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03/31/2004 4:00 PM, Yahoo! Music
Dan Leroy

If you didn’t know already, you will soon learn that former teen idol Usher Raymond once knocked up the girl he was “creepin’ with”; that he fantasizes about not candlelight and roses but “biting, scratching, spanking, screaming”; and that he buried Jimmy Hoffa in the end zone at the Meadowlands (just kidding). The purpose of these and other revelations, on Usher’s fifth album, seems to be to arrest his gradual morphing into his middle-of-the-road mentor, Babyface, at the still-tender age of 25. Yet while he bares his soul intermittently (if not entirely comfortably), and delivers his earthiest club jam yet with Lil Jon and Ludacris on the crunk-funker “Yeah,” the paradox of Confessions is that Usher has never sounded better on the very sort of polite, romantic R&B that this collection was intended to help him transcend. “Simple Things,” a classic Jam-Lewis confection, and the yearning ballad “Burn,” which chronicles the flameout of an affair, avoid trendy beats and trendier tales from the wild side -- revealing that Usher can keep whatever skeletons he has left stored safely in the closet.

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