Usher's New Single, “Papers,” Rubs Me The Wrong Way

BY: - 5 Nov '09 | Home

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by Tara Pringle Jefferson

I’ve been a big Usher fan since his “My Way” days. I was excited to see him get married and have his face plastered all over Essence magazine declaring his love for his wife and his son. I thought it was beautiful.

But now that things have gone south in their marriage and divorce is imminent, Usher released “Papers” as his comeback single and I ain’t feeling it. Not at all.

With lyrics like, “I know it’s you I love, but then I also know it’s you I don’t like,” and a lackluster melody, the song just rubs me the wrong way. A song that takes one of the most gut-wrenching situations a person can go through and makes it fit a beat for entertainment purposes. Makes me squirm a little, like I’m overhearing a private conversation between Usher and Tameka.

Now, I realize, with a 50% divorce rate (I really want to see the source of that oft-quoted statistic), that there are a lot of people who might feel comforted by the song, who are nodding their heads in agreement saying, “It’s about damn time we had someone looking out for us!”

But regardless of what it means to the public at large, what about his kids? Yes, you can argue that the lyrics aren’t necessarily autobiographical, but what do you think his kids will think hearing the song a little later on, knowing the circumstances surrounding the studio sessions?

And I know Usher’s not the first artist to use his personal tribulations to propel his career forward, but for something that’s so raw and so recent, it seems odd.

What do you think? Should “Papers” become the new anthem for people mid-divorce? Is it too soon to be singing about signing papers when the ink isn’t even on the papers yet?

Tara Pringle Jefferson is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and two children. Visit her blog,, to read more of her observations about life, motherhood and love.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2229 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.


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25 WordPress comments on “Usher's New Single, “Papers,” Rubs Me The Wrong Way

  1. lynn

    I feel it was a way for him to express himself. Do I think it should be an anthem? No. Do I think it is too soon, No. The DNA test is enough reason for anyone to know he does not trust his wife. This song I think is just a part 2.

  2. DonielleMichele

    What people have to understand is that artists make music (and/or sing music b/c we all know they don’t always write their own songs) to express how they feel and what they are going thru. <—-Huge run on sentence….lol. The same way Tameka tweets about personal things going on, Usher sings about it. Well actually we live in a world where everything is revealed in a tweet or status update. People living in the spotlight have it hard and see their lives played out in tabloids, blogs, vlogs and papers EVERYDAY. I can only imagine how daunting it must be to go thru year after year. I mean NOTHING is personal to them anymore even if they try. I look at the song as Usher taking his life in his own hands and giving the world a piece of him that USHER feels should be said. Song or no song, this divorce is going to get plastered all over the internet and papers around the globe. Just as in death, we all mourn and deal with situations differently. So, I think this is Usher’s way of dealing with things. Whether others agree or not isn’t really important. What is important is this family dealing with life the best way they know how. As for the children, I don’t think (and I put a HUGE “THINK” in there b/c you never know) they will be affected so much by this song. It’s not a Kelis “I hate you so much right now” track. It just sounds like his heart is bleeding and he says things in a mild way. When he says “I done darn near lost my momma, I done been thru so much drama…..I turned into a man I never thought I would” is REAL. He’s not calling her out of her name like so many other men do. I’m gonna stop typing a book and just say I have no problem with the song. It is not now nor will it EVER be an anthem for me so I am good……lol!!!!

  3. Aja

    I personally just think that it is an attempt to sell a song that frankly isn’t that good. Because it happens to be about the divorce between he and Tameka people will at least want to hear what it has to say and it will get some radio play.We live in a time where every one’s life situations are played out in public whether its on twitter, in music, or on reality tv. Does it rub me the wrong way? Maybe a little but it pales in comparison to messes like the Jon and Kate plus 8 nonsense.

  4. ginag

    Ugh. I never really cared for Usher’s music, and this just seals the deal on why. He’s made a career on capitalizing on his personal life, and while that’s certainly acceptable, his work seems to center more on sensationalism than honesty or even plain old good music. But then again, he’s not alone in that so at least he has company.

    I’d rather listen to Anthony Hamilton or Musiq.

  5. busybodyk

    No. There shouldn’t be divorce carols. LOL Seriously, I think its tacky (but there is a lot of music on the radio that is…). I feel bad for his kids. But I think we knew who usher was back when Confessions came out which was a #1 song. I think he’s trying to get that moment back. I need him to grow up. I think it contributes to the negative attitude about marriage in our society.

