20 Albums 20 Years Later

Before Our Eyes, Usher Grew From A Kid Prodigy To A Grown-Up Superstar With His Breakthrough Album

Usher's "My Way" turns 20 this year.

20 Albums 20 Years Later remembers and explores the music that touched us back then and still resonates today. Join A Plus as we take another listen to albums released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions not only to the charts but to our lives.

Usher is one of those celebrities who grew up in the public eye. So when he dropped his album My Way 20 years ago this year when he was 18, he set out to prove that he was no longer the little boy we all loved from his 1994 debut self-titled album.

Now he was a man doing things his way.

And it worked. The public loved his balance of a young boy coming into manhood in a way that was believable. With lyrics such as "I've got plans to put my hands in places / I've never seen, girl you know what I mean" in the classic ballad "Nice & Slow," we all knew he was still maturing but he wasn't shy about expressing how quickly he was becoming a grown-up.

With collaborations with other young R&B and hip-hop stars of that time such as Monica and Lil' Kim, Usher released a body of work that can easily be grooved to today like it was back then. Released in September 1997 on LaFace Records, and produced almost entirely by Babyface and Jermaine Dupri, the album debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 before topping the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for three consecutive weeks shortly thereafter.  

The radio couldn't get enough of tracks like "You Make Me Wanna," "Nice & Slow," and the album's title track, "My Way."

His smooth lyrics and delivery are likely what attracted another R&B celebrity at that time, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas from the Grammy Award-winning trio TLC. They were the "it couple" of the early 00's just a few years after Usher's "My Way" album dropped.

"Nice & Slow"

"Now baby tell me what you wanna do with me," is the statement Usher repeated in the background of this infectious ballad. With a strong guitar matched with a steady beat, "Nice & Slow" was definitely one of those songs people couldn't wait to hear at the end of the night of partying when they're looking for someone to keep the party going with.

Set in Paris, the video played out like more of a mini movie about his lady being kidnapped for ransom with Usher coming to her rescue. Instead of dance moves, Usher had an explosive fight sequence before reuniting with his love. The video has garnered nearly 23 million views on Vevo to date, though got plenty of spins on BET and MTV back in the day.

"You Make Me Wanna"

The first single from the album and exactly what fans needed to be hooked in. Usher quickly proved he not only had the lyrics and singing abilities but that he could also dance! While he still had a baby face in the video, his delivery was more mature and music lovers couldn't get enough of it. In fact, there was no need for cameos in this video, except for a quick one by Dupri at the very end. Instead, it was just Usher — multiple ones — moving together to the sweet sound. With more than 48 million views on Vevo, it shows that the song still resonates today as it did in the late '90s, when it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Slow Jam"

It wasn't one of the biggest chart toppers of the album, but "Slow Jam" featuring Monica was still a loveable track that fans appreciated. There was no accompanying music video for the song, but pairing Usher and Monica was genius for that time as both were rising stars in the R&B genre.

"My Way"

The song was hot but when the music video dropped, it was fire! A battle over a girl that Usher professed liked things "his way" far better than her old flame, played by Tyrese, with cameos by one of the album's producers, Jermaine Dupri, who dropped a verse on the track. Today, the video has been viewed nearly 15 million times on Vevo.

While Usher didn't become the multi-award-winning artist he is today with this album, My Way was his proof that he not only belonged but that he wasn't going away anytime soon. The albums that followed launched him to superstar greatness and he passed the torch when he discovered yet another musical genius, a kid that started out as a YouTube star, named Justin Bieber.

My Way is available on AmazonGoogle PlayiTunes, and Spotify.

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