While Usher technically made his debut at age 16 with his 1994 self-titled album, it was 1997’s My Way that established a 19 year old Usher Raymond as a one of R&B’s most talented and sexiest crossover stars. Released this week in 1997 (September 16), My Way was the album that introduced Usher to the masses. This was largely in part thanks to the hit lead single, “You Make Me Wanna…,” helmed by Mariah Carey’s favorite collaborator, Jermaine Dupri.
The infectious midtempo track was everything you could ever want from mid-90s R&B. It’s catchy, rides smoothly over a rhythmic, bass heavy beat, and features an impassioned vocal from a young Usher. Of course, the relatable and somewhat drama-ridden lyrics helped it’s success, and would become a trademark for Usher’s music, as seen by songs like 2001’s “U Got It Bad,” 2004’s “Confessions,” and 2009’s “Papers,” to name a few. “You Make Me Wanna…” was Usher’s biggest hit thus far, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The album takes its title from its third and final single, “My Way,” featuring Jermaine Dupri. The song is a cocky assertion of Usher’s sex appeal and swag. He even drops a rap verse (penned by Dupri, most likely) about his dominant nature. The song is fun and memorable but not the best offering from the album.
That title belongs to the album’s second single, the sensual slow jam “Nice and Slow.” Once again produced by Jermaine Dupri alongside Manuel Seal and Jagged Edge’s Brian Casey, the song is pure 90’s R&B perfection. Rightfully so, it peaked at #1 on the Hot 100. Usher perfectly executes the song’s romantic and enticing lyrics with his smooth, buttery vocals. The line, “It’s 7 o’clock on the dot, I’m in my drop top, cruising the streets,” alone is a classic. It’s hard to look at the time and see that it’s 7, and that line not come to mind.
Other highlights on My Way include the duet with Monica, “Slow Jam,” and “Bedtime,” both penned by Babyface, as well as the Teddy Riley helmed “I Will.” The remainder of the songs on this short, 9 track album, are, like the singles, produced by Jermaine Dupri and don’t really stand out for any reason aside perhaps for the Lil’ Kim feature on “Just Like Me,” which serves up a cool groove.
My Way was Usher’s breakthrough album, producing three hit singles, and one #1 hit. The album itself has been certified 6x Platinum by the RIAA. After it’s release, four years went by before he released its follow up, 8701.