A Decade Later: 5 Love Lessons From Usher’s ‘Here I Stand’ Album

“A lot of what I plan to offer with this album is kinda standing in this spot. … The king’s back. I ain’t gonna say ‘back,’ I never left,” proclaimed Usher in an MTV interview in 2007. Six months after making this bold statement, the R&B crooner released Here I Stand, his first album since 2004’s multi-platinum Confessions.

A lot happened in Usher’s personal life since his Confessions era. From ending his relationship with singer Chili and parting ways with his mother as manager to losing his father and becoming a father and husband, Usher wanted his life experiences to reflect in the records on Here I Stand.

Although he recorded some of Here I Stand before the birth of his first son and his marriage to then-wife Tameka Foster, his new music direction was already in the works. “It was a deliberate choice to make music with substance, not just about the things that we’re accustomed to—music about being the celebrity, the player, or having the car, the girl and the bling,” he told ESSENCE in 2008.

Led by Polow da Don-produced single “Love in the Club” featuring Jeezy, Usher’s fifth LP was released on May 13, 2008. It spawned four other moderately successful singles (“Love in the Club Part. II,” “Moving Mountains,” “Trading Places” and title track) and eventually became certified platinum by the RIAA.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, here are five love lessons from Here I Stand.

“Trading Places”

Lesson 1: Roleplay is healthy.

Sometimes we get comfortable sticking to societal norms (i.e. a man pays for movie and dinner, women cooks and clean). But who said we have to follow those exhausting rules? Whatever keeps your relationship thriving, do it.

“His Mistakes”

Lesson 2: The past is the past for a reason.

Give your ex’s successor a chance to make their spot in your heart their own. While your former love may have treated you wrong, that baggage shouldn’t be carried into your next relationship. Share those hurtful moments to your next mate the beginning, and just give them an opportunity to prove himself until they show you otherwise.

“Love You Gently”

Lesson 3: Slow down baby, the loving ain’t going nowhere.

There’s nothing wrong with a quicky every now and then but it can’t be the norm in the bedroom. You can’t just get yours and forget about them. Your significant other deserves a pleasurable loving making experience, too.

“Moving Mountains”

Lesson 4: If you’re not happy, just leave.

Unless your lover practices sorcery, they probably can’t read your mind. Walking around with an attitude and being distance won’t rebuild a broken relationship. If they can’t get through to you, how can a bond be mended? Here’s some advice: talk up. You can either love them or leave them alone. It’s that simple.

“Something Special”

Lesson 5: Show love any time, any place.

If you love your mate, then let them (and the world) know it’s real. Not to say you put your relationship on display all the time. But there’s nothing wrong with cute little reminders, especially if it’s a solid connection.

Revisit Here I Stand in its entirety below.

Antwane Folk is the editorial assistant at RatedRnB.com.

Top 4 Deep Cuts from K. Michelle’s Debut Album ‘Rebellious Soul’

K. Michelle Album Cover Rebellious Soul

Kimberly Michelle Pate, better known as K. Michelle, has come a long way since she graced our television screens in 2012 as a cast member on VH1’s Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta. Three No. 1 albums, four tours, and a few social media beefs and public relationships later, she is really beginning to zone in on her artistic vision and hone her own sound. On this bumpy road of her musical journey, she has faced many hardships, but also enjoyed many milestones. Her first major success (post-Jive Records) is her debut album, Rebellious Soul.

In celebration of Rebellious Soul’s fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to compose a short list of some of the best non-single tracks from K. Michelle’s first No. 1 R&B album.

Here is our list of the top 4 deep cuts from the star’s breakout album:

“Hate on Her”

Infidelity is a common cause for failed relationships, and it’s no different when K. Michelle discovers her longterm relationship is crumbling in the wake of her lover’s infidelity. However, instead of hating or attacking the other woman, she feels sorry for her. “But I can’t even hate on her / Cause I know you got no heart / I can’t even hate on her / Cause I know how low you go,” she sings. This song makes the countdown for its lyrical genius and storytelling. Lines like “In this house we made are own / You have torn it down to nothing / And for the moment of a stroke / You let it all go” perfectly illustrate the combination of frustration, betrayal, and numbness that significant others feel after being cheated on. This would’ve been a great third single for the album, as its smooth production leans toward an R&B radio direction.

