20 Years Ago Usher Dropped “Yeah” And It’s Still Fun As Hell

Thor Benander
Thor Benander is the Editor-in-Chief of The Antagonist and a father of four. He’s a lover of ancient history, Greek food, and sports. He loves to travel and thinks that if libraries were the center of American society, many things would improve overnight. You can hit him up at hilordcastleton@gmail.com.

January 13th, 2004. That’s when this song hit the airwaves, landing on the charts at #53 before shooting to the top where it would stay at #1 for twelve consecutive weeks. It was the most listened song of 2004. “Yeah,” in its long lifetime broke a billion Spotify streams last year. With a B.

There’s not much more to say about a song that makes you move whenever you hear it two decades after it came out. Is it the perfect song? No. The Ludacris lyrics at the end are the height of asinine misogyny, saying that, among other infantile blather about conspicuous consumption and objectification: “We want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed.” Gettttttttt fucked. (And she wants someone who’s not an arcane troglodyte, so hit the bricks, fellah). Despite that unfortunate sentiment, “Yeah” is still catchy as hell and familiar in a way that songs seldom achieve without commensurate blowback and burnout.

“Yeah” isn’t about the lyrics, or it would have been DOA. The song isn’t about whatever the hell Lil John says all the way through. He’s like the one kid that’s too hyped for the pep rally. Every time I hear it I think “what the hell?” It’s too bad Dave Chapelle has turned into whatever late career Dave Chapelle is, because he had a fun series poking fun at Lil Jon.

Ultimately, the song boils down to five things:

  1. The hook
  2. Usher’s silky voice
  3. Usher dancing
  4. The girls in the beginning of the video at the 9 second mark who say usha usha usha
  5. Yeah

Things that we can magically ignore/overlook in the song:

  1. The story, which is a shoulder shrug.
  2. Lil Jon, in camos. It seems like Usher is whisper-singing and Lil Jon is like a drunk cousin crashing into the house while the baby is sleeping.
  3. The end of the song where Ludacris can’t say Usher, instead clearly calling him UR-shur. (According to the internets, this is a southern thing? Okay.) Also at the end, Lil Jon, not Usher and not Ludacris, is apparently the one to make your booty go clap twice.
  4. The line: “So gimme the rhythm and it’ll be off with their clothes, then bend over to the front and touch your toes.” It may be the most weaksauce, sophomoric line ever written. I hate it. “Ludacris fill cups like Double D’s” and “If you hold the head steady, I’ma milk the cow” are equally troubling/cringeworthy. I’ve always liked Ludacris as a person, but this seems to be him channeling lesser instincts. It’s tough to know how times will change, but I’m glad the era of that kind of writing seems to …mostly… be over.
  5. Anything “shorty” related.

So, pros and cons, but it’s still an earworm. I defy you to turn it on and try not to start bobbing your head. It’s no small achievement to create a song with the type of longevity “Yeah” has accrued, and it’s still beloved. Only slightly less impressive is that I wrote about a song in 2024 and didn’t use the terms “banger” or “slaps.” You’re welcome.

Related Posts

What Even is Eurovision?

I’m done pretending to know what Eurovision is. When I hear Eurovision, I imagine Europeans, who are a different species than us, doing strange musicals on stage wearing ridiculous costumes. Maybe I’m conjuring up Will Ferrell in the Eurovision movie that I never saw, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong…
Read More