Like Brandy, Usher makes fantastic single choices most of the time. But the biggest mistake he made in his career was not making Separated a single. In fact, the song only appears on the UK version of 8701.
Separated is a piano ballad. Nothing more. Nothing less. As such, what we notice is how perfect Usher’s phrasing is. How the intensity of his vocal grows until he explodes on the bridge. In terms of sheer beauty, he has never sounded better or more convincing as a vocalist than he has here (rivaled only by earlier work like Let’s Straighten It Out when he used his voice in a more technically specific way).
It is not discussed enough what a terrific singer Usher is. That said, what’s more interesting to me is how his vocal persona was developed very quickly very early in his career. 8701 is the best full-length showcase of Usher’s interpretive vocal gifts, even though Confessions contains three of Usher’s most brilliant vocal performances ever (Follow Me, Do It To Me and Caught Up). And more than any other song, Separated is the bridge between those two albums.