Producer: Jermaine Dupri, Manuel Seal
Album: My Way
Label: LaFace/Arista

Usher should never forgive the people who didn’t listen to his criminally under-appreciated debut album. But in hindsight, the failure of that project rightly forced the label to step away from Puff Daddy and turn to Jermaine Dupri. Puffy was skilled at putting together a team that could cultivate a certain sound, but that sound often said more about the team than the artist singing. By contrast, Dupri helped Usher create his own thing with “You Make Me Wanna.” It dealt with relationships, but in a way that didn’t sound “too adult” like previous songs. Likewise, the upbeat track better suited Usher’s then-youthful vocals. Usher had plenty of opportunities to sing about love and sex, but he needed to do so in a more age-appropriate way. Dupri provided that with “You Make Me Wanna,” and it’s a great thing that he did. If Usher had stuck with Diddy, he might have turned into Sammie. —Michael Arceneaux