Demonstrating a new level of vocal and creative maturity, CONFESSIONS features several songs co-written by Usher. Fred Bronson of Billboard Magazine adds that Usher is in "extremely rare territory" being the first solo artist to land three hits inside the top 10 in the same week, matching The Beatles in 1964 and The BeeGees in 1978. Those three hits being "Burn" at #1 on the Hot 100 for 2 consecutive weeks, "Yeah" featuring Lil'Jon & Ludacris at #4 (previously spent 12 weeks at #1) and newest single "Confessions II" at #8. Even beyond those singles, lies examples of the lyrical honesty that the multi-talented entertainer brings to his latest work abound. There's "Truth Hurts" (produced and co-written by super hit makers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis) which Usher reveals "is a very personal song. Some men don't have the guts to say what they feel but I'm not that kind of guy - I have to fess up! Basically, the song is the story of a man who knows he's done wrong but he's accusing his woman, figuring that by confronting her for whatever she's done, he can cover up what he's been doing. You know, like the accuser is really the one who should be the accused! But if you have a conscience, it's gonna get you and the truth is going to come out anyway ... "
"Superstar," co-written by Usher and produced by Vidal & Dre has an imaginative lyric, referencing Usher's many female fans worldwide. "It's got lines like, 'you are my superstar, I am your Number One1 fan, I'll be your groupie, baby, give me your autograph, I'll sign it right here on my heart!' I think it's a brilliantly-written song," says Usher, "and honestly, I think it's one of the best vocal performances on this album. I definitely wanted to show my growth vocally and you can hear it on tracks like this one ... "
Co-written with Brian Michael Cox and Jermaine Dupri, who also produced the song, Usher's "Burn" is a beautiful slow jam that the multi-talented artist considers "a signature Usher track. After doing this many albums, there's a sound people know me for and you can hear that on ‘Burn.' It's a real 'heartbreak' kind of song in which you know a relationship is falling apart, you know you want to just be friends but it's rough. Every time you talk to her on the phone, you get this feeling in the pit of your stomach, like an ache. There's that feeling of loneliness - it's over and you can't get it back." While he won't say whether the song reflects a specific experience he's been through, he confesses that "Follow Me" (another Vidal & Dre production) is based on real life. "A lot of women see me and they think that my life is just all about videos and shows and making records. But there's more to my life than that and this song is about a woman who treats me like a for-real, regular guy ... "
No Usher album would be complete without at least one or two all-out party songs and "Yeah!" (featuring Ludacris) fits the bill. Produced by Li'l Jon, the track is the first single from CONFESSIONS and is already a bonafide 2004 smash! Notorious for turning out non-stop hits, such as Grammy-winning "U Remind Me," "U Got It Bad" (a single that reached a record-breaking 149 million in audience first week) and "U Don't Have To Call" (a second 2002 Grammy winner), Usher ensures his place as one of today's most successful recording artists with numerous prime cuts from his last four albums. On CONFESSIONS, likely stand-out tracks for instant reaction from Usher's many fans include "Simple Things," another tune produced by and co-written with Jam & Lewis, and two tracks, "Can You Handle It" and "Do It To Me," which leave little to the imagination!
Usher smiles when talking about "Can You Handle It," a tailor-made steamy slow jam: "I heard (producer-turned-artist) Robin Thicke's album and I thought it was pretty profound. I reached out to him and he was very excited about us working together although we didn't know where to start. He played me this song and it had like a double meaning. Yeah, it's very sexual but you could say that it's also about asking a girl if she can handle what you're about to say ... It's the kind of song you put on ... when the time is right! And yes, it could describe some real situations I've been in!"
Produced by Jermaine Dupri, the ballad "Do It To Me" is equally suggestive: "I call that my tribute to Prince because I have always been inspired by his greatness as an artist. The lyrics tell the story from a woman's perspective but it has some double and triple meanings!" Usher laughs. "Sure, it's suggestive but it's real. We both know what's on each other's minds. She wants me and I want her too ... and we're imagining how it's gonna be ... "
Whether he's being playful on tracks like "Yeah!" or serious on the album's title cut, "CONFESSIONS" (a song also co-written with Brian Michael Cox and Jermaine Dupri), Usher has every reason to be confident that the album will follow its predecessors into the upper reaches of the charts the world over. Considering where he's at this juncture, he says, "The mission in my career before now was to 'get' to the party! Now I feel I'm at the party!"
The Usher "party" really began after he and mother and manager Jonnetta Patton moved to Atlanta in 1993 when, at the age of 13, Usher was performing at a local "Star Search" competition. An A&R rep approached him from the Atlanta-based LaFace Records and after an audition with then-LaFace Records label chief Antonio "L.A." Reid, Usher landed his first record deal with the label. Prior to that, the Chattanooga, Tennessee native had been honing his natural talent singing at the St. Elmo's Missionary Baptist Church choir where mom Jonnetta served as choir director. Usher cherished singing so much that eventually he decided to turn his beloved hobby into a career: "I have been building my career since I was a little boy because singing had always been what I wanted to do. At first I thought about playing [professional] football, then I wanted to play basketball, but in the end it was all about the music. It's my biggest passion and my biggest joy."
After signing him to LaFace, Reid commissioned music midas Sean "P. Diddy" Combs to produce Usher's self-titled debut, which was released less than 12 months later. The ambitious project, which spawned the synth-heavy club single "Think of You," written by Arista label mate Donell Jones, provided the youngster with his first Top 10 hit. Teaming up next with hip-hop hit maker Jermaine Dupri and veterans Teddy Riley and Babyface in 1997 to produce his sophomore album, the seven-times platinum My Way, Usher converted a whole new legion of fans with chart-topping monsters like the saucy "You Make Me Wanna" and the romantic groove "Nice & Slow."
After releasing Usher Live in 1999, a compilation of hits and music medleys that he'd performed on the road, the singer, armed with an arsenal of producers, including Philly newcomer Edmund "Eddie Hustle" Clement and Mike City, as well Dupri, The Neptunes, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, dropped 8701 on August 7, 2001. Quickly heralded by critics as Usher's most definitive work to date, the project not only earned him his first Grammy win but it also helped to cement his role as one of the world's most multi-faceted ambassadors of groove.
Blasting into the new millennium with the eight-times platinum album, Usher hit the top of Billboard's pop charts with the party groove "U Remind Me" (for which he earned a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance), and the confessional "U Got It Bad." Having already achieved more in his 25 years than most artists accomplish in a lifetime, the Atlanta-bred singer, songwriter, actor and producer has acquired a bevy of awards over the span of his career, including 2 Grammy Awards, 3 Soul Train Music Awards, a BET Award, a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award, 2 Teen Choice Awards, 3 Billboard Music Awards, 3 R&B Hip Hop Conference Awards, 3 ASCAP Awards, a Blockbuster Music Award, not to mention countless other international awards from several countries.
Performing in front of sold-out crowds at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden in New York City to the prestigious Wembley Arena in London, Usher has toured Nigeria, South Africa, Australia and Europe. He has consistently shown that his triple-threat entertainer status is not a fluke. Aside from his four gold and multi-platinum albums, Usher is a dynamic dancer who's shuffled alongside Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson in their respective high-rated television specials—Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary Special and Janet Jackson's "MTV ICON." In addition, Usher is a blossoming actor who has appeared in such films as Light It Up, The Faculty, She's All That, Disney's Geppetto and Texas Rangers. He's appeared in star roles on network television shows like American Dreams, Twlight Zone, The Bold and the Beautiful, Moesha, and Seventh Heaven.
With a career that keeps taking him to new heights of achievement and accomplishment, Usher remains - in his own words - "the master of the moment. I feel like I'm in the prime of my life, physically, emotionally, spiritually - and musically. And, knowing there is still love for me in the marketplace, that gives me energy." There is love indeed for Usher and his music the world over and that's one 'confession' he can make without a doubt. He is The Ultimate Entertainer "Usher."
Usher to usher in his own perfume line!
R B superstar Usher is to toe the line of Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears by launching a perfume line named after him.
The Grammy-winner who is known to prefer Spring Fever perfume on the ladies, seems pretty sure of what women like and is reportedly launching the fragrance line jointly with the same company that worked with Jessica Simpson on her Dessert Beauty range.
"He knows what smells good on a woman and thinks he can come up with a great perfume." , The New York Daily News quoted an insider as saying.
Usher spells support for his NBA team with two C's
Usher is a hands-on NBA owner. The Grammy-winning R&B artist, who is part-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has unveiled a symbol from his floor seats that he calls the "Double C."
During the team's game Sunday, Usher crossed his arms over his head and curled his hands to form letter C's. Fans made the symbol as the Cavaliers downed the Indiana Pacers 98-86.
