Lil Jon, Sean Garrett reunite for new Usher single and upcoming album

‘GLU’ is Usher’s first solo single in nearly 3 years.
Atlanta hitmakers Lil Jon and Sean Garrett created Usher's latest single "GLU." The pair are working on new music for the R&B superstar's highly anticipated album.

Credit: Reuben Chapman and Nick Onken

Credit: Reuben Chapman and Nick Onken

Atlanta hitmakers Lil Jon and Sean Garrett created Usher's latest single "GLU." The pair are working on new music for the R&B superstar's highly anticipated album.

Usher’s legacy is frequently debated online as if he isn’t one of the best-selling R&B artists of this century. Social media constantly pits him in a hypothetical Verzuz battle against his predecessor R. Kelly and Chris Brown, whom he almost mentored. Usher has more hits and has sold more records than both. And he has a timeless catalog of tracks, encapsulating sounds that range from pop to R&B to EDM, that cements a peerless career in popular music.

While working on new music for the R&B crooner, Lil Jon and his collaborators wanted to remind people of Usher’s superstar status. The Atlanta-based rapper and producer knows Usher has no true rival.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 15: <<enter caption here>> on July 15, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM)

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

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Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

“That definitely was crossing all our minds when we were making it just to show people how talented he is. He’s singing in a falsetto in this song, and it just shows his range,” he said. “People were probably expecting us to do an up-tempo or a club song for him to start, but to show him on this ballad and show his range and his singing ability, he’s still got it. He’s still Usher.”

‘GLU,’ Usher’s first solo single in roughly three years, does just that. It’s his first release under Gamma, the new music company created by former Apple Music executive Larry Jackson. The song, out today, is about four minutes of Usher singing almost entirely in his upper range, more than he has on any song he’s dropped in the past. Only the indelible falsetto chorus of 2012′s “Climax,” for which Usher earned a best R&B performance grammy, comes close to mirroring the tone and texture of “GLU.” But his latest single is more sultry and supple — reminiscent of the funk-tinged amatory pleasure and desire that soundtracked ‘80′s R&B. Adding to the song’s sensual appeal, model and bonafide it-girl Lori Harvey will star in the upcoming music video.

Usher sounds like he’s ready to make classic R&B songs again.

Produced and written by Sean Garrett, The Avila Brothers and Lil Jon, “GLU” features booming 808s and chronicles a steamy, sticky night of passion. But it’s Usher’s voice that truly defines the song. Testing the limits of Usher’s vocal capabilities is exactly what Sean Garrett intended to do when creating the song.

“We wanted to give Usher a record that would be game changing for his career again, and we also wanted to give him some superhero music, something that today people just don’t necessarily think about from all aspects of life,” Garrett said. “I feel like Usher is probably one of the greatest R&B superstars of this generation. We wanted to give him something that wasn’t predictable.”

The multi-platinum hitmaker and fellow Atlanta native said legendary music executive L.A. Reid, who helped found the former Atlanta-based label LaFace Records, called him last year to work on new music for Usher. (Last month’s GQ profile of Usher revealed that he and Reid are working together for the first time in nearly 20 years and will start their own record label). Lil Jon received the same request, and the pair, along with The Avila Brothers, connected in Las Vegas, where Usher has had a residency since 2021, to create the song. “GLU” marks the first time that Usher, Sean Garrett and Lil Jon have collaborated since 2004′s smash hit “Yeah!

Lil Jon and Garrett penned and produced countless hits that defined hip-hop and R&B in the early years of this century. Dubbed “The Pen,” Garrett wrote chart-topping hits for artists like Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Ciara, 112 and more. To date, he’s had 18 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Lil Jon has established himself as a pioneer of crunk music while producing hits for the likes of Ciara, Pitbull and Petey Pablo. The 51-year-old producer and DJ thinks the pair has another hit on their hands with “GLU.”

The melody and beat for the song were made in about an hour, according to Lil Jon. He said he admired Garrett’s laser-focused vision in finishing the track.

“I think we did that record on the first day we were in the studio,” Lil Jon said. “(Garrett) kind of helped us to get that out of the way. (”GLU”) is a nod to Prince, it’s a nod to old-school slow songs, it’s a nod to making love on records. It’s about having a good time in the bedroom and being sensual. ... He came up with the melody for the song while we made the beat. ... Some people may take two weeks or a month on one song, but we knocked it out quick.”

But solidifying a concept for the song took Garrett at least a month to complete. He wanted to make a song that honored Usher’s core fan base over the years — women of almost every generation.

“His first (big) single was ‘You Make Me Wanna’ and then came songs like ‘Nice & Slow’ or ‘U Got It Bad,’” Garrett said. “Usher is a superstar and an amazing performer. R&B is supposed be to sexy. It’s supposed to be intense and powerful. I wanted to do a song that made the women feel special and sexy without being overt.

“This song is for everybody. This song is not just grown people. It’s for sexy people. So whether you’re 19 or you’re 48, this is a sexy, powerful, emotionally groundbreaking, for today’s market, song for you.”

Although Usher hasn’t officially announced a new album, he confirmed to USA Today last year that he’s nearly finished with the sequel to his 2004 R&B blockbuster “Confessions.” The diamond-certified album — boasting hits like “Yeah!,” “Burn,” and “My Boo” — is one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide. The album turns 20 next March. And most of the same team that was behind that monumental LP is behind the new one. But can they create the same magic?

“GLU” takes a giant leap in that direction.

“It’s been that long and we all are still in the game and we still have it and feel young and we’re coming together,” Lil Jon said. “You have the whole team back. It feels really special.”