When Usher was making “My Way” — his 1997 multiplatinum album that made him a teen sensation — he was emboldened by such R&B classics as Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel.” But more surprisingly, the young artist also took special inspiration from a certain blue-eyed crooner: Frank Sinatra.
“It was Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ song that made me think about naming an album ‘My Way,’ ” Usher, 43, told The Post. “My girlfriend at the time was educating me, and she made me listen to it. I’m like, ‘That’s an incredible song!’ And that was my first time ever listening to Frank Sinatra at that age.”
Now, 25 years after “My Way” was released on Sept. 16, 1997 — when Usher was just 18 — the eight-time Grammy winner is celebrating how he became a superstar by doing it his way on his second LP. And the album — which has sold more than seven million copies thanks to the hits “You Make Me Wanna…,” “Nice & Slow” and the title track — is being given a silver salute with “My Way 25th Anniversary Edition,” which will be released on Friday. There will also be a mini-documentary, “Usher: 25 Years of My Way,” available on the singer’s YouTube channel.
Usher was in make-or-break mode going into “My Way.” In 1994, when he was just 15, his self-titled debut came out on LaFace Records — the same label that had launched the careers of TLC, Toni Braxton and OutKast — but it was a disappointment.
“They had spent so much money on my first album,” he said. “I’ve gone back and talked to people, and they were like, ‘They were about to drop you [from the label]. It was over if you didn’t perform on that next album.’ ”
While nervous about losing his career, Usher was also worried about losing his voice, which — once the testosterone kicked in — had changed in the years since he recorded his debut. “I lost it, and it just didn’t come as easy,” he said. “So I had to work hard with vocal coaches.”
But Usher found the perfect producer in Jermaine Dupri, who was behind the boards for most of “My Way” and created a sound that was “like hip-hop and R&B having a baby” on the album.
“When I first started, I didn’t know how to write, and he helped build my confidence to talk about my things and offer my perspective on how I thought melodies should go and what words I should say,” Usher said. “We inspire each other; we push each other to be great. But it is a relationship that far exceeds just music. He’s somebody that I love, I cherish.”
Usher also landed one of the hottest producers in the ’90s R&B game in Babyface, who was the “Face” in LaFace Records. “He was inspiring me before I was even signed. He was making music that was shaping [me] as a child,” he said. “When he produced Bobby Brown, there was no bigger icon at that time for me.”
Indeed, Brown was also a key influence on “My Way” with his “My Prerogative” swagger. “The unapologetic nature of that song represented how he was really doing it his way,” said Usher.
And if you’re wondering if an 18-year-old Usher was really mature enough to be doing sexy slow jams such as “Nice & Slow,” he said that he was singing from experience.
“The truth is, I was much more mature than your average 18-year-old,” he said. “So, the fact that I was talking about [sex] was authentic. I naturally grew into being able to do those songs.”