Usher said his hometown of Atlanta has a special sign called the "A-town down."
"This is my way of showing my Cleveland Cavaliers' pride," he said in an e-mail to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
Usher to make action film with Tom Cruise!
R 'n' B singer Usher has announced his plans to make an action film with Hollywood heartthrob Tom Cruise.
"We're going to make an action film together. I sat down and had a meeting with Tom," Rate the Music quoted Usher as saying.
Cruise's spokesperson has also conformed that the two met recently to discuss the details of the untitled project, which took place when Usher accepted Cruise's invitation to visit the Los Angeles set of 'War of the Worlds'.
"Tom is a huge fan of Usher's work," the spokesperson added.
Usher Got Game
Everybody in Cleveland wake up and say "Yeah!" Usher's coming to town to hoop it up.
The R&B superstar, who netted three trophies at last month's Grammy Awards, has acquired a minority stake in the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. Usher will be part of a new ownership group taking control of the team and day-to-day operations of the city's 20,000-seat Gund Arena.
"I will be involved on many levels with the community to make the Cleveland Cavaliers more of an all-American team," Usher said at a press conference at the venue on Tuesday. "I've performed here many times. I've adopted Gund Arena as my home. I have an apartment here."
The team would not disclose how big of a stake the 26-year-old singer has in the team or what he paid for it. But, according to fellow minority owner David Katzman, it was by no means a vanity purchase.
"Usher is a significant owner," Katzman said at the press conference. "He's not invested a small amount of money to say he's an owner so he can sit courtside. He wants to get very, very involved and incorporate this into his business portfolio."
A self-professed Cavaliers fan who calls Cleveland his "home away from home," the Confessions crooner says he's excited to help transform the once struggling franchise and its home court into a world-class entertainment destination.
"I hope to make the experience of the Cavaliers games one to remember for a lifetime. You will remember it and hope you come back several times," Usher said. "We plan on making the games as entertaining as possible. Any opportunity to make this establishment better, that's my job."
And having a Michael Jordan-esque superstar like LeBron James leading the team won't hurt. James did everything but call Usher his boo at the press conference.
"To have an icon in the music world come here and be a part of that is going to help us a lot," the Cav's point guard said. "I met him before, just briefly. I never got a chance to sit down and talk to him. Him being a part of this organization. I'm going to sit down and talk to him and just brainstorm."
Usher isn't first hip-hop figure to harbor hoop dreams. Last July, St. Louis-based rapper Nelly bought a minority stake in the NBA's expansion Charlotte Bobcats, which began playing this season. And hip-hopster-turned-business mogul Jay-Z owns a percentage of the New Jersey Nets.
On the court, New Orleans rhymer Master P failed last year to make the cut for the Denver Nuggets summer league team after previously trying out for the Toronto Raptors and the Charlotte Hornets.
Usher and Alicia Keys dominate Soul Train Awards
Fresh off their Grammy success, Usher and Alicia Keys dominated the Soul Train Awards, with each winning two individual awards and sharing the prize for best R&B-soul single by a group or duo. R&B sensation Usher picked up the award Monday for best male R&B-soul single for Confessions Part II, as well as the prize for best R&B-soul album by a male artist for Confessions.
Keys got a nod for the best female R&B-soul single for her hit If I Ain't Got You and, like Usher, was named for best female R&B-soul album for The Diary of Alicia Keys. The two singers already shared a Grammy for their hit duet My Boo. Keys won four Grammys last month, while Usher had three.
The awards, named after the long-running television show, honor recording artists in R&B, hip-hop, rap and gospel music. The awards are chosen by a group of radio station professionals, talent managers and performers. The ceremony was held at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.
Usher also earned an award for best R&B-soul or rap music video for his work with rappers Ludacris & Lil Jon in the song Yeah!
Other artists picking up awards were Destiny's Child, for Destiny Fulfilled, and the sexy newcomer Ciara, who won for best R&B-soul or rap new artist for her album Goodies. Rapper Jay-Z picked up an award for best R&B-soul or rap music video for 99 Problems.
Usher Lights up the Puerto Rico Night
For Usher Raymond IV, known to his music fans simply as Usher, 2004 was a very good year, and 2005 is starting off with a bang.
He snagged three awards out of eight Grammy nominations: contemporary R&B album ("Confessions"), rap/sung collaboration ("Yeah!," Usher featuring Lil John and Ludacris) and R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals ("My Boo," Usher and Alicia Keys). Now, Usher brings his smooth R&B style to the pay cablenet Showtime. "One Night One Star: Usher Live" airs Saturday, March 5, from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan.
The concert will feature hits from Usher's "Confessions," which was the top-selling album of its year and includes the single "Yeah!" -- 2004's most-played song.
Talking earlier this month, Usher still isn't quite sure what else he's going to do in the Showtime concert, but he does know what the problem is.
"Preparations for the live show have been kind of rocky," he says, "but at the same time, it's going to be a great show. It's the fact that I can't make my mind up. Yeah, I'm the rock. I want the performance to be one to remember. I want it to be as perfect as possible.
"I've seen so many specials from so many other celebrities, and that night is always different from what you see onstage. So in addition to what I'm going to do vocally and physically, I want it to be visually exciting. So there are a few things I've been attempting, reaching out to selected friends to be a guest star on that night."
As to whether he's gotten any takers, Usher says, "I can't give you that yet. I wouldn't give it to you, because I want it to be a surprise."
Usher, 26, may be on top of the world right now, but he's spent more than a decade getting there.
After he caught a music executive's ear in an Atlanta "Star Search" competition at the age of 13, Usher's debut single for LaFace Records, "Call Me a Mack," hit the R&B charts in late 1993, when Usher was a month shy of his 15th birthday.
Other hits followed, including "You Make Me Wanna" from his 1997 sophomore release, "My Way." Following that were "Usher Live" and "8701," which featured the Grammy-winning tracks "U Remind Me" and "U Got It Bad."
At the same time, Usher has maintained an acting career, with TV roles ranging from "Moesha" to "The Bold and the Beautiful" and parts in such movies as "The Faculty," "Texas Rangers" and the upcoming "Dying for Dolly."
Saying he'd "give a left leg" to be on tour right now, Usher will have to be content with his Puerto Rico show, which also gives him an opportunity to reach a new audience. "I haven't really spent a lot of time in the Latino market, so this will be a big event for my fans in Latin America as well."
He doesn't, however, expect to make a bigger smash than San Juan native Ricky Martin. "I wouldn't go that far. I'd hope to have a great night. I don't think anybody other than Marc Anthony could get bigger there than Ricky Martin is."
As to whether there might be a Spanish song or two, Usher says, "Can't tell you that. It's a secret, our secret. Normally, when I don't talk about plans, they turn out to be ones to remember."
In a music world dominated by, on the one hand, sugary pop singers, and on the other, by hip-hop and rap performers, Usher blends a more traditional R&B style with Atlanta's club-busting "crunk" sound. He lists contemporary singer Bobby Brown as an idol, along with classic soul singers such as Jackie Wilson and Donnie Hathaway.
He doesn't see hip-hop as displacing R&B, but instead merging with it in some ways. "I think what hip-hop did is figure out what R&B music was all about, and they borrowed it. I haven't heard this many hip-hop artists singing in my life. In the time when hip-hop was created, it was very much spoken word, but, man, you hear more hip-hop singers than you do R&B singers these days.
"It's the writers. I have to give credit to genius writing and rhythmic writing, artists who write more for melody than for words, and they give you a great story at the same time."
While the music industry has always eaten its young, so far Usher has kept out of the headlines for anything except his music.
"Focus," he says by way of explanation, "keeping my eyes on the prize. I find a way to use that as fuel. I think Babyface was the first person who ever told me that you don't really create hot records unless you go through something. You begin to have issues in life, that's when you go through it, when you have your hottest records."
Still managed by Jonnetta Patton, the single mother who raised him -- and who was a choir director for St. Elmo's Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta -- Usher preaches the creed of giving back.
"It's been my duty to bless other people as a result of the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. I make a conscious effort in every instance to be open-minded and responsible with my stardom, because I know there are kids watching. That's one.
"And two, there are several times, on record and off record, that I give money to charities. I'm always trying to find a way to give back, as opposed to just continuing to put money in my pocket. That's just financially.
"Sometimes there's a deeper value in giving your attention to situations as opposed to just throwing money at it. That's what I try to do."
Usher's guest lineup in Puerto Rico may be a well-kept secret, but he is willing to share the name of the one great artist of the past he'd love to have sharing the stage.
