"Yeah!" is a song by American recording artist Usher. It was written by Usher, Lil Jon, Sean Garrett, Patrick J. Que Smith, Ludacris, Robert McDowell and LRoc, and features guest vocals from Lil Jon and Ludacris. It was also produced by Lil Jon, who incorporated crunk and R&B—which he coined as Crunk&B—in the song's production. The song was released as the lead single from Usher's fourth studio album Confessions (2004) on January 27, 2004, after Usher was told by Arista Records, his label at the time, to record more tracks for the album.
"Yeah!" topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for twelve consecutive weeks, before being replaced by its follow-up single "Burn". "Yeah!" was the longest-running number one single in 2004, subsequently topping the year-end chart on the Hot 100. It was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song received a similar response in other countries, topping fourteen charts worldwide. It was certified platinum in several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany and Norway, and received a two times platinum certification in New Zealand. The song peaked in the top-ten in several Year-end charts.
"Yeah!" was met with universal critical acclaim, with critics lauding its production, more specifically its combination of crunk and R&B. An accompanying music video, directed by Mr. X, shows Usher performing choreography in a club in front of blue laser beams. "Yeah" won a Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 47th Grammy Awards, while being nominated for Record of the Year. The song ranked second on the Billboard Hot 100 2000–2009 Decade-end chart. As of September 2013, the song has sold over 4 million copies in the US.
In the fall of 2003, Usher submitted his fourth studio album, Confessions (2004), to his record label Arista Records. However, when the singer and the company's then-president L.A. Reid listened to the songs, Reid felt the album lacked a song that had the potential to be released as the album's lead single. In light of this, Usher was told to record a few more tracks, and so he enlisted American rapper-producer Lil Jon to aid in musical production. Lil Jon recalled "He [Usher] needed a single. They had 'Burn', 'Burn' was hot, but they needed that first powerful monster. That's when I came in."
Several months prior to Lil Jon coming in to aid in the production of Confessions, he was commissioned by Jive Records to produce fifteen tracks for rapper Mystikal. The rapper would only select two tracks, which would give Lil Jon the opportunity to give leftover songs to other record labels. Without Lil Jon's knowledge, Jive Records gave one of the leftover tracks to hip hop artist Petey Pablo, to which the track would eventually become "Freak-a-Leek". Meanwhile, assuming that the song had not been used, Lil Jon gave the production to Usher, from which a rough version of "Yeah!" was recorded, mixed and mastered. Eventually realizing the mistake after Pablo played "Freek-a-leek" to Lil Jon, the latter insisted on producing more tracks for Pablo; however, Pablo did not give up the song, due to the fact that it was already recorded and had been getting responses from Southern radio. Lil Jon commented, "With so much invested, Jive wouldn't give up the cut." Lil Jon reworked the track and a new instrumental was used, from which "Yeah!" was based.
Though "Yeah!" was now completed, the label still had "Burn" on queue for the lead single. Usher's friend and former A&R rep Kawan "KP" Prather commented: "'Burn' being a great song is one thing, but it's one of them things where people said, 'It's strong, but can we make history with that?' At the end of the day, you want an event." Usher was unsure if "Yeah!" was the right choice. After Lil Jon leaked "Yeah!" to street DJs across the United States, Usher opted "Burn" as the lead single of the album and was already planning for its music video. The song was not intended to be a proper single and only a teaser for Usher's fans after waiting for years. However, the responses of "Yeah!" were overwhelmingly favorable, and "Yeah!" was released as the first single instead of "Burn", which became the second single from the album. The single was released in the United States on January 27, 2004 as a CD single and 12" single. In the United Kingdom, it was released as a CD single, containing the album and instrumental version of the song, and two unreleased tracks from the album, "Red Light" and "Sweet Lies".
"Yeah!" was lauded by contemporary critics for its production. Jem Aswad of Entertainment Weekly called it "irresistibly crunked-out", adding, "the ensuing track glides smoothly between club-friendly hip-hop soul and ballads." Laura Sinagra of Rolling Stone commented that the song "creates sensual panic by combining Usher's jumpy attacks with Jon's sublime, frayed beats." Jon Caramanica of Blender noted that "Yeah!" is the first song to mix "mainstream R&B and menacing Southern crunk." Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine said that the song has brought Usher to a "whole new level of crunk." Andy Kellman of Allmusic described the song as a "crunk-meets-R&B foundation" which features an "instantly addictive eight-note keyboard vamp". He added that the song is "so absorbing that Ludacris' 1500th guest verse floats by with little notice." Matt Cibula of PopMatters characterized the song as a "full-fledged club über-crunk salacious" but he added that it fails to be a "club banger". Steve Jones of USA Today referred to "Yeah!" as a "club-rattling" song from a combination of "Atlanta's vibrant music scene", Lil Jon's "insistent beats" and Ludacris' "racy rhymes". Robert Hilburn of Los Angeles Times described "Yeah!" as a "raucous tale of dance-floor seduction" which pop musician Michael Jackson would have produced in 2004, if he "still had the old Thriller magic".
