If you didn't know there was new Usher music coming, don't feel bad—these songs didn't even exist mere days before this release. Writing and recording in Atlanta, he and producer Zaytoven knocked out eight songs during a five-day sprint, all set to drop on Usher's 40th birthday. He put down his plate of birthday cake to tell Apple Music about the project's fast genesis.
What feels different to you about putting out music at age 40 compared to, say, 25?
When I was 25, I didn't have to think as much because I didn't have an expectation to live up to. The more successful you are, the more you analyse where you are and what you should put out, and what people want. But when you give them the choice to just be in the moment as opposed to saying, “Pay attention to the single”—people want to feel like they're connected to where you are, not to a campaign.
So none of this was planned before a week ago?
We did not plan on making an album. I don't think it was one song or moment where we realized. Stuff was just coming out. Zaytoven worked on a lot of tracks in the moment based off our conversations. This happened in a very organic fashion; 48 hours ago I decided, “Let's put this out on my birthday.”
The “A” is for Atlanta, and you have Future and Gunna on here. What is it about the city right now that made you want to write this love letter to it?
I'm not certain I would call it a love letter. I think Atlanta is about collaboration around genre and feelings, not a sound. It's a melting pot. It's not Nashville, where it's just country; it's not Los Angeles with gang culture; it's not Chicago, where it's a specific feeling. Atlanta is inclusive of all things—it's melodic, it's trap, a little R&B. It's all of those things in one song.
What do you want people to get out of this project?
I want people to download it and feel the freedom of where we were when we were creating it. I want them to feel the spontaneity of what happened. I want them to celebrate with me knowing this is a soundtrack for an amazing moment that just happened between me and Zaytoven.