"Marvin Gaye," Usher says. "I'd stand down, but I'd definitely give him a run for his money. I'd take my shirt off. I'd probably sing 'What's Going On?' just as an alternative to what's going on right now. That'd be a great way to end the show."
Usher slams his critics
Usher has slammed people, who criticise him, saying they don't realise the pressure he's under "living in a box".
The hip-hop star, who recently split from supermodel Naomi Campbell, finds it hard to cope with all the media scrutiny in his life and says people should think twice before slating his lifestyle.
He said: "It's easy for people who don't know me to criticise me, but
there's more to my life than people will ever know. If people think my life is totally amazing and perfect, they should take a good look. "I live in a glass box. Everything happens in front of other people. When I break up with my girlfriend, everybody has to know about it."
While the 27-year-old singer says he tries to keep an upbeat outlook on life, he sometimes finds the criticism too much. He added: "I try to stay positive, but sometimes I've got to smile when I don't feel like smiling."
Usher Heads to the Movies, Preps CD/DVD
Usher's mini-movie, "Rhythm City Volume 1: Caught Up," will screen at 44 Regal Entertainment Group theaters Monday (Feb. 21). The 20-minute film incorporates the R&B artist's tracks "Seduction," "Caught Up," "Red Light" and "Take Your Hand." Usher also will sit for a live interview conducted by Lionel Richie and answer questions from fans in the audience.
"It's a great way for me to reach out to my fans and thank them for their amazing support," Usher says.
On March 8, Ush Entertainment/La Face will release "Caught Up" as part of a CD/DVD combo that will also include videos for "My Boo," "Yeah!," "Burn" and "Confessions Pt. II." The CD portion will feature three new tracks.
Usher 'Confession': He wanted more
For a guy who picked up three Grammys, Usher was looking less than elated after Sunday night's music awards.
Backstage spies say the R&B star seemed vexed that his CD "Confessions," which earned him eight nominations, didn't do better. "Usher thought 'Confessions' was going to sweep the way that Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' did," a mole tells us. "After the show, he wouldn't let anyone come into his dressing room. He wouldn't do any interviews or pose for an official Grammy picture."
Godfather of Soul James Brown did offer some consolation - telling one and all that Usher was his "Godson. I'm passing the torch!"
The Godson also had a beautiful shoulder to cry on - that of Eishia Brightwell, the model we told you he was seeing back in July. Having just spent a vacation together, the pair couldn't keep their hands off each other. "Eishia seemed to be Usher's way of telling [sometime gal pal] Naomi Campbell he'd moved on," says one observer.
The singer seemed to have banished his blues by the time he reached his victory party. When he wasn't manning the turntables with Quentin Tarantino, he was being fawned upon by former Attorney General Janet Reno.
The bash, sponsored by Entertainment Weekly, also saw some dirty dancing by new couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.
"Portia kept rubbing her finger down Ellen's chest," says a witness. "And they were really grinding."
Also getting their groove on were Christina Milian and boyfriend Nick Cannon, Eric Benet (getting hit on by Blu Cantrell), Serena Williams, Wesley Snipes and Nelly, among others.
Usher wants to win all eight Grammys
R+B superstar USHER is determined to turn all eight of his GRAMMY AWARD nominations into victorious statuettes at this year's (13FEB05) prestigious ceremony.
The 26-year-old heart-throb dominates this year's prize-giving - with nods in categories like Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Best R+B Song - but he'll only be happy if he scoops every one.
The YEAH! singer says, "I'm getting nervous the closer I get to it. I've never had a more powerful year, in music and entertainment and television. Man, CONFESSIONS has dominated the charts as well as dominated television, so I just hope that, in the voting, people recognise it.
"I'm a responsible owner. If you give me all eight Grammys, trust me, I'll be responsible. You won't hear about me in the newspaper."
Road To The Grammys: The Making Of Usher's Confessions
One of his first steps was deciding to let it all hang out by singing about some of his own little secrets, as well as a few bones from his homies' skeleton-filled closets.
"As a friend, just knowing the music side of it, I thought it was a good idea for people to know the dude," said Usher's friend and former A&R rep Kawan "KP" Prather. "The music has never been the question, but people tend to buy into the artist. The more they know about you, the more they feel like they're there with you. I was like, 'Man, it's dope [to be more personal], but good luck' " (see "Usher Lets Skeletons Out Of The Closet On Confessions").
Ush didn't look too far when it came to starting the project. He decided to continue building with Jermaine Dupri, who worked on his last two albums. The producer subsequently called on frequent collaborator Bryan-Michael Cox.
"Me and [Jermaine] will sit down and start throwing melodies back and forth," said Cox, who also worked on Usher hits like "U Got It Bad." "The first record we did for the album was 'Burn.' It came about because me and Jermaine were sitting around talking about a situation like [the one in the song] and we both said, 'Yo, you gotta let that burn.' We said, 'That's a song right there,' and started writing.
" 'Confessions, Pt. 2' was the same thing: We were having a conversation and said, 'Somebody needs to write a song about that.' We were a little concerned because we didn't think Usher was going to do it. But he heard it and was like, 'I'm ready to cut that right now.' "
Usher also didn't waste any time cutting "Follow Me" with producers Andre "Dre" Harris and Vidal Davis. "All the songs we did were tailor-made for Usher," Dre said. "We listened to  and we said to ourselves, 'Usher really needs to sing hard and let people know his vocal ability.' We really focused in on showing his vocal ability."
While other Dre and Vidal records, like "Superstar" and "Follow Me," put Usher in more of a crooner mode, his current single, "Caught Up," was obviously crafted with the club in mind. Dre said after devising the "real up-tempo beat" that Usher had asked for, they decided to make sure the mood was inspiring during recording.
"You have to set the scenery," Vidal said of the session. "That song is a party record because we really partied the whole time we were working on it," Dre added. "We had some women, some drinks, some music."
The collective took a break from making the music to vibe at Club 112 in Atlanta. "We took a ride to the club and played it in [Usher's] truck on the way," Dre recalled. "Usher was like, 'Yo, this joint is banging.' He saw other people were feeling it as well."
During the recording of the album, Usher also huddled up with the likes of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the Neptunes and Just Blaze, but shortly before his album's scheduled release date in November 2003, he still didn't have the right jump-off song — the record that would ignite his buzz to epic proportions. That's where Lil Jon came in.
The album's release date was moved to March 2004, and Usher went into the studio with Jon and churned out a few more tracks, most notably "Red Light" and "Yeah!" The head of Usher's label at the time, L.A. Reid, was on the fence about whether "Yeah!" should be the first single, especially because they had the blockbuster ballad "Burn" on the cooker. Usher, too, was skeptical about whether "Yeah!" was the right first single.
"Everybody was scared to make that first step," KP recalled. " '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.
"Then the Lil Jon record came, and there was a lot of hesitation to do it. You don't want to say you're following the trends like 'OK, crunk is hot!' [Usher] wanted to do it, but he wasn't sure if it would be selling out what he wanted to do for R&B. He was like, 'Is that taking a shortcut?' I was like, 'Nah, if you put it out there on the forefront.' He didn't get on that record and try to be crunk — he was just himself on an incredible record."
All the debating was laid to rest when Lil Jon leaked the record to DJs across the country. "The record got out over Christmas ," KP said. "Record companies break for Christmas, but by the time we got back to business in January, the record was already at [thousands and thousands of radio plays] with nobody working it. That's some unheard-of sh--. That's the people saying they want it."
That solved one problem. But Usher had another, pivotal head-scratcher on his hands: With more than 40 songs in the stash, what in the world makes the album's final cut, and what doesn't?
"It was too much music," KP said. "All the music was dope. You had to sacrifice some of it and save it for later. Narrowing down a bunch of jamming songs is hard. That's when you sit down with your committee: L.A. Reid, Jermaine Dupri, [A&R rep] Mark Pitts and me. Everybody has their favorites, but [we decided by] which ones came up consistently more. You sit down and tally that sh-- up."
The tally of consumers wanting to hear Confessions came in at more than a million people during the first week of the album's release in March 2004 (see "The Road To Confessions: How Usher 'Shook A Million' "). And so far, almost 10 million people in the U.S. alone have bought the album, which has garnered Usher eight Grammy nominations.
Usher Plays Dress-up
USHER has a confession to make: "Bobby Brown was my Michael Jackson." Steady there. What he means is that his childhood music hero was a guy who wore parachute pants. Wisely, Usher--or his handlers--hewed a little more classically when choosing icons for him to be photographed as for his March 5 Showtime special. Here the 26-year-old channels dapper Fred Astaire, "an elegant, graceful song-and-dance man," Usher says. He also donned Marvin Gaye's white cap--a sentimental favorite from "growing up hearing What's Going On at cookouts," he says--as well as wardrobes inspired by a young Jackson, James Brown and Miles Davis. Usher's next chance to get decked out will be at the Grammys, where he's up for eight awards. That's right, this kid is somebody's Bobby Brown.