  6. Tara

    Actually, I think my whole beef with the whole song is that it’s just NOT GOOD. I heard it the first time and said, “Wait, what? That’s it? This is his ‘comeback’ single? NEXT!”

    I guess also (and this was a rumor I heard…I hate rumors) was that Usher wasn’t going to sign the divorce papers until the day his CD came out…I thought that was tacky. Please tell me if that rumor was just made up. Please tell me that’s not true.

  7. Anna

    I haven’t heard the song but read some of the lyrics. A divorce hurts and there are no winners. I just wish ppl could set their differences aside and keep some things to themselves. We did not see the gloves come out when Christy Brinkley divorced her cheating husband. Yes Usher lives through his music and Tameka likes to tweet. They both need to grow up. Usher wanted a paternity test, I think he only wanted it to hurt Tameka, or for the reaction his fans were going to have(he is trying to make her look bad for his gain). I don’t think Tameka would be dumb enough to cheat on him and try to pass the child off as his. The title of the song and the words is “hitting below the belt”. He does not have to love his ex but he has to like her enough to respect her because she will forever be the mother of his sons.

  8. Sydney Molare

    Usher needs to grow up and get a management team that presents him like a grown man. The fact that his last two albums contained “personal” songs that put his business in the streets is really in poor taste. I mean, husbands and wives share EVERYTHING. Then to have your life splashed out in the media…he would be someone I’d never ever consider as a mate. Can’t trust him. It’s like those reporter who say, “Off the record” and later it shows up. Private is private until HE wants to use it for something.

    Poor taste, Usher. Grow up cause we got enough men with the age requirement but not the action requirement to be considered adults.

  9. Anna Renee

    I haven’t heard the song, but it seems that a lot of artists use their life experiences for their art. There ought to be a line drawn somewhere, though. Does his song speak about his own issues, I wonder? If the artist does it right and is honest, this kind of song could teach people, rather than just air out dirty laundry!

  10. Political Music

    “A song that takes one of the most gut-wrenching situations a person can go through and makes it fit a beat for entertainment purposes. Makes me squirm a little, like Im overhearing a private conversation between Usher and Tameka.”

    If we stood by that rule, that would pretty much destroy art as we know it — In particular music. Think about all of the songs surrounding sorrow, sadness, death, breakups?!

    Just a few off top…

    – Lauryn Hill Ex-Factor
    – How can you mend a broken heart – Al Green
    – Not Gone’ Cry – Mary J
    – Baby When I used to Love You – John Legend
    – Unbreak my heart – Toni
    – Call Tyrone – Erykah
    – Get Gone – Ideal
    – It’s so Hard to say goodbye – Boyz II Men (remake)

    An artist takes their real life experiences and share it with a wide audience. Divorce is a real epidemic. You are correct, that divorce is painful and people go through it.

    To allude that Usher’s song is tacky I think may be a little misplaced. He is only mirroring what is acceptable and happening around him …showing that through art. I know that we want to promote marriage through this site, but there are certain instances, where people SHOULD get divorced or SHOULD sign papers. (I’m sure we can all think of at least ONE couple that have been legally married and separated for years – have we considered that his intentions was actually to convey a message to someone going through that phase of their life?) And I don’t think that Usher’s message is so powerful that it is having a real impact on increasing divorces! I mean getting married is an issue itself! Getting out of a bad marriage is another topic (and there is nothing inconsistent about promoting a healthy marriage and believing that there are some instances where you need to sign papers).

    As far as his personal kids, that is a situation that we have so little knowledge about, it’s sheer speculation. I’m not in the business of e-parenting for celebrities kids. I’m sure they have (or will have) an understanding with parents who are famous.

    I am okay with saying the song is “bad quality” because you don’t like it. However, I think the beef should be with divorce as an epidemic in general and not with Usher.

    I think “happy art” and censoring realistic situations that people go through is ultimately bad for everyone and a very slippery slope.

    In the words of Mos Def

    “Hip-Hop ain’t gone’ get no better until the community gets better.”

    Better of course… is subjective.

