to Bryan-Michael Cox, who many times was right at Usher and JDs’s side for those hits.  

Usher’s EDM and trap phases: Good idea or gross idea?

Da Brown: I actually enjoyed some of his EDM stuff because I do like dance music somewhat, but some of his trap stuff can go for sure. I’ll keep tracks like “Bump” though.

Edd: I’m no fan of Usher’s EDM or trap pursuits but, from a business perspective, yes, I see the wisdom in going that route. And to be fair, as your resident Unbiased Reviewer™ I can admit that Usher’s EDM hits aren’t bad songs – they’re just not for me. That trap stuff though? That was BAD. As I said earlier, experimentation is a good thing, and when it works, cool. EDM Usher, for better or worse, worked. Trap Usher did not work – not creatively, not critically, not commercially – and he should have pulled the plug on that long ago.

In the 2000s, Usher was arguably the greatest artist of that era. Has inactivity in recent years hurt his legacy?

Da Brown: No it hasn’t at all. In fact, if he kept releasing music every year of today’s standard of quality, that would have ruined his legacy more than anything. I prefer if he takes his time between releases so we can get a dope album, and not an album like A again.

Edd: Fans are so spoiled in this era of music. With (sigh) headliners like Future dropping 30-something track albums seemingly quarterly, fans get downright aggravated if their faves aren’t shoveling out new music every six months. I know it hits differently for me – I’m from an era where artists took three or four years off between projects and we didn’t mind. So I get why some fans are annoyed with Usher’s relatively low profile over the past decade; when everyone else is dropping two mixtapes a year, inactivity is seen as “laziness.”

But here’s facts – Usher’s legacy is already secure, thanks to Confessions, his other top-tier releases, standout performances and pristine vocals. He’s proven his worth. To Da Brown’s point, I think the poor reception of Hard II Love and A probably did more to hurt his legacy than anything. Lay low, keep the BS to a minimum and when you do return, hit had with a comeback album that will get people talking. It’s quality, y’all, not quantity. That’s what builds a legacy.

We’ve beaten around the bush long enough: Who should face Usher in a Verzuz battle?

Da Brown: It’s only a few that can face him in Verzuz and it ain’t Christopher Maurice Brown. The only few who can battle Usher and give him a run for his money is Mary J Blige (even though she might railroad him), Beyoncé, and Robert Kelly (yes, I said it). We might even throw Justin Timberlake in there, since there is comparison between the two.

Edd: LOL at my Cousin Chris “humbly declining” a battle he claims he could win off features alone. He knew the L was eminent. Quite frankly, catalog for catalog, Breezy is way out of Usher’s league. He’d be better off confronting the other face of R&B for his generation, Trey Songz. That’s a much more fair battle.

As far as Ursher goes, there are certainly other options. Obviously, He Who Shall Not Pee Named has been brought up but, like Breezy trying to go at Usher, I think Kellz’s longevity (not to mention features and songwriting credits) gives him too much of an advantage. Usher would be quite the underdog. I think a much more even matchup would be Usher doing battle with Beyonce or Justin Timberlake – both artists who came of age around same time as Usher and both battles would be much closer than what fans might assume. Get Timbo and Swizz on the line, I’m down for this.

Who got it right? Does Da Brown Make You Wanna believe in him, or did you prefer it My Way? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 Comments

  1. There is not really much I disagree with here at all. I definitely think Chris Brown is out of his league going up against Usher. Chris comes from a quantity over quality era which for him has not turned into anything resembling a really strong album project.

    Chris fooling no one with his “politely declining”. He knows this would not be a true competition.

    I also agree with Ed that Looking For Myself was Usher’s most underrated album.

    • I get what you mean. Usher’s hits, while however few (notice no Anthology/Best-of even while being around 30 years deep), represents more in the hearts and opinions of the listening public. By this measure CB could lose the verzuz. Though thats a BIG Perhaps.

  2. Good talk. Nice read.
    Right (I was in Atlanta in 1997) the shorties all over and especially there were nutty for “U make Me Wanna..”

    Confessions ii is his best single (or U Dont Have to Call/U Got it Bad) but yeah BURNs his “Dilemma”.

    Best duet?.. hm Don’t actually care a ton for Usher the collaborator. He’s truly a solo star act.

    “Beyonce” verzuz Usher.??. HOUSTON ISSA PROBLEM. She’ll ruin bruh bruh. Usher is legendary he packaged 3 consecutive classic rnb works (with very little filler) but there’s not enough there hit singles wise to compete with anyone mentioned aside from Justin Timberlake. Now Ne-Yo could have been a solid hits-battle but from what I know Neyo’s already participated in a verzuz. Maybe Marques Houston or Ginuwine.

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