Cowell Rates Usher Over Timberlake
British music mogul SIMON COWELL deems USHER a better performer than JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE - because the 'N SYNC frontman tries too hard to "make himself black".
The heart-throb singers have been longtime chart rivals, prompting fierce debate among their respective fans, but Cowell believes Usher is the better of the two.
He says, "If I had to have one of the two, I would take Usher any day. The interesting thing about Justin is, he is a white boy who has tried hard to make himself black over the years. So you get the impression sometimes that he wants to be something he's not."
But Cowell is quick to shoot down any talk that Usher is the new MICHAEL JACKSON.
He adds, "I don't think he's as good as Michael Jackson at his peak, because you're not going to be listening to the Usher records in 10 years in the same way we listen to THRILLER and BILLE JEAN, because they still sound amazing.
"But he's at the top of his game at the moment."
Usher Leads Soul Train Nominees
In a surprise to absolutely no one, R&B singer Usher led the nominees for the 19th annual Soul Train Music Awards, organizers said on Tuesday.
Usher, whose current album, "Confessions," was the biggest seller of 2004 with U.S. sales of almost eight million copies, will compete in five categories.
Crunk newcomer Ciara and Beyonce Knowles landed four nominations each, though two of Knowles' nods were with her trio, Destiny's Child. Alicia Keys had three nominations. The awards will be taped on the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood on Feb. 28, and will air in syndication on March 12.
Usher and Keys already have eight nominations each at the Grammy Awards, which take place on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, second only to Kanye West with 10 mentions.
Last November, Usher was the top winner at the American Music Awards, scoring in all four categories in which he was nominated.
His Soul Train nominations include best R&B soul single and album (male), music video and dance cut. Additionally, his duet with Keys, "My Boo," was named in the R&B/soul single (group, band, duo) race, where its rivals include Destiny's Child's "Lose My Breath" and the Knowles/Luther Vandross duet "The Closer I Get To You."
Destiny's Child was also nominated for R&B/album (group, band, duo), and Knowles for R&B/soul single (female), a category also including Ciara and Keys. These two will also compete against each other for R&B/soul album (female). Ciara's other two nods were for best new artist and dance cut.
Campbell 'snubs Usher for Combs'
British supermodel Naomi Campbell has refused to pose with ex-boyfriend Usher for Vogue for men's magazine cover - and demanded she was pictured with rapper Sean 'P Diddy' Combs instead.
The Confessions star and the catwalk beauty ended their three-month romance lat month amid reports of a series of rows.
And Campbell was reportedly furious when the publication asked her to reunite with the R&B hunk for their cover, insisting she will only attend next month's photoshoot if her pal Combs is with her, reports British newspaper The Times.
Campbell's spokesman Jonathan Morrish explains: "It was one of those things. Naomi was offered the cover. Puffy had been offered another cover.
"They are great friends, were talking the other day and, hey presto, decided to have some fun and do it together."
An insider adds: "There's no way she'd cosy up to Usher. She said she'd only do it with Diddy."
Usher: ''Dying for Dolly''
Sure, Usher's been on the big screen before, but that was B.C. (Before Confessions). Now that he's one of the world's biggest music stars, the R&B singer is hoping to up his status as an actor ("She's All That" and "Light It Up" are his best known previous films), and he's dedicating most of 2005 to the cause. His first stride is "Dying for Dolly" with Emmanuelle Chriqui (who played opposite another pop star, Lance Bass, in "On the Line") in the title role and veteran Chazz Palminteri as her mob-boss father. Compared with, say, "The Dukes of Hazzard" with Jessica Simpson, "Dying for Dolly" has flown under the radar. So, determined to get the details on the movie and Usher's celluloid comeback, MTV News' Sway paid a visit to the set, an abandoned club in downtown Los Angeles where the music was pumping but (gasp!) Usher wasn't dancing.
Sway: First of all, what's the plot of this movie? When you hear the title, "Dying for Dolly," you think violence.
Usher: It's a love story. It's a romantic comedy and the plot of the story, basically, is my character, Daryl Williams, falls in love with an Italian crime boss's daughter. And it's really a story about love and the obstacles that you'll go through in certain situations. Sometimes life is what happens when you're making other plans: You may have a direction that you think is working for you and then something else will happen.
Sway: We haven't seen you in movies in a while, so what attracted you to this role?
Usher: This is sort of my hiatus from music, and I wanted [this movie] to be a project that would be outside the box and not what you would normally expect. When I heard the title, I said the same thing: "Dying for Dolly"? But then I read the script, and it was really a great script, and there's a really a great director associated with it in Ron Underwood ["City Slickers"]. I respect the work that he's done before.
Sway: A lot of people may not be familiar with Emmanuelle. What did you guys see in her to put her in this role?
Usher: She is just a natural talent, a graceful, truly beautiful Italian, a charismatic woman. I think that every Italian woman would feel like, "I think that's my story. That's me."
Sway: Tell me about the scenes you guys shot today. I saw some dancing, but you didn't dance. What was that about?
Usher: This is a scene where me and Dolly go to a place I work. I'm gonna DJ, and the last place I would've wanted to bring her was a place that I do my thing. I kind of run into a few other females that I dealt with. She takes me out to the dance floor and I don't even want to dance. Then it just turns into a really cool moment, a funny moment.
Sway: Was she at least a wee bit intimidated about having to do a dance scene with you?
Usher: Well, [my character] doesn't really dance. That's not really his thing. He's a producer and Ultimate Records is the name of his label. He has a whole vision. He's searching for that family support, as well as dream of being very successful as an executive, as a producer, as a DJ, all of that. And then all of a sudden he's thrown a curveball in life: He's in a mobster's setting, in a mobster's family, falls in love with a mobster's daughter. It's like, "Ahh!"
Sway: That's a lot of character in one role. How hard did you have to prepare for it?
Usher: It was pretty easy in the sense of understanding the love story, but I'm gonna try some really creative things. Ron Underwood is a great director who gives me good notes and directs me. In preparing for it, I just looked at movies like "A Bronx Tale" with Chazz Palminteri, it was like, "Wow, it's all sort of working together." But this is definitely the first time you've seen a story like this. I think it's something that people will really get a kick out of or be entertained by and get a laugh. My man Kevin Hart is in this as well.
Sway: Who's Kevin Hart?
Usher: Come on, man, "Soul Plane"!
Sway: No, for real. I didn't see "Soul Plane."
Usher: You should for the comedy of Kevin Hart as well as the comedics in it.
Sway: Now, I've watched your career since you first came on the scene and it seems like now you're starting to really break through and get that crossover appeal, but you're staying true to yourself. Are these movies a part of that formula?
Usher: It's a part of creativity. I'm like any other cat who has a lot of dreams and aspirations to do a lot: Jay-Z, all of them. They've done their movies as well as records as well as producing. I never let grass grow under me: I got my label coming, production, etc. There's just so much more coming. And then in business, I know you guys heard about the Usher Raymond IV Debit MasterCard, which, you know, dictates success. Get that card! There's truly great benefits in it, man.
Sway: I'm trying to get mine.
Usher: As a matter of fact, I'm gonna send you one.
Usher's Shocking Travelling Demands
USHERshocked fans after the screening of his latest movie on Monday night (25JAN05) - by ordering his chauffeur to drive him 200 yards to the after show party, where he flashed his bottom at onlookers.
The CONFESSIONS singer was attending the showing of his film RHYTHM CITY VOLUME 1: CAUGHT UP at London's REX BAR + CINEMA venue.
But he surprised the VIP audience by travelling to the post-screening bash at the capital's Penthouse nightspot in his ROLLS-ROYCE Phantom, even though the venue was a two-minute walk away.
A witness says, "People were pretty shocked to see him piling into his car, especially as it took three times longer to drive than to get there on foot. It's a two-minute stroll.
"And when his car pulled up at the Penthouse, his security insisted everyone who had been queuing patiently clear the way for him to get out, which took five minutes."
Dash Helps Usher Party In London
R+B superstar USHER partied hard in London last night (24JAN05) - with the help of $28,500 (GBP15,000) worth of vodka his friend DAMON DASH provided.
The YEAH! singer showcased some of his new material at the British capital's REX BAR + CINEMA venue, before moving on to exclusive club THE PENTHOUSE with ten models in tow.
And generous Dash was so determined for Usher to have a good time he donated copious amounts of his own brand of ARMADALE vodka.