“When I Get a Man”/”Repair This Heart”

K. Michelle is speaking a loving relationship into existence on the album’s penultimate track. “I’m gon’ cater serve ya/ Give you what you deserve / He’s gon’ love me / When I get a man / I’mma treat him like a king / He gon’ be my everything / He gon’ love the hell outta’ me,” she sings. Although this is a perfectly fine R&B record with impressive production (courtesy of Hit Drew and Eric Hudson), the song is lifted by its hidden track “Repair This Heart.” The piano-driven cut serves as a sort of backstory for “When I Get a Man,” and flexes K’s pen game beautifully, as well as her voice’s capability of approaching a song with tenderness and emotion.

“Sometimes”

Although this was her first album, there were definitely some brilliant moments and “Sometimes” may be the brightest of them all. On this post break-up record, K is simply torn between her wants and her needs when it comes to a healthy relationship. “Oh, Lord have your mercy / For loving him religiously / I should be praying for better things / Instead of praying for a man / Who don’t give a fuck about me,” she sings. Not only is this is one of her finest vocal performances to date, but this song embodies everything about her: brutal honesty, unbridled passion, raw emotions, high energy, and of course rebellion with soul. What makes this even greater is the second hidden track on the album, about…well…her genitalia (sung operatically!) If there was a song that represented K. Michelle’s artistry, this would hands down be the song of choice.

“Right One”

Tank’s writing skills come to life once again thanks to K. Michelle. The Memphis-born and bred singer is literally holding nothing back on her no-good ex on this killer kiss-off. “F*ck you and all that / Blast on Twitter then I’mma blast back / You want a ratchet then I’mma be that / Don’t make me call my boys and have yo sh*t peeled back,” she sings. What makes this deluxe edition record shine is her commitment to the sentiments and emotions penned by her, Tank, and Jerren “J-kits” Spruill. This would’ve been a more than appropriate addition to the standard LP, but we are thankful for the song’s video treatment, which has over 22 million views on YouTube.  And in song’s final phrase, so eloquently stated by K, she declares “and that’s the end; leave it there.”

What about you? What’s your favorite song from Rebellious Soul? Let us know in the comment section below.

What a Time: 20 Memorable ‘Sessions @ AOL’ Performances (R&B Edition)

Sessions @ AOL may have launched in 2002, but its presence was felt more in 2003 as the way we hear and see our favorite artists online started changing at a rapid speed. From the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) going to legal war with individual music file-sharers ( Napster, Wake.Princeton.edu ) to the launch of Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the options for consumers to follow their beloved artists started to become more difficult. But Sessions @ AOL made this easier.

Brought to us by AOL Music, the mini-concert experience became an outlet for artists to perform their past and presents hits in a more up-close and intimate way. Similar to MTV-Unplugged, many artists have sung acoustic and stripped down versions of their popular songs and album gems. Artists even sat down to dish on their latest albums ahead or after its release.

After 10 years of special performances, exclusive interviews and some name changes (AOL Sessions, AOL Music Sessions), the intimate concert series ended abruptly in 2013.

While others (Walmart Soundcheck and Yahoo! Pepsi Smash) have attempted to capture their own exclusive studio performance moments, nothing beats holding the house phone hostage so no uses it so you could use dial-up to watch your faves spill the tea on their album and sing your favorite cut track.

In the spirit of nostalgia, we compiled a list of 20 memorable performances from the online music concert series. (Sidenote: Can you guess how we ranked the list? The answer is at the end)

Mario – “How Could You” (2005)

Mario brought his underrated vocals to Sessions @ AOL to perform his top-20 hit “How Could You” from his Turning Point album.

Keri Hilson – “Let Me Down / Beautiful Mistake” (2011)

Following the release of 2010’s No Boys Allowed, the singer-songwriter stormed Sessions to sing cuts off the new album including “Beautiful Mistake.”

