The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 4)

Bringing you yet more retro smashes from the UK charts as they looked a quarter of a century ago, this is The Story of Pop: 1998. This week: a young emerging prince of R&B makes his UK chart debut – and how…

  • Artist: Usher
  • Song: You Make Me Wanna…
  • Released: 19/01/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Usher / Jermaine Dupri / Manuel Seal
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 18

What with Britpop, girl power, Eurodance and boybands being the dominating story for most of the 90s here in the UK, it wasn’t really until the end of the decade that the burgeoning US R&B, hip hop and soul scene – that would come to dominate the start of the century that followed – was starting to make it’s presence known here in the British charts.

But the arrival of Trevor Nelson with his Rhythm Nation show on Radio 1, and the launch of Kiss FM in London, which broke a lot of big number one hits such as The Fugees‘ “Killing Me Softly” and Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You”, saw to it that eventually, it was breaking through in a big way. As it indeed did with the artist behind this classic hit 25 years ago this week.

Born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Usher – or Usher Raymond IV to his mum – started performing in talent shows at the age of 12, releasing his self titled debut album after signing to LaFace Records (home to TLC and Toni Braxton) in 1994.

But it was with his second album, My Way, in 1997, that the now 19 year old Usher made his arrival onto the scene and scored wider success. On paper, it was a winning mix, with his baby faced good looks, ability to write a hit, soulful vocals that belied his tender years and slick dance moves, meaning a generation of fans – girls and women in particular – were immediately enamoured with him.

The first single off My Way was “You Make Me Wanna…”, a pared back, part acoustic slow jam, that first showcased his ability to weave a story through lyrics – in the case of this song, the anguish of being caught in a love triangle between his girlfriend and the best friend who set them up: “You make me wanna leave the one I’m with / Start a new relationship with you, this is what you do / Think about a ring and all the things that come along with it / You make me, you make me wanna”.

Released in the States first in August 1997, the single quickly climbed into the top 10 of the Billboard charts. Meanwhile, intense pre-Christmas interest here in the UK (it peaked at #78 on import sales alone two weeks prior to its full release) saw to it that it made an unexpected but all the same sensational debut at number one for Usher at the end of January 1998.

Unusually though, for a short while that seemed to be it for Usher’s chart career in Blighty. The equally saucy sounding “Nice and Slow” was the follow-up single, but whilst that was a US chart topper, here in Britain, it tanked out at #24 in April.

But following a stint acting in films such as She’s All That and Light It Up in 1999, when the new millennium finally arrived, his success grew and grew, with both 2001’s third album, 8701, and 2004’s Confessions album spawning hit after hit, including two more UK and US number ones in 2004 with “Yeah!” and “Burn”. Viewed in that light, whilst “You Make Me Wanna…” may not necessarily be the first song that comes to mind when you mention Usher, it undoubtedly laid the foundations for what he was to go onto achieve in the 21st century – and beyond.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.