When Usher‘s latest single “Papers” hit airwaves last week, many were shocked by the kiss-off tune’s candid lyrics about a soured relationship. The pop star, in the middle of a divorce from his wife of two years, boldly crooned he was ready to “sign them papers” while detailing late-night fights and nearly losing his mom.
Some speculated the song is a glimpse into Usher’s rocky relationship with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Tameka Foster Raymond. But singer-songwriter Sean Garrett, who penned the tune’s lyrics, wants to set the record straight.
“Some of it is true, and some of it isn’t,” Garrett says. “That’s what makes this record so intriguing and explosive. Some of it is about his life and some of it is not.”
What about the one line in the song that had everybody talking: “I damn near lost my mama/been through so much drama”?
“That was more from the perspective of when Usher and his mom [and sometime manager] weren’t working together that much. And, in every relationship, it’s important for the man to get his mother’s approval. That’s the perspective I was coming from,” Garrett explains.
Noting that Usher never revealed anything to him about his personal life, his relationship with his mother, or his romance with Tameka, Garrett, who has written hit songs for everyone from Beyoncé to Fergie, says the track was simply “inspired by Usher.”
“I wrote that record about eight months ago, before he was even getting a divorce. The record is not about Tameka and those are not his words,” he clarifies with a laugh. “I’m a great songwriter; I know how to write great songs!”
He also notes that Usher did have reservations about releasing the explosive track, which the duo recorded about a month and a half ago in Atlanta. “He definitely had a lot on his mind,” Garrett says. “We talked about this record coming out quite a few times. ‘Should it come out? Should it not come out?’ We had questions about how it would be taken.”
But after great feedback, and a final stamp of approval from Usher’s record label, “We knew it was a smash,” says Garrett.