In The Ones of the ‘10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.
Usher- OMG (feat. will.i.am)
HIT #1: May 15, 2010
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
No matter how big of a star you are, you have to keep up with what’s trending in music. A few artists can do just fine making hits without following trends. But in an industry where people quickly move on to the next big thing, it’s important for many artists to be current or risk losing your audience and chart success. It’s especially true if you’re an artist that’s been around for more than a decade making many big hits but now has a moderately performing album with no big hits. That’s basically the story of Usher and “OMG.”
Born in Dallas and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Usher Raymond IV started out singing in his local church’s youth choir directed by his mother. His family soon discovered Usher’s potential in music and moved to Atlanta in the hopes that moving to a big city would help Usher in getting a singing career. He continued to work his way up forming an R&B group called NuBeginnings, singing in various talent shows, and appeared on the TV talent show program Star Search. It was his performance on Star Search that caught the attention of an A&R representative from LaFace Records.
Right after, Usher got an audition with LaFace Records’ co-founder L.A. Reid who signed him immediately. But it almost fell apart as Usher went through puberty while making his debut album and had trouble adjusting his new voice. L.A. Reid almost considered dropping Usher right away but instead sent him to New York to be with P. Diddy, who would co-produce his debut album. Released in 1994, Usher’s self-titled debut album was a commercial failure and led to further doubts from L.A. Reid about Usher.
The next few years after, Usher continued to grow as a performer and artist eventually hooking up with producer and record executive Jermaine Dupri for his second album, 1997’s My Way. My Way would become his big mainstream breakthrough as its first single, “You Make Me Wanna…,” peaked at #2 behind Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” (It’s a 9.). The album would also yield Usher’s first #1 single, “Nice & Slow,” in February 1998 (It’s an 8.) and another Top 10 hit with the title track (“My Way” peaked at #2. It’s a 7.). His second album 8701 in 2001 continued the hit making streak with two more #1 hits, “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad,” (Both 8s) as well as the Top 10 hit “U Don’t Have To Call” (Peaked at #3. It’s also a 7.). All this success though couldn’t foreshadow what was to come.
With the release of 2004’s Confessions, Usher became a bonafide superstar. It launched four #1 hits, “Yeah!,” (A 10!) “Burn,” (Another 10!) “Confessions, Pt. II,” (A 9.) and the Alicia Keys collaboration “My Boo,” (Another 9.) as well as the Top 10 hit “Caught Up” (It peaked at #8. It’s a 6). “Yeah!” and “Burn” were the #1 and #2 songs of 2004 respectively. Confessions sold over 10 million copies in America becoming one of the few albums released in the 21st Century to be certified Diamond (10 million albums sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
In the wake of that massive success, Usher guested on other artists’ records and waited until 2008 to issue a follow up album, Here I Stand. The album launched another #1 hit with “Love In This Club” with Young Jeezy (A 6.) while the other singles underperformed. In 2010, Usher released Raymond v. Raymond inspired by his recent ugly divorce with stylist Tameka Foster. The album was meant to resemble Confessions in its dealing with the divorce and ugly relationship issues. Raymond v. Raymond was not a big seller in the way Confessions was. Its first three singles, “Papers,” “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” and “Lil Freak” were modest Top 40 hits. Like Rihanna with “Rude Boy” before, Usher needed a big pop smash. He got it and I can’t stand it.
“OMG” was written entirely by will.i.am who also produced and guest starred on the song. Like what will.i.am was doing with the Black Eyed Peas, “OMG” is more of the electropop music dominating pop in 2010 with the airy synths, mechanical sounding bass, and AutoTuned singing from both artists. There’s also breaks of crowd chanting trying to lend “OMG” an anthemic feel it fails to pull off. It comes across as annoying to be honest. Really, “OMG” is just a mess from a production standpoint. It’s no surprise will.i.am was behind it.
The song is Usher and will.i.am admiring a hot girl in a club and how she makes them so amazed that she makes them want to say, “Oh oh oh-oh oh, oh oh oh-oh oh/Oh oh oh-oh oh, oh oh, oh my gosh.” That’s not the only laughable line of the song. Usher tells a girl that he wants to love and break her down. He also comments on this girl’s appearance with, “Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow/Honey got some boobies like wow, oh wow.” A reminder these childish phrases are being sung by a then 31 year old man.
Usher sings “OMG” perfectly okay but it’s hard not to hear it as a downgrade for a man who years earlier was making bonafide pop and R&B classics. With the laughable title and lyrics, this is Usher wasting his talents. will.i.am’s verse is easily the most forgettable part of the song as he sounds indistinguishable with everything else. It’s like he’s trying his best to sound like Usher in the most boring way possible. And from the intro, it sounds like will.i.am’s trying to steal the show from Usher.
After having #1 hits in three different decades, Usher would never hit #1 again. He’d make the Top 10 three more times with the Pitbull collaboration “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” later in 2010, (It peaked at #4. It’s an 8. Pitbull will eventually appear in this column) 2011’s “Without You” with producer David Guetta, (It peaked at #4. It’s a 6.) and 2012’s “Scream” (It peaked at #9. It’s also a 6.). He’d continue making albums and scoring non Top 10 hits throughout the ‘10s to diminishing returns. He’s currently in the process of recording Confessions 2 due out later this year.
As for will.i.am, he’d have one more solo Top 10 hit with 2012’s “Scream & Shout” with Britney Spears which peaked at #3 (It’s a 2. Britney Spears will eventually appear in this column.). He would release as of tis moment his last solo album, #willpower, in 2013 though he’d continue producing songs for other artists. Since 2012, he’s been a judge on UK’s version of The Voice. Since 2017, he’s also been a judge on its kids version.
“OMG” was Billboard’s fifth biggest song of 2010. I remember it being played on the school bus in sixth grade a lot back in the day. But you don’t hear “OMG” much anymore. Not that I’m complaining.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s Usher on a Carpool Karaoke segment with James Corden where they sing “OMG” along with some of his other songs on a 2017 episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden
THE 10S OF THE ‘10S: La Roux’s empowering electropop jam “Bulletproof” peaked at #8 behind “OMG.” It’s an 8.