Chrisette Michele – “Be Ok” (2009)

Fresh off the release of her album Epiphany, Michele revisited her I Am era with a sensational performance of “Be Ok.” The uptempo number won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Keyshia Cole – “Love” (2005)

Sporting her signature orange hair and a casual outfit, The Way it Is singer belted her powerful ballad “Love” for online viewers.

Monica – “It All Belongs to Me” (2012)

While this Rico Love-written track is a duet with Brandy, the New Life vocalist stripped down the record and took it on alone with some help from three backup singers.

Jennifer Hudson – “I Remember Me” (2011)

There are not many artists who can sit on a stool, sing their hearts out and still be on key. Jennifer Hudson is one of them. She delivered a stellar performance of “I Remember Me,” the title track of her 2011 album.

Tyrese – “Stay” (2012)

Tyrese accepted an Open Invitation to AOL Sessions in 2012 where he performed his soulful tune “Stay.” The song spent 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart.

Ashanti – “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” (2003)

The then-Murder Inc front-women was on point with all aww babies for her first time at Sessions. And catch how Ashanti barely opened her eyes during this performance of “Rock wit U (Awww Baby).” We love a dizzy queen.

Faith Evans – “I Love You” (2005)

The First Lady had viewers in their feelings with “I Love You” from her 2001 album Faithfully. Did you peep Meelah, lead singer of 702, singing backup?

Toni Braxton – “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (2005)

The sultry tone diva came to Sessions to promote material from her Libra album. She also revisited The Heat era and sung “He Wasn’t Man Enough” alongside her sisters Trina and Tamar Braxton.

Fantasia – “Bittersweet” (2010)

Donning a black dress with silver shoulder embroidery, the Back to Me singer left it all on stage with her mind-blowing performance of “Bittersweet.” She reprised the emotionally charged ballad with more personal lyrics.

The-Dream – “I Luv Your Girl” (2013)

The Radio Killa paid a visit to AOL Sessions in 2013 to promote IV Play. While there, the versatile musician dropped the auto-tune and bared his natural singing voice for his wavy performance of “I Luv Your Girl” off his debut album, Love Hate.

Ne-Yo – “So Sick” (2006)

The singer-songwriter had us “So Sick” with his first-ever AOL Music Sessions visit. The heartbreak song topped several Billboard charts including the Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks.

Chris Brown – “Winner” (2006)

The young Breezy had girls all over the world screaming at their computer screens with his performance of “Winner” off his self-titled album.

Brian McKnight — “Back to One” (2003)

Brian McKnight was one of the first R&B artists to grace the AOL studio. He performed his classic song “Back at One” from his 1999 album under the same name.

Earth Wind & Fire – “The Way You Move” (2005)

Supported by a full band, the legendary group got us out our seats to dance along to “The Way You Move” from their 2005 Illumination album.

Kelly Rowland – “Like This” featuring Eve (2007)

Ms. Kelly invited rapper Eve to perform their fierce collaboration “Like This.” Hopefully, no one hurt themselves trying to reenact this dance number.

John Legend – “So High” (2004)

Seated behind his instrument of choice, Legend had us levitating as he wonderfully sung “So High” from his debut album, Get Lifted.

Alicia Keys – “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – (2010)

Alicia Keys rarely steps from behind her piano to perform music. But she did for the majority of her 2010 Sessions to perform past and present tunes including “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” from The Element of Freedom.

Mary J. Blige – “Take Me As I Am” (2005)

It was all or nothing at all with the Queen of the Hip Hop Soul’s moving performance of “Take Me As I Am” from The Breakthrough.

Rihanna – “Unfaithful” (2007)

The Unapologetic artist starred on the Sessions for three album eras: A Girl Like Me, Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R. Her amazing performance of “Unfaithful” in 2007 is a standout though.

Beyoncé – “Me, Myself and I” (2008)

Although she was there to promote B’Day and its singles (“Irreplaceable”), it was Yoncé’s breathing performance of “Me, Myself and I” alongside her incredible background singers The Mamas that stole the show.