  11. Lovely

    You know I feel really bad now that u broke it down. At first the melody really had me flowing with the melody. I didn’t listen to all the words carefully, as graceful and sexy as the melody is, it sounds like a love song. The words are strong, dealing with his mother’s distance since the relationship but it doesn’t sound like he’s hurting. I’ve love Usher since 97′ and can’t judge him too harsh. But putting himself in her shoes and thinking about his son, he should have had a little more consideration. Its like he can’t wait to get his divorce. Thank goodness for sites like this that appreciate and uplift healthy relationships amongst African Americans. I know no one goes into to get divorced (i hope) but I think that many couples are are using it as an excuse not to deal with the issues in their relationship. I’m not in it so I really can’t say much. I do remember this, what I remembered most about the blog a while ago showing Will and Jada, they had an understanding that whatever they go through in their marriage, divorce was not an option. Of course this does not include spousal abuse or severe neglect or issues that really can make a person go crazy. But it seems as if its the new “in” thing to do.

  12. Lovely

    What makes it even more selfish is that when Usher did get married his sales dropped and many of his fans made it known. I’m not saying this is why, but I had my own thought. What if Usher was pretending to get divorced until the album dropped and then after he made his money, now he and his wife would be “reconciling”? Now that would be funny.

  13. DonielleMichele

    Political Music…… Amen Amen and Amen! That is exactly right! I can definitely think of albums (yes, whole albums) that are geared towards cheating, lust, love, abuse and even getting knocked up! All throughout history songs have been the gateway for expressing your feelings. If you give me a song, I will point out the message behind it. Usher has done nothing wrong here, it is his ART and we line up to buy it. Anybody from Shakespeare to Jay Z has written a poem or song that reflects life. I wonder if the song would be more “acceptable” if he wasn’t going through a divorce right now and was just singing about it…..hmmmmmm. Divorce is a very touchy subject but it is REAL just like marriage. Here’s a thought……. Think of one of the most trying times in your life and then think of a song that matches those feelings. There are so many songs that can make a person break down and cry and pull them together at the same time. There is power and healing in music, there’s no denying that.

  14. Tara

    Okay, so I’ve finally figured out why I hate the song (besides the fact that I just think musically it’s boring).

    Yes, artists have always used music to express themselves. Political (Pete…LOL) Music – I have no problem with this point. In case, the first song you mentioned, Lauryn Hill’s Ex Factor was on repeat when breaking up with my boyfriend. I understand how songs that might be full of pain can also be used for the entertainment value or to help someone cope.

    But what I don’t like is this song coupled with all the drama surrounding the dissolution of their marriage.

    I don’t really fault Usher, because he’s been in the game a long time and really, being a singer in the public light is all he’s known. But when you have his wife blogging and tweeting about their relationship, rumors flying everywhere, he delays signing the divorce papers just as this single comes out – it just strikes me as incredibly tacky.

    Does my point of view make sense? It’s not necessarily the song itself, which I think is somewhat mild…

  15. Ronnie

    This song rubs me the wrong way too…I think because to me the ink is not dry yet. (but I really don’t know what the status of their marriage is so I can’t judge.)

    Also, he fought so hard to show the world that he was in love with Tameka. Then they got married and had kids and now this!! Are they really giving their marriage a chance…are they fighting for their marriage?

  16. Cheryl Lynn Pope

    Love is personal and private but it can also be entertaining. Who knows, maybe this is Usher’s threapy. Maybe he needed to get it out to keep from crying. We never know why a person does what he does out of love. Let’s just pray that everything works out.
    BTW , I never wanted him with her, though. I thought Usher and Chili should have stayed together. I’m just saying 🙂

  17. Anna

    Usher should be by himself and stay by himself. I get so tired of people wanting him with Chili(no disrespect to your comment Cheryl). Love is personal and private and should only be entertaining when it’s positive. or is a way to heal or help. Where is the heal or help in is short lived marriage? Hubby and I debated in our own home on cell phones about this song. He (hubby) does think this is a “anthem” for men. I said “what anthem”” (we both believe that divorce is not a option). Hubby still thinks that the song is ok. I told him that it is not and that Usher is a punk azz man who dissed his wife. Hubby thinks that the song was not about his wife. What the heck is my hubby takling about? (did we not listen to the same song).

    My hubby has no kids and I am his only/first wife.(that is why I understand his thinking). But his thinking is wrong. A man should not diss his wife, the mother of his children no matter how much you hate or dislike them. Of course I put my foot in my mouth when I said to hubby ” you don’t have kids”. He has been in my kids lives for over a decade and they to him our his kids, but he gets/got the fun of being the peace keeper. He bakes something for the kids after/while I get the chosen task of disapline. Of course I would not have it any other way, but that is not the point. Usher is wrong. You don’t talk ill of your ex and make a song about it or put it on twittter. I like Tameka and I wish her the best. I lost respect more for Usher than his ex wife.