Usher Focuses On Album Grammy
R+B star USHER has one major musical ambition - he's desperate to win the coveted Album Of The Year GRAMMY next month (FEB05).
The YOU MAKE ME WANNA singer enjoyed a phenomenally successful 2004 and to date has picked up AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS, BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS and TEEN CHOICE gongs among others, for his best-selling disc CONFESSIONS.
During an interview with music site EURWEB, Usher insisted he never tires of being recognised for his musical achievements.
He says, "I'm crazy, but I'm not that crazy. I'm not about to dis (criticise) any award shows.
"I love the awards, bring them on. One wasn't better than the other, but the one award that I would like to receive this year would be the Album of the Year Grammy. That would be an award to remember."
Usher is set to fight KANYE WEST's THE COLLEGE DROPOUT, RAY CHARLES' GENIUS LOVES COMPANY, GREEN DAY's AMERICAN IDIOT and ALICIA KEYS' THE DIARY OF ALICIA KEYS for the coveted gong at the 13 February (05) ceremony.
Usher not a big Simon Cowell fan
The new series of 'American Idol' hit screens last night (Tuesday) in the States.
It's got the same judges - Randy Newman, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell - and they visited seven cities and saw 100,000 people audition.
Despite over 340 million votes placed last time, this series has been livened up by getting guest judges, such as Kiss singer Gene Simmons and Brandy involved in the early audition rounds.
However, they already have one celebrity critic, Usher - he says the show is misleading:
"It gives the audience that is watching the chance to see that success can happen."
"However, I think that it can be misleading because success doesn't happen overnight, and what does that do for the artists that don't make it and aren't as successful?"
"But, I guess that is the reality of this industry - you can be on top of the world one second and lose it all in the next."
Usher Says Jennifer Lopez's 'Get Right' Was His First
Ask Usher what he thinks of Jennifer Lopez (news)' new single "Get Right" and he might say "that's just wrong." Fox News is reporting that Usher already recorded "Get Right" as a single called "Ride." The song wasn't featured on his smash album Confessions, but it was released as a 12-inch club record and on the Internet last year. In fact, both "Ride" and "Get Right" were produced by Rich Harrison who is said to have used the same horn track on both songs.
Lopez' single was released as "Get Right" because it's mixed with a rap record with the same name by Fabolous.
Usher is reportedly furious about Lopez's release. When he was asked about her version of the song Fox News claims he said, "I hate it. And I'd better get some of the publishing (rights).
Usher Scores Five Nominations For NAACP Image Awards
Kanye West gets four nominations; Alicia Keys has three.
Usher's awards-show hot streak continues, as the singer has nabbed the most music-category nominations for the 36th NAACP Image Awards.
Mr. Entertainment received five nods, including Outstanding Male Artist, Outstanding Song (for "Yeah!") and Outstanding Album for 'Confessions'. He was nominated twice in the category of
Outstanding Music Video: for "My Boo" (with Alicia Keys) and "Yeah!" (with Ludacris and Lil Jon).
Last year's other success story, Kanye West, who beat Usher for most Grammy Award nominations with 10 (see "Kanye Scores 10 Grammy Nominations; Usher And Alicia Keys Land Eight"), trailed close behind the singer with four nominations: Outstanding New Artist, Outstanding Album, Outstanding Song and Outstanding Music Video (the latter two for "Jesus Walks").
Keys picked up three nominations, with two in the category of Outstanding Music Video for "If I Ain't Got You," and the aforementioned "My Boo." The R&B songstress also nabbed a bid for Outstanding Song for "If I Ain't Got You."
Artists who received two nominations each include Queen Latifah, Anthony Hamilton, Destiny's Child, Jill Scott and Prince. Mos Def proved a double threat with nods for his acting and musical skills in the categories of Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for "Something the Lord Made" and Outstanding Male Artist for The New Danger.
The late Ray Charles was nominated for the Outstanding Duo or Group award for "Heaven Help Us All," his duet with Gladys Knight on the posthumously released album Genius Loves Company. The Charles biopic, "Ray," swept the motion-picture categories with seven nominations, including Outstanding Motion Picture, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture (Kerry Washington), and Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Jamie Foxx).
Foxx was also nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for "Redemption," and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for "Collateral."
"Collateral," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Hotel Rwanda" and "Man on Fire" will challenge "Ray" for the title of Outstanding Motion Picture.
In the television category, Dave Chappelle was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for "Chappelle's Show" and Outstanding Variety (Series or Special) for "Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth." Russell Simmons received a nod for Outstanding Variety (Series or Special) for "Russell Simmons Presents: Def Poetry."
The Image Awards were founded to celebrate outstanding achievements and performances of individuals of all races and ethnicities who have helped promote African-Americans in the media. Nominees in the categories of music, movies, television and literature are chosen by a committee of 300 industry professionals and NAACP leaders from across the country.
This year's awards show will take place March 19 and will be televised on March 26.
Usher Concentrating on Acting in 2005
R&B star Usher is going to concentrate on his burgeoning acting career in 2005.
The singer is currently shooting scenes in the new movie 'Dying For Dolly.'
He says, "I'm doing 'Dying For Dolly' but there are other films I'm going to do in 2005. I'm looking for the right role."
"I think every actor who is established or not is looking for that. I'm spreading myself out in the right areas, looking for the right roles. I wanted to do it, so I went for it."
Usher: Souled Out
At some points when you're listening to Usher's new LP, Confessions, it's hard to believe that it's him because of what he's saying and how he's saying it.
"These are my confessions," he croons on "Confessions Pt. 2." "Just when I thought I said all I could say, my chick on the side said she got one on the way."
What? Even though he's been telling people in detail about the bombshell he's going to drop when the album's released March 23 , it's still a little weird to hear the guy we've been watching mature over the past decade singing about planting his seed. Weird, but irresistible.
Like Mary J. Blige in 1994 (coincidently the same year Usher debuted) on her My Life album, Usher gives the world his evolution not only as an artist, but as a man: He messed up before and he's sorry. He's a better person because he's learned from his mistakes, and now he's ready to move on.
"I'm very single," he'll tell anyone in a New York minute, shutting down any innuendo that he and Chilli will do as they've done before in their relationship, break up to make up. It's a wrap — at least for now.
From an artistic standpoint, Confessions is probably his best album to date. It's certainly his most expansive and experimental. Lil Jon and Just Blaze, who've made most of their money off of hip-hop, came to the table flirting with soulful rock and roll (see Blaze's soundscape in "Throwback") and futuristic rhythm and blues, a la the #1 song in the country, "Yeah!"
Mr. King of Crunk," Usher boasts of fellow ATL blueblood Jon, who produced "Yeah!" "Obviously with all the hip-hop hits that he has, it was only right for him to go ahead and take it full circle. 'Let's take an R&B record and why not go ahead and put Ludacris on it?' We made a good connection there."
Usher's also reaching heights he's never touched before as a crooner, trying new flows and hitting new notes on records like "Burn" and "Follow Me."
Always aiming to stay ahead of the curve, "Mr. Entertainment" elaborates on why he decided to open up like never before, his competition with Justin Timberlake and an alleged altercation with Mr. Whitney Houston.
[Editor's note: The following Q&A session is culled from two different recent Usher interviews.]
MTV: A few months ago when you were talking about the song "Confessions Pt. 2" you said you were going to let a few skeletons out of your closet on the album. And wow, you lived up to your word.
Usher: Well, you see, I've got a lot to say. This album had to be a lot more personal than the last. It had to be something different than the last. For the most part, the topics, they're very much so personal. In a way, [I wanted] to play off the name Confessions, to make the entire album seem as if I'm confessing to someone or something. All of us have our Pandora's boxes or skeletons in our closets. I let a few of them out, you know. And with everything that's been happening in my life, I've got a lot to say. I've got a lot of stuff built in me that I just want to let go of.
MTV: As heartfelt as you've been about expressing yourself through music, you've also been vocal for almost a year now about the music itself. More specifically the state of R&B and how it's faltering. Last summer you talked about how a lot of the soul has been taken out of R&B and too many singers are trying to latch onto hip-hop.
Usher: Just listening to the radio, I was really concerned. R&B, man, you've got to understand the true essence of what R&B is and where it came from. That's what I fight for. That's why every album you can hear influences of Marvin Gaye, Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, just to hopefully restore and continue to educate young people about R&B and what it really is.
MTV: So what's the essence of R&B?
Usher: The essence of R&B is real experience. It's based on soul. It's based on feeling groove and rhythm and a combination of all them coming together to make a piece of magic. It sort of puts artists in a vulnerable place where they're emotionally drenched, pouring something out, you know. If you think back to Whitney Houston's earlier days, Aretha Franklin's earlier days, Bobby Womack's earlier days, it's like they were crying to you on records. Sam Cooke, you felt him. James Brown, you felt him. That's what it is, that's funk R&B.
