Please Hear Me
by Emma
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Usher - "Confessions pt. II"

Oh my god, this song. THIS SONG. A while ago I was making a playlist for a friend who spent 2000 to 2007 being too cool for pop music and now wanted to know what he'd missed. I had not really thought about "Confessions pt. II" since probably the last high school dance of my mid-teens, but while I was searching for something to bridge the gap between "We Belong Together" and "Country Grammar," suddenly this song appeared before me, shimmering like a beautiful mirage.

I have always had a kind of vague conceptual respect for Usher as a guy who seems to just be very, very good at his job; dude has managed to smooth-chameleon his way through multiple eras of pop music without ever shedding the aura of self-awareness that somehow protects him from the potential consequences of his own slight corniness. Styles may change, but he always manages to land himself right in the centre of whatever newest thing. When the prevailing vibe in pop music was "midtempo pleading" he reached harder than anyone; when it was "beats that grate both your eardrums and the very fabric of your soul into thin shreds" he was like, sure; when it was "we only like Frank Ocean this year" he was ready to THROW DOWN. It's impressive!

All that said, I guess it took over a decade for his work to really occur to me, because up until three weeks ago I had never made a conscious effort to seek out any of his songs. But now, ever since I dropped "Confessions pt. II" into that playlist, I have listened to it more times than probably anyone involved in its production - including Usher Terry Raymond IV himself - ever has or will again.

Look: this is a perfect song. No matter what you want from it, all angles, every level. If you are looking for a music video that combines a very good-looking man with his shirt off, an abundance of direct eye contact, piano dancing, and a mirror shattering in slow motion, here you go. If you need a dramatic monologue that perfectly QEDs a certain vintage of seductive dirtbagginess, hold out for the spoken-word breakdown. And if you need a narrative that bends inward as it pulls you forward, this thing has got lyrics for days: Usher on his knees outside your house in the rain, Usher beating his frantic tight fists against the unyielding locked door of your heart, Usher needing once and for all to tell you the absolute, unvarnished truth - even though you know and I know and he knows that none of this stuff ever really happened to him per se.

But if you don't care for theatre, or shirtlessness, or narrative line - if all you're looking for is handclaps and hooks and a melody that will make the world seem edged in neon, all you have to do is listen. The thing that makes me feel shot through with a million thin beams of pure light starts off in small hints through the chorus - the tiny trilling harmony stacked on top of those "all"s - and then suddenly, in the second verse, when he's riding in his whip, racing to her place, the way the melody just takes off running, perfectly controlled and totally off-road reckless all at once. It's not necessarily anything new, but it's the thing you know from hours and hours of other songs done perfectly. That alchemy of total control and perfect abandon. The fission of form and the chaos it contains, push-pull of his voice and your heart. Pure gold, pure rushing light. Smooth like nothing in this world has a right to be.

[buy Confessions]

Posted by Emma at March 20, 2016 6:08 PM

Oh wow yes - so curious what else is on this playlist!

Posted by Nina at March 20, 2016 9:43 PM

Agreed! Would love a post on this playlist.

Posted by Kate at March 21, 2016 4:17 PM

i am awakened from my usher slumber, wow! im also laughing because this writing took me to a happy place.

Posted by emily at March 22, 2016 1:50 AM

Can I let you, Emma, know how much I appreciate you and the fact that you're writing about Confessions Pt. II in 2016. I also would love to know what else is on this playlist.

Posted by HBB at April 4, 2016 10:40 AM

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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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