  18. Pingback: Link Love Roundup: What We’re Reading… | Clutch Magazine: The Digital Magazine for the Young, Contemporary Woman of Color

  19. ToBeHonest

    Of course you hate the song, because it speaks the truth about who’s mostly the bad apple in the marriage and files the most divorces (women). They do it for money, and it is wrong (even if it’s her who messes up the marriage by cheating or saying she’s bored). That’s why no sane well-being man will get married in this day and age (no one wants to be less than #1 on a woman’s “list”). These women don’t want to do anything (work/cook/work out problems) but will divorce or put someone on child-support in a heartbeat. Pathetic. I’m appauled.

  20. Mariesa

    I think that the song is just not very good, like all of his songs. I was squirming through the whole thing. This is a very sensitive and private subject and they both need to do a better job at keeping it that way. I do also feel they aren’t giving it a chance to work. I mean in “real life” dealing with having kids back to back, having a near-death experience, and in-law issues can cause a lot of friction between a couple. And then add the celebrity factor on to it… So difficult… But not a reason to get divorced! He fought so hard, what happened? They need to try and work it out. People are running from their marriages too quick these days. We live in a world of Instant gratification, and when things get bad we just throw em out and get another. It’s sad…

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I’ve Been To Prison

BY: - 6 Nov '09 | Home

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by Harriet Hairston

L’il Wayne is on his way to prison, and T.I. is on his way out.   I’m sure  an  existence behind bars is nothing short of nightmarish.   I’ve been there, done that.   Yet every single day, some people choose to create  a prison within their minds that keeps them stuck in solitary confinement.   I’ve been to that horrible place.

  • You have to watch your back on every turn, otherwise another offender may attack you.   In a marriage, a person’s spouse may have done something wrong, and if that offense is not forgiven, everything that spouse does from that point on is colored through the lens of that wrong doing.
  • Everything you say is scrutinized.   In a marriage, disagreements quickly degenerate to historical arguments about what a spouse did or didn’t do in the past, and that historical record is rehearsed in the mind of the offended spouse over and over again.
  • You have no privacy at all.   Whatever is on an offended person’s heart regarding any wrong doing will inevitably utter from their lips.
  • You lose your identity.   Because a person has not forgiven the wrong doing, they begin to transform into the very person that did them wrong!   In a marriage, it may  not be an outright act of revenge, but because an offense has not been forgiven,  it shuts off the fountain for positive emotional development.
  • I don’t think I had one good night’s rest when I was in that place.   Not ONE.   I couldn’t sleep because pictures of the offense kept playing over and over again on the HD screen of my mind.

Such is life for a person who insists upon holding grudges, refusing to forgive the person that offended them.   I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…unforgiveness is TOXIC!   It not only poisons marriages, but also physical bodies.   Studies have shown that holding grudges can cause cardiovascular disorders, ulcers, loss of hair, pain disorders and compromised immune systems.   During this era of swine flu, it would behoove anybody to give forgiveness a try. LOL

Delores Williams wrote an article containing seven keys to forgiving others. Here is a summary of those keys:

  1. To forgive, you need to be the one that was injured.   Stop taking on the offenses of other people and holding them against someone that did you no harm.
  2. Forgiveness does not absolve a person of the accountability regarding their offense against you.   It simply frees a person from the prison of a grudge.
  3. Since it is an act of grace, forgiveness must be unconditional.   This does not mean to cast off all common sense.   It simply means that an offender is no longer taking up rent free space in your mind and emotions.
  4. Forgiveness is an empowering act for the forgiver, not the offender.
  5. Forgiveness may take time.   Some offenses have deep roots and a person may not be able to untangle the web in one sitting.   Give yourself some time, but make up your mind to forgive.
  6. Forgiveness is emotionally and spiritually liberating, and you will find yourself more open to ask forgiveness for your own transgressions when you forgive others of theirs.
  7. Forgiveness is a CHOICE, not a feeling, much like love is an action, not an emotion.

BMWK, how have you  dealt with the offenses of others–more specifically–your spouse?   Is there anything  that your spouse could do that you would consider unforgivable?

God bless!

~ Harriet

Harriet Hairston, a  freelance writer, human  resources administrator at an HBCU and creator of  the motivational blog, “Can She SAY  That?!?” has a unique style that  brings readers into her life through her transparent demeanor.  She lives in Louisiana with her husband  and two sons.   You can reach her at

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2229 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.


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