MTV: Who do you think are some of your peers on the R&B level?
Usher: Obviously R. Kelly. Beyoncé is definitely doing her thing, Joe definitely understands. You've got new cats — newcomers who understand R&B but do it in a fusion of different styles like Robin Thicke — that just truly understand the essence of real music. Do they sell a lot records? No, because it ain't bullsh--: cars, clothes, hoes, money and wheels spinning. That's bullsh--!
MTV: Another soulful cat who's been critically acclaimed and given kudos by fellow artists is Justin Timberlake. Since he emerged as solo star, people have really been comparing the two of you — the music, the stage performances. Do you see him as competition?
Usher:Nah, not really. I'm out doing my thing. And you know, Justin is doing his thing. Much success to my man for having such success on his first album.I encourage it 100 percent.
MTV: There was talk that Pharrell Williams was trying to get you and Justin Timberlake on a song last summer but it never panned out. Is working with J.T. something you want to do in the future?
Usher: Yeah, that's sort of been up in the air. A few times we talked about it. I talked about it with a few different producers, spoke to Justin's people about it. I think my people spoke to Justin's people and who knows? It might happen. I don't know. There's always the element of surprise. If it does [happen], it'll probably be one of the wildest experiences for MTV. The whole nine — the whole world will be shook.
MTV: Not to bring up old stuff, but what happened at your birthday party a couple of years back in Atlanta? The rumor about you and Bobby Brown getting into an altercation spread like an urban legend. So many people were there, and yet nobody has the same story of what happened.
Usher: What happened with me and Bobby Brown? Nothing. Nothing. Bobby showed up at my party and the party was over. People kind of alluded to the fact that maybe there was a fight or something like that. We never got like that. That's it. He just got onstage and said some words. No, actually I said some words to him, or actually to the audience. That was it. Really, that was it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it [laughs].
Usher to perform a live concert in March, 2005
It's time to Usher in the new year.
After a very good 2004 for the R&B singer, Usher will perform a live concert on Showtime March 5. The show, One Night, One Star: Usher Live, will be a 90 min. live broadcast from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
"Usher is, without question, the biggest thing in the music business right now, and we're thrilled he wanted to do his live concert with us," said Robert Greenblatt, the cable network's president of entertainment, in a statement released Friday.
Usher's Confessions, featuring hits Yeah! and Burn, was the best selling album of 2004, moving 7.9 million copies. His tour raked in $29.1 million in North America, and he's currently nominated for eight Grammys, including album of the year.
The concert will air Saturday, March 5 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) live on the east coast, tape delayed on the west coast.
Showtime, a premium cable network, is offering a free preview nationwide March 4-7.
Usher Most Searched-for Person of 2004 On Web
BRITNEY SPEARS' busy year of headline-grabbing antics have helped her earn the title as the most-searched-for person on the internet for the third time in four years.
The tally, compiled by AMERICA ONLINE, places twin actresses MARY-KATE and ASHLEY OLSEN second, beating American TV personalities REGIS PHILBIN and KELLY RIPA.
The top three "mother" searches were JULIA ROBERTS, SHAR JACKSON - the ex-girlfriend of Spears' husband KEVIN FEDERLINE - and LIV TYLER, who gave birth to baby boy on Tuesday (14DEC04).
Top of the most searched-for male category was musician USHER, with KOBE BRYANT being the most-searched athlete.
Naomi Campbell dumps Usher !
Naomi Campbell has reportedly dumped Usher after a blazing row at the recent Billboard Music Awards.
Sources claim the stunning supermodel ended her three-month relationship with the hip-hop star earlier this month because she believed Usher's entourage was too controlling.
A source told America's New York Post newspaper: "They are having problems. They aren't seeing each other right now.
"Usher's camp are very controlling and wanted Naomi to behave a certain way and do as they say - including showing up to every red carpet event with him and posing for every picture. She was sick of it."
Friends claimed the relationship came to a head at the Billboard Music Awards as Usher was keen for Naomi to accompany him to the Las Vegas ceremony, in which he picked up 11 gongs.
However, Naomi decided to stay in New York as she thought he was getting more publicity out of the romance than she was.
A source told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper: "Usher's always wanting her to do the red carpet things with him. But while it looks good for him to have a gorgeous woman hanging off his arm, what does she get out of it?
"She told him she wasn't going to the awards with him and he got all tetchy with her."
A spokesman for Naomi, who began dating the handsome singer after meeting at MTV's Video Music Awards, said: "Naomi and Usher are good friends and will continue to be so."
Usher on fire in 2004
Usher owned the musical spotlight in 2004 - everyone else was just renting.
The abs-tastic R&B singer, previously known as much for his trou-dropping stage act as his lovey-dovey vocals, set a record by landing four No. 1 singles this year, with "Yeah!," "Burn," "Confessions Part II" and "My Boo" racking up nearly seven months at the top spot. His album "Confessions" sold more than 5 million copies and spent nine weeks at No. 1. "Yeah!" was the biggest hit, bringing the Lil' Jon Southern hip-hop style of crunk to the mainstream by mixing it with a pop melody and a danceable chorus. The rest of his successes came with R&B-tinged pop ballads that would have been hits in 1974 or '84 or '94 - and you can bet that in 2014, people will still sing along with "My-oh, my-oh, my-oh, my-oh, my boo-ooh-ooh-ooh."
Usher's dominance, however, was a strange one. It didn't set off a barrage of copycats like music industry successes usually do. Instead, music headed off in a dozen different directions, with many genres laying the groundwork for the one breakout hit that will turn everything upside down. Will 2005 be the year "conscious rap" - building on Kanye West's groundbreaking "The College Dropout" album this year - starts to challenge gangsta rap once again? Will it be the year that emo breaks through the way alternative rock exploded after Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? That will depend on the strength of upcoming albums from Dashboard Confessional, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday, whose No. 3-debuting "Where You Want to Be" indie album was one of the year's biggest surprises. Will it be the year that Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney - who had two of the year's best pop albums, despite the corner they get painted into because of their country background - finally take their rightful places beside country crossover queens Faith Hill and Shania Twain? Of course, they'll have to duke it out with the new red-state queen, Gretchen Wilson, and her pals Big & Rich, who staked their claims this year, though they were not nearly as powerful as Miss Loretta Lynn, who teamed up with The White Stripes' Jack White to build her classic country comeback, "Van Lear Rose."
The comeback was big in 2004, as the music industry waited for a new direction and leaders of previous movements gained new glory. Prince not only returned with "Musicology," his best album in years, but he came up with a sales strategy that allowed him to sell tens of thousands of them by bundling their costs in with the cost of his concert tickets. Alternative-rock pioneer Morrissey also saw a return to form with the grand "You Are the Quarry" album and a masterful tour. More surprising, however, was the sold-out, cross-country comeback of The Pixies after a 12-year hiatus with only an Internet single, "Bam Thwok," and their mighty reputation to drum up sales.
Usher leads 2004 Album Shipments
To his eight Grammy nominations and slew of No. 1 singles, R&B singer Usher has added the honor of most-shipped U.S. album of 2004 for "Confessions," according to year-end certifications from the Recording Industry Assn. of America.
With 8 million units shipped to retailers (but not necessarily sold through to consumers), the set is the highest-certified album in the star's catalog. His previous best was 1997's "My Way," which is six times platinum.
Usher also picked up three honors under the RIAA's new digital awards program. "Yeah!" featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, which spent 12 weeks atop the Hot 100 singles chart, was certified digital platinum for more than 200,000 downloads. The No. 1 singles "Burn" and "My Boo" with Alicia Keys went digital gold for more than 100,000 downloads.
George Strait earned this year's second-highest certified album, and top country album, for "50 Number Ones," which was certified five times platinum. Strait's career has yielded more than 60 million total U.S. shipments.
Norah Jones was the top female in 2004, with her sophomore effort, "Feels Like Home," shipping 4 million units. Her 2002 debut "Come Away With Me" is nine times platinum. Jones' "Sunrise" earned a digital gold award.
Top debut by a female artist went to Gretchen Wilson's "Here for the Party" and Ashlee Simpson's "Autobiography," both with 3 million shipments.
Kanye West was the year's leading male newcomer, with double-platinum honors for "The College Dropout."
In addition to earning the RIAA Diamond Award for 10 million shipments of last year's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," OutKast joined Usher with three digital awards. "Hey Ya!" grabbed the only multi-platinum award, while "Roses" and "The Way You Move" went platinum.
Another 2004 highlight was Ray Charles' posthumous "Genius Loves Company," which earned the artist his first platinum and multi-platinum honors.