Give up yet? The list of performances was ranked by the artists’ number of Grammy nominations. Beyoncé has the most (63) nods out of all the artists featured on this list while Mario and Keri Hilson have the least (2).

Monica’s ‘The Boy is Mine’ Album: Every Song Ranked 20 Years Later

On July 14, 1998 — just three days shy of the third anniversary of her debut album Miss Thang — Monica released her sophomore effort The Boy is Mine. The album was named after her uber-successful duet with fellow R&B teen Brandy who had released her second album a month prior.

While the title track was issued as the lead single for both vocalists project, they both followed up quickly with their own respective solo singles. “The First Night,” Monica’s second (first) single, was sent to radio a day before LP’s release date.

For The Boy is Mine, the 17-year-old singer defined the new batch of songs a “natural progression” from her debut. “I was 13; the themes weren’t as mature,” she told Billboard in a 1998 interview. “I’m trying to portray a more assertive young female. It’s fine to be a teen female, but there are certain decisions they must with assurance. I’m 17 now; my lyrics aren’t sexually explicit but are about love and being in love. I speak on those subjects for what I know them to be.”

Monica’s newfound maturity, enhanced confidence and tender outlook on relationships resonated with those in and out of love. The Boy is Mine entered the Billboard 200 at No. 8, selling 91,000 copies in its first week sales. The 13-track LP garnered multi-platinum success and a grand total of three number one singles (“The Boy is Mine,” “Angel of Mine” and “The First Night”) on the Billboard Hot 100.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Monica’s album The Boy is Mine, Rated R&B has ranked the songs from minimal rotation (worse) to heavy (best) rotation.

13. “Take Him Back”

Every album has its fillers and I guess this dull recording slipped through the track list cracks.

12. “‘Cross the Room”

Out of the LP’s 13-tracks, this party-starter anthem is definitely one that finds the crowd telling the DJ to turn it all the way down.

11. “Gone Be Fine” featuring Outkast

Even with tight production and a brief appearance from Outkast, something is still missing from what was supposed to be a bomb collaboration.

10. “I Keep It To Myself”

It’s a good song but the melody and chilled production of this dreamy slow jam sounds too similar to records from Xscape’s catalog.

9. “Right Here Waiting” featuring 112

Evidently, Monica’s then-label Artista had a point to prove to listeners and critics with a second cover of another classic. To be honest, it wasn’t necessary. It was an enjoyable remake, though.

8. “Misty Blue”

Monica deserves an applause for her stirring rendition of Dorothy Moore’s signature selection.

7. “Ring Da Bell”

Before Beyonce rang the alarm, Monica made noise with this Dallas Austin-produced track. On the verses, she used a slow and deliberate vocal approach to get her point across to her disrespectful lover.

6. “Inside”

On this emotionally-triggering ballad, Monica does a fantastic job flaunting her vocal range as she discusses the matters of the heart.

5. “Angel of Mine”

After listening to Monica’s two other covers on this album, this remake is in a league of its own. Her vocal poise almost shares similar singing moments of big-name vocalists.

4. “Street Symphony”

Like first impressions, the opening track on an album can set the tone for the rest of the project. As expected, Monica kept fans interested in hearing more of the album but not without getting us to press repeat on this underrated gem.

3. “The First Night”

Jermaine Dupri was in his bag with this one and Monica knew it. That’s why she rode the So So Def beat with a level of sophistication and street edge.

2. “The Boy is Mine” duet with Brandy

Yes, collecting numerous accolades and going number one is great but the question has always remained: who won the vocal catfight on this record? Let’s just say, “The song might be yours, but the album title is mine.”

1. “For You, I Will”

Ahead of Monica’s duet success with her teen counterpart, Monica had already bagged her own crossover hit. The Diane Warren-penned ballad, from the Space Jam soundtrack, solidified her place in pop culture.

Did we get the order right? Let us know.  Follow An’Twane on Twitter at @9thwonderofPR.

Send this to a friend