Usher himself also garnered praise for the song; Aswad called it the "grittiest song" Usher had sung and one that "reveals his newfound maturity". Caramanica said that it is "probably the scariest record – in a good way – he's ever made" and Usher "smartly shares the spotlight." Cibula stated that Usher's "smoove-ass" singing and Ludacris' presence contributes to the success of the single. "Yeah!" was nominated at the 2005 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, and won the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration award. At the 2005 Soul Train Music Awards, "Yeah!" was nominated for best R&B/Soul or Rap Dance Cut.
"Yeah!" debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number fifty-three on January 13, 2004. On March 2, the song peaked atop the chart and stayed at that position for twelve consecutive weeks. "Yeah!" became Usher's fourth number-one single, Lil Jon's first and Ludacris' second. The single remained on the Hot 100 for forty-five weeks. "Yeah!" became the most played song in the United States in 2004, with Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems reporting the song getting a total of 496,805 plays. The commercial success of "Yeah!" and follow-up single "Burn" helped sustain Confessions atop the US Billboard 200 chart. The single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on June 11, 2006 for shipping one million copies since its release. "Yeah!" became the best-performing single of 2004 in the United States. The single ranked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs, and second on the Hot 100 decade-end chart, behind Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together". By September 2013, the song had sold 4 million copies in the US.
Internationally, "Yeah!" received a similar response, topping several charts. In Australia, the song topped the chart on the week of April 4, 2004 for one week. It remained on it for only eight weeks before dropping out, and was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipping 70,000 units. In New Zealand, "Yeah!" had a better chart performance, peaking at number one for four non-consecutive weeks. It remained on the chart for twenty-seven weeks before dropping and was certified two times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ). In Switzerland and Austria, "Yeah!" peaked at number one and remained on the charts for thirty-eight and thirty-six weeks, respectively, and was certified gold in both countries. The song topped the charts in Denmark for three weeks, remaining on the chart for seventeen weeks. In Netherlands, "Yeah!" remained number one for four weeks, and in Norway for seven weeks. The song remained number one in Ireland for two weeks, and number one for one week in France and the United Kingdom. In the latter country, by March 4, 2010, "Yeah!" had sold 434,739 copies.
Compared to other countries, "Yeah!" under performed in Finland, where it stayed on the charts for four weeks and peaked at number seventeen, and Spain where it peaked at number thirteen. The song did not top the charts in Italy and Sweden where it peaked at number three and four, respectively, and Belgium (Flanders) and Hungary where it charted at number two. Overall, the single remained on several charts worldwide for one year, from early 2004 to 2005. On the 2004 year-end charts, "Yeah!" became the twenty-eighth best-selling single in Australia, and twenty-sixth in France. It peaked in the top-ten on the year-end charts in Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Belgium (Wallonia), Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Mr. X, formerly Little X, had previously directed videos for Usher's singles "U Don't Have to Call" and "U Got It Bad". Mr. X said that the song reminded him of laser beams. Usher and Mr. X combined ideas to create a dance video for "Yeah!". The development was handled by how Usher wanted to be portrayed in the video, particularly showcasing his dance moves. The music video was filmed in a vacant art gallery in Los Angeles over two days. When the shooting started, Mr. X recalled Michael Jackson's "low-tech" and "laser-flashing" 1979 "Rock With You" video, and used it as a reference. Forty extra people were commissioned to dance with Usher, and two ladies to tempt him in different scenes. They went through photo browsing and phone calling, opting for Destiny Lightsy, a friend of Mr. X, who seduces Usher in the club in a Marilyn Monroe wardrobe to complement the lyrics. Canadian model Melyssa Ford, who was discovered by Mr. X, is portrayed as Usher's second seductress. Lil Jon acted as an assistant director during the sessions. Usher took charge of his ideas on his wardrobe and choreography, with additional routines, specifically the Rockaway and the Thunderclap, which Mr. X learned from Jamaica. The Rockaway influenced Fat Joe and Terror Squad's "Lean Back" video.
Canadian director Mr. X directed the video for "Yeah!"
The video begins with Usher entering a club, and in another scene dancing in front of blue lasers; the video alternates between both the club and laser scenes throughout. In the former setting, Usher is sat down when a woman—portrayed by Destiny, video producer Mr. X's friend—approaches him and attempts to seduce him. The woman stands up and walks to the dance-floor, telling Usher to "come get me" and "baby let's go", in sync with the song. Usher goes and dances with her during the chorus. In the beginning of the second verse, the laser scene with Usher dancing now shows both blue and green lasers. Usher and the woman are still dancing, with the woman further attempting to seduce him.
In the second chorus, Usher performs choreography in the club, backed up by several male dancers. Female dancers then come in, performing choreography along with Usher and the male dancers. After Lil Jon sprays champagne towards the camera in the laser scene, Ludacris performs his verse. He is dancing in both the club and laser scene, with the camera also alternating to female's dancing in sync in the club.
In the final chorus, Usher again performs choreography in the club, with another scene in the latter setting this time showing a different seductress, portrayed by model Melyssa Ford, walking away telling him to follow her. While following her, he is in a hallway, with the women then pulling Usher in a room, where they begin to romance. While Ludacris says his final verse, rapper Chingy and P. Diddy's former assistant, Fonzworth Bentley, both make appearances with Bentley holding a violin. Lil Jon says his final verse, not present in the track version of "Yeah!", where he repeats numerous dance moves including the Rockaway and Thunderclap, with Usher performing them. The video ends with Lil Jon repeating "rock away" and then "cut".