Around this time in April 2004, Usher’s “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris was dominating the Billboard Hot 100 chart. (It spent 12 weeks at No. 1.)
The crunk&b hit was the lead single from Usher’s fourth album, Confessions, which later became his magnum opus. A then-budding Sean Garrett was part of the team that worked on “Yeah!” as well as “Red Light,” a deep cut from Confessions (Special Edition).
Since the Confessions era, Garrett went on to write and produce hits for other artists such as Beyoncé (“Ring the Alarm”), Ciara (“Goodies”), Destiny’s Child (“Lose My Breath”), Chris Brown (“Run It!”) and The Pussycat Dolls (“Buttons”), among many others.
Garrett later linked with Usher for his 2010 album, Raymond v. Raymond, which included penning the lead-off “Papers.” The breakup anthem peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Fast forward to 2023: In March, Usher released “GLU” via the newly-founded Gamma label as his first proper single since 2020’s “Bad Habits.” The sticky bedroom jam is the lead single from Usher’s highly anticipated ninth album, which has been in the works over the last few years. In 2019, Usher teased the idea of a Confessions 2 but later pivoted from that idea.
Garrett co-produced “GLU” with Usher’s other longtime collaborators Lil Jon and The Avila Brothers; they all serve as co-writers, along with Usher.
When Garrett was recruited for Usher’s upcoming album, his intentions were clear: to make something special. “It’s coming up on our 20th anniversary of ‘Yeah!’ which was a blockbuster record we did for Usher. It was important this time when we came together to do something really special,” Garrett tells Rated R&B on a video call from a dimly lit recording studio, where he’s rocking his stunna shades.
In Rated R&B’s interview with Sean Garrett, the prolific songwriter and producer talks more about reuniting with Usher, shares his experience creating “GLU” and teases other projects he’s working on, including Summer Walker’s next album.
How did “GLU” come about?
Usher had been working on the album for a little while now. Me and LA [Reid] was talking. He wanted me to work on something that was unique. We knew we needed to do a record that was sort of explosive coming out the door. This being a very important album for Usher, I ended up calling Lil Jon. This is the first time that me and Lil Jon got a chance to work together again. We went out to Vegas and decided that we were gonna put something together that was very special for Usher. Jon called my other brother Bobby [Ross Avila], who’s an amazing producer who plays every instrument. I was basically telling the guys that we needed to put together something that was extremely sexy. At the same time, I wanted to also put together one of the best vocal performances possible. It was time to really go back to the essence of R&B [and] the essence of Usher, but elevating him in a way that would be unique and, to a certain extent, in a way that people hadn’t heard him before.
You’ve worked with Usher in the past, including on 2004’s Confessions. How would you describe your experience working with him nearly two decades later?
This song, for me, was something I wanted to be very special. It’s coming up on our 20th anniversary of “Yeah!” which was a blockbuster record that we did for Usher. It’s the biggest song of his career. It was important this time when we came together to do something special. Also, I wanted to have my dog’s back. It was important to me to be really supportive of Usher. He’s our brother. He’s one of the greatest entertainers alive. I wanted to be there to help [and] bring it home for him in a way to let people know how incredible he is by the vocal performance.
What’s beautiful about today is it’s fun to see that everybody’s growing up. Everybody’s mature. But at the same time, we still loving what we’re doing. It’s still exciting. I think creating that excitement of trying to push each other to the next level is a big piece to the puzzle. I’m very competitive, and so is [Lil] Jon, Usher, LA [Reid], of course, and my man Bobby. It is like if it is not changing the world, or if it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be something that’s going to push the limits, then I feel like what are we doing?
What was the creative intent behind “GLU”?
I felt like the concept had to be extremely unique. It had to be said in a way that was straddling the line a bit but comes across where everyone can enjoy it. And kind of getting back to just making a woman feel good; that’s what Usher does. He goes crazy with the vocals and it’s truly what R&B music is. We took every piece to the song and took our time to put it together properly to make sure that it felt amazing and was an elevation of what R&B has been happening for late. We wanted to make sure that this was gonna be something that everybody would love.
How much time did you all spend writing and recording “GLU”?
Writing the song didn’t take that long, but it was important to make sure the title and the concept were on point, and it all went together. The word ‘glue’ in this song is used as a double entendre. It’s sexy. It’s a sticky thing, which we like, but at the same time, the word ‘glue’ is about it all being together. The relationship or you loving somebody and that glue is something that bond that you build with someone. I think it worked out.
Usher has been working on his ninth album for the last few years. At what point were you brought in and did you only work on “GLU” or did you contribute more?
I think what happened was they were actually working on Usher’s album. I popped in a little bit but I think it became more intense when LA Reid came back in. I think they were probably going through an issue of choosing things, a direction and things of that sort. I think LA [Reid] came in and definitely helped get things in a position where it had sort of a direction. Not to speak for him, but I think his goal was to just heighten the intent of the album with types of records getting ushered to a space that reminds people that [Usher is] one of the best ever.
When you all were working on “GLU,” did you know or have an idea that it would be the lead single for Usher?
To be very honest with you, that was the goal. You know me…(laughs). We wanted to knock Usher off his feet. We wanted to give LA [Reid] something that we felt was incredible. It was a blessing in disguise too because this is the first record off of the new Gamma label. Congrats and much love to brother Larry Jackson and his comrades that he partnered up with. It was a special time, the launch of the new label. We wanted to give people something special — that excitement that we missed when something was dropping.
What’s next for Sean Garrett?
Man, I’m excited about finishing up the album with the guys, as well as working on new music for myself — this new album. I’ve been working on it for a minute but it was just about it all coming together at the right time. I’m working on quite a few other projects for some new artists. [I’m] definitely gonna go back in the studio with Summer [Walker]. This project, [Clear 2], she did herself. Pretty much, the way they do their albums with her, they got this little wave of how they do it. But this next album I’m definitely gonna participate on. I’m excited for her and proud of her. To see lil’ sis really growing and coming to her own, is amazing. I’m definitely excited about working with her.
Stream Usher’s new single “GLU” below.