Following the lukewarm response to his self-titled debut in 1994, Usher and his team returned to the drawing board to ensure that he didn’t become a one and done singer. Following the blueprint laid out by Bobby Brown’s second album Don’t Be Cruel, My Way was indeed the beginning of Usher’s rise.
Linking up with producer Jermaine Dupri for the album’s lead single “You Make Me Wanna,” Usher came out of the gate strong. The song was released in the summer of 1997 right as it’s vital female demographic was headed back to school. I still remember just how much radio played the song. The video that showcased the singer’s dancing was in constant rotation on BET and MTV.
In addition to Dupri (who produced six tracks), Usher also reached out to Babyface for two songs. Blackstreet members Chauncey Hannibal and Eric Williams also contribute one song. After opening the album with the lead single, Usher takes listeners on a musical journey that showcases his talent. “Just Like Me” featuring Lil Kim, showcased the singer’s street side and always sounded great. However, it was the album’s ballads where the singer truly excels.
For the second single Usher chose “Nice & Slow.” Written by Usher, Brian, and Brandon Casey of the R&B group Jagged Edge, Manuel Seal Jr., and Jermaine Dupri, the song for me was always a modern-day version of Bobby Brown’s “Roni.” A seductive slow jam that even the toughest guy can groove to, twenty-three years later, the song still holds up. Following “Nice & Slow,” Usher reunited with Monica for a cover version of Midnight Star’s “Slow Jam.” Similar to how the duo made their cover version of Lattimore’s Let’s Straighten It Out” their own, they do the same with “Slow Jam.”
The final single from the album was “My Way,” which the singer timed to release in spring 1998. The song would lead into the summer, where he would open up for Janet Jackson on her “Velvet Rope” tour. The remaining songs on My Way are all quality album tracks that would surely be a hit for any other singer. “Come Back” and “One Day You’ll Be Mine” both still sound fresh in 2020 as the singer glides through the songs with ease.
While the ballads “I Will” and “Bedtime” are two of the singer’s best slow jams. I’ve seen Usher in concert five times, and I’ve always wanted to hear “I Will” live. Written by Chauncey Hannibal and Eric Williams of BlackStreet, the song is a naturally beautiful ballad. While Babyface gave Usher a modern-day version of Bobby Brown’s “Rock Witcha” with “Bedtime.” Usher closes out My Way with an extended version of “You Make Me Wanna.”
My Way would sell six million copies in the US alone and set the stage for his future success. At just nine songs solidifies the old adage less is more.
Final Re-listen grade: A
Best Songs: the singles and “I Will.”