Several other artists picked up their first multiplatinum awards in 2004, including Maroon5, whose "Songs About Jane" went triple platinum. Earning their first double-platinum nods were Black Eyed Peas for "Elephunk"; Brad Paisley, "Mud on the Tires"; Jill Scott, "Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Volume 1"; Keith Urban, "Golden Road"; Pantera, "Vulgar Display of Power"; and Switchfoot, "Beautiful Letdown."
First-time platinum winners included Ciara, Five for Fighting, Anthony Hamilton, Jet, Josh Turner, Velvet Revolver, Michael McDonald, Yellowcard, Los Lonely Boys and JoJo.
Usher Releases Mini Film For New Years Eve
Usher set for steamy New Year's Eve Film. Usher is to cap off an amazing year with a 20-minute mini-movie on New Year's Eve (31DEC04).
The R&B hunk has shot a short film, called RHYTHM CITY: VOLUME 1, with girlfriend NAOMI CAMPBELL and P DIDDY as guests.
The film, which will air before New Year's Eve celebrations on America's FOX channel on Friday, will also feature a steamy love scene between Usher and actress JOY BRYANT. The film will also feature four Usher hits.
Usher emerges as a new king of pop in 2004
You only need one word to sum up the year in pop 2004: Usher. Clearly, it was his house. The rest of us were just overnight visitors.
It began innocently enough, right at the beginning of the calendar year. On the US Billboard Hot 100 dated Jan. 10, 2004 (coincidentally, the 55th anniversary of the introduction of the 45 rpm record), the highest new entry was "Yeah!" by Usher Featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris. Six weeks later, "Yeah!" had assumed pole position, and remained there for 12 weeks, tying it as the longest-running No. 1 (with "Lose Yourself" by Eminem and "Smooth" by Santana Featuring Rob Thomas) since Brandy and Monica reigned for 13 weeks in 1998 with "The Boy Is Mine."
While "Yeah!" was still dominating the chart, along came follow-up "Burn." The week of May 22, "Burn" replaced "Yeah!" at No. 1, and stayed there for eight weeks. It gave Usher a 20-week lock on the top spot, the longest consecutive run at No. 1 in the history of the Hot 100. The previous record was 16 weeks, held by Boyz II Men (who did it twice) and Mariah Carey.
Now, "Yeah!" and "Burn" have ended up as the No. 1 and No. 2 songs of 2004 on the year-end recap of Hot 100 Singles & Tracks. It’s the first time in 40 years that one artist has owned the top two titles of the year. In 1964, the Beatles were Nos. 1 and 2 with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You."
That’s just a small part of the Usher story in 2004. After "Burn" came "Confessions Part II," another No. 1 hit, and "My Boo," a duet with Alicia Keys that also ascended to the top. By the time the chart year was over, Usher had held first place for 27 weeks, longer than any other artist in history. He was still No. 1 with "My Boo" as the new chart year began.
Buoyed by his album’s first three hits ("My Boo" was added to a revised edition of the set), Usher topped the Billboard 200 for nine weeks with "Confessions," his first No. 1 on this chart. Based on its sales strength, "Confessions" is the No. 1 album of the year on the Top Billboard 200 Albums recap.
Although 50 Cent also had the top single and album of 2003, the feat is so rare that before Usher and 50 Cent, you would have to go back to 1994 to find another instance (Ace of Base ruled both recaps that year, with the single and the album both titled "The Sign").
On the year-end recap of the Hot 100, the top 10 includes only two other artists aside from Usher who have ranked in the top 10 before. Usher had the No. 9 song of the year twice, with "Nice & Slow" in 1998 and "U Got It Bad" in 2002. In 2001, Keys’ first chart entry, "Fallin’," was the No. 2 song of the year. This year, she finishes in third place with "If I Ain’t Got You."
The only other artist in the top 10 to repeat from a previous year is P. Diddy, most recently in the top 10 as Puff Daddy in 1997 with the No. 3 song of the year, "I’ll Be Missing You," as well as the No. 5 hit that year, "Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down." This year, Diddy is featured along with Enya on Mario Winans’ "I Don’t Wanna Know," which is ranked No. 7. That happens to make Enya not only the highest-ranked Irish artist of the year but also the highest-ranked non-American, followed by Canada’s Nickelback at No. 17 with "Someday."
One irony inside the top 10: Maroon5, a group that has never peaked higher than No. 5 on a weekly Hot 100 chart, has the No. 4 song of the year with "This Love." The track did indeed peak at No. 5, but comes in higher on the year-end recap thanks to its long, healthy chart life filled with abundant sales and airplay.
The gender gap has grown huge when it comes to No. 1 album of the year. Usher’s triumph follows that of 50 Cent, who had the top title of 2003, and Eminem, who placed first in 2002. The last time a female act had the No. 1 album of the year was 1997, when the Spice Girls led the list. The year before, Alanis Morissette had the No. 1 album of the year, the last solo female artist to do so.
With Eminem, 50 Cent and Usher coming out on top the last three years, it’s the longest reign of No. 1 albums of the year by solo male artists since Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" was No. 1 in 1983 and 1984 and Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the U.S.A." was No. 1 in 1985.
Usher Rings in the New Year with the world premiere of his mini-movie "Caught Up"
In an exclusive World Broadcast Premiere ONLY seen on FOX, multi-platinum artist Usher, who walked away with 11 Billboard Music Awards last week including "Artist of the Year," unveils his new mini-movie "Caught Up" during the network's annual New Year's Eve special. Usher's never-before-seen 20-minute mini-movie will feature four of his hits, including "Seduction," "Caught Up," "Red Light" and "Take Your Hands," and a cameo by AMERICAN IDOL's Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest returns for his third time as host and first time as executive producer of NEW YEAR'S EVE: LIVE FROM TIMES SQUARE WITH RYAN SEACREST, live from the future home of the Hard Rock Cafe New York. This year Seacrest takes the party to the Big Apple, interviewing celebrities and musical acts from one of the hottest parties in Times Square, as well as reviewing the nation's favorite songs from "America's Top 40." The special will also feature performances by Hoobastank and Evanescence. Tune in to NEW YEAR'S EVE: LIVE FROM TIMES SQUARE WITH RYAN SEACREST Friday, Dec. 31 (11:00 PM-12:30 AM ET Live/PT Tape-Delayed) on FOX.
Usher has been at the forefront of the R&B music scene, selling over 15.6 million albums in the United States. Usher's current album "Confessions" spent nine weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold 6.5 million records in the United States alone. In its first week of release, "Confessions" sold 1.2 million copies, making it the biggest sales week of the year for any album. Usher recently re-released his hit album "Confessions" and a new track titled "My Boo" featuring Alicia Keys; the single has already gone to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Aside from his music career, Usher has also starred in such films as "She's All That" and "The Faculty."
NEW YEAR'S EVE: LIVE FROM TIMES SQUARE WITH RYAN SEACREST is from Ryan Seacrest Productions in association with Tall Pony Productions. The special is executive-produced by Ryan Seacrest, Anthony Eaton and Dave Broome.
Usher once again wins a whole mess of trophies at the Billboard Awards
It was all about R&B and hip-hop at Wednesday night's Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. Usher was the big winner with 11 awards, followed by Alicia Keys with seven, Outkast with five and Kanye West with four.
Usher, who opened the show at the MGM Grand by dropping down from the ceiling for a glitzy performance of ''Bad Girls'', was named Artist of the Year and Billboard 200 Artist of the Year, and also took home awards for Billboard 200 R&B/ Hip-Hop Album of the Year and Hot 100 Single of the Year for his song "Yeah!"
Keys, who performed "Karma" with a pair of violinists, two bucket percussionists and a troupe of break-dancers, won Female Artist of the Year, R&B/ Hip-Hop Single of the Year ("If I Ain't Got You") and Hot 100 Songwriter of the Year.
The show also featured the first-ever Ringtone of the Year award, which went to 50 Cent's ubiquitous rap track "In Da Club." Maroon 5 were named Digital Artist of the Year and Outkast won Digital Track of the Year for "Hey Ya!"
On the same day he was nominated for 10 Grammys (see "Kanye Scores 10 Grammy Nominations; Usher And Alicia Keys Land Eight"), Kanye West won Male New Artist of the Year, new R&B/ Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Producer of the Year and Rap Artist of the Year.
Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz took home a pair of awards for Independent Artist and Album of the Year for Kings of Crunk.
The show featured a number of bizarre moments, not the least of which occurred when actress Tara Reid tripped onto the stage to face nearly 30 seconds of agonizing downtime while the TelePrompTer apparently malfunctioned. Reid introduced the reunited Mötley Crüe (see "Original Lineup Of Motley Crue Reuniting For World Tour"), whose singer, Vince Neil, stammered a few times and then admitted he could not see the Prompter without reading glasses. And when Ashlee Simpson collected Female New Artist of the Year to a small chorus of boos, the singer responded by doing a dance step and joking that if artists ever get nervous, they can do the "Texas jig" she did after her infamous "Saturday Night Live" lip-synching incident (see "Ashlee Identifying With 'Wannabe' Character, Says She's Over 'SNL' Episode").
Britney Spears, making her first public appearance since marrying dancer Kevin Federline, took the stage in a body-hugging sheer dress to present the first award of the night, Rap Artist of the Year, which went to Kanye. Spears won the Hot Dance Single of the Year for "Me Against the Music."
Destiny's Child were given an Artist Achievement Award, and an all-star cast that included DC, Mary J. Blige and Diana Ross closed the show with a musical tribute to Century Award winner Stevie Wonder. As the band vamped on one of his songs, Wonder took the stage and spontaneously burst into a vocal performance of his 1973 hit "Higher Ground."
The Billboard Awards are based on record sales and airplay tabulated by the magazine between December 2003 and November 2004.
Usher got four films on tap
Usher fans had better start getting their popcorn money together, because the singer will be hitting the box office in a major way in 2005.
In addition to his work on an untitled MTV Films project and a Jackie Wilson biopic two more films.
First up will be the romantic comedy "Dying for Dolly," in which Mr. Entertainment will star as a Mafia don's right-hand man who falls for his boss' daughter. The Lions Gate film will also star Chazz Palminteri ("The Usual Suspects") and Emmanuelle Chriqui ("On the Line"). Usher will also serve as an executive producer on the film, which begins production on December 10 and will shoot through January.
Usher will then slip on his dancing shoes for MGM's "Step in the Name of Love." According to reports, the film will be an urban update of "Saturday Night Fever"; no word yet on a start date or co-stars for that film.
In the meantime, Usher will have his hands full musically with a projected Best of Both Worlds-style album with Ludacris.
Usher breaks Naomi Campbell silence
R&B heart-throb USHER has spoken of his love for new girlfriend NAOMI CAMPBELL, likening their charged first meeting to "a lightning bolt".
The 34-year-old supermodel organised Usher's 26th birthday at New York city's Rainbow Room last month (OCT04) and the pair snuggled up on the red carpet of the MTV EUROPE MUSIC AWARDS on 18 November (04).
Last week (ends26NOV04) the British beauty spoke of her "pride" of Usher's awards triumph at the bash in Rome and spoke of her desire to have children.
Usher gushes, '' I met Naomi three months ago and it was like I'd been hit by a lightning bolt.
We have a real special, special relationship. Naomi is a beautiful woman and I like her a lot.''
Usher is a ''babe magnet''
R&B star USHER and supermodel NAOMI CAMPBELL proved their romance is for real at Thursday's (18NOV04) MTV EUROPE MUSIC AWARDS by warning off love rivals.
The YEAH! singer had a face-to-face with British radio DJ TREVOR NELSON after he saw him talking to Campbell. The model meanwhile spent the evening warning adoring fans to back off from her boyfriend.
An onlooker recalls, "As soon as Usher arrived a crowd of girl gatecrashers made straight for him. Some of the lines they were using to get past security were unbelievable.
"There's no doubt Usher is a babe magnet. He seemed oblivious to all the attention he was getting but Naomi certainly noticed it. She made sure everyone knew who the real queen bee was.
"People were waiting for it to all kick off but her strategy was far cleverer. Instead of blowing up she gave them all subtle killer looks and one by one they melted away."
Usher gets jealous about his girlfriend Naomi Campbell
Jealous Usher had a huge bust-up with British radio DJ Trevor Nelson when he spotted the Radio 1 star chatting to his girlfriend Naomi Campbell at the MTV pre-awards party.
Trevor noticed the supermodel, who has been dating the R'n'B singer for several weeks, looking bored at the star-studded bash in Rome on Wednesday night (17.11.04), while Usher was hanging out with pals on the dancefloor. So he went over to say hello - only for possessive Usher to warn him to stay away.
The DJ's Radio 1 colleague Edith Bowman revealed: "Usher was grinding away on the dancefloor and his girlfriend, Naomi Campbell, was sat in the corner looking really miserable, like she'd been slapped by a wet fish. "So Trevor went over to her and said, 'How are you doing? Are you alright?' "Next thing, Usher turned round and was looking daggers at him. He marched over and demanded, 'What are you doing to my girl? However, Usher was not the only one getting jealous - sources claim Naomi gave "killer looks" to any female fans trying to get close to her handsome 26-year-old boyfriend.
Is 26 years old Usher a mamma's boy?
Usher is just some of the hot celebrities managed or co-managed by a parent. So why risk it? '' Obviously one of the best benefits is we split the dough,'' Usher said at a recent tour stop, flashing his famous smile. ''Nah. To be perfectly onest with you, there is not another person who could have your best interests( at heart like a parent does). Jonetta Patton doesn't live through her son, Usher, but she does admit to living for him.
"Sometimes, when I look back, I truly have denied myself," Patton, who has managed Usher for more than a decade, said outside of her son's dressing room recently. "I really have denied myself and put him first, but I've never ever thought that our relationship would end [badly]. My focus has always been Usher. The focus has never been about me. It has always been about making him as big as I could possibly make him." The biggest negative for Patton has been dealing with a lack of respect within the music industry. "From the very beginning, I knew that Usher was a star, but people would say, 'Yeah, of course. That's your kid. All parents think their kids are great,' " Patton said. "But I actually knew that he had something that was really special. And I think being a parent manager, a lot of times they don't take you seriously."
To this day, after all of the success Patton has earned with her son, Usher is bombarded by what she calls "the vultures" — other managers trying to pull him away from his mother.
''He's 26 years old and people are whispering in his ear, 'You're mommy's boy,' " Patton said. "At first it was, 'She don't know what she's doing.' And then when he really blew up, it was, 'She can't take it to the next level.' Now he's a big superstar and it's, 'We can do it better.' I don't think anyone can do it better. He's at the top of his game and I led him there."
For Usher, the vultures are a nuisance, if anything. His problem with having his mother manage his career is that it's given him a split personality. "A lot of times I have to talk as Usher and then I have to talk as Big Time to my momma, but then we go back to Usher, and then we go back to Big Time," Usher explained, Big Time being his entertainer alter ego. "It gave me this Jekyll and Hyde thing I got going on here," he added, holding his hand across his face as if splitting it in two.
As hard as it is, being able to separate personalities — the artist from the child — seems to be the key to making the parent-manager relationship work.
"I have to be really, really understanding because sometimes Usher can say things that are less than pleasing to me, but I have to put on that other hat and realize that this is not my son speaking to me, this is the artist," Patton said. "I can separate the two. I understand that I make mistakes. I'm a manager, so I have to take a hit when I do something that's not pleasing to him. Sometimes it's difficult, but we work through it." As hard as it is, being able to separate personalities — the artist from the child — seems to be the key to making the parent-manager relationship work.
Usher too loves David Beckham!
After Tom Cruise, its R 'n' B crooner Usher's chance to express his admiration for British soccer star David Beckham.
The singer had a coat made with a copy of David Beckham's angel tattoo embroidered on the back and wore it for the American Music Awards where he won all four of his nominations.
"I became a soccer fan because of David. He's a great player. I follow him as an entertainer - whether it's for his fashion or his football - I follow what he's doing," Usher was quoted by the Daily Mirror, as saying.
Usher wins four awards at the AMA
Pop-r&b sensation Usher, whose fab abs and muscular string of dance-pop hits made him the year's king of pop, was crowned winner of the American Music Awards on Sunday, taking top honors in all four categories in which he was nominated.
The 26-year-old from Atlanta was named Favorite Male Artist in both the pop-rock and soul-r&b races of the 32nd annual show, broadcast from the Shrine Auditorium, in the first Hollywood trophy fest of the awards season. The singer's "Confessions" album, which sold more than 1 million copies in its first week, won in both divisions as well. "I just want to thank all the lovely ladies," the man born Usher Raymond told the squealing crowd after beating out R. Kelly, Prince and "American Idol" Ruben Studdard.
"This is one of the greatest days of my career," he said backstage. Coming three months before the 107-category Grammy Awards, the AMAs offered an unusually large number of live acts, as well as a good idea of which big names will grab Grammy gold on Feb. 13. Included among the 17 performers were show opener Gwen Stefani, Lenny Kravitz, Jessica Simpson, Rod Stewart, and Usher with Alicia Keys, singing their chart-topper "My Boo."