Kate's Notes

Tuesday, February 27, 2007



Usher Raymond IV (born October 14, 1978) is set to take over the crown as the new King of Pop. Not since the moon walking days of Michael Jackson has a performer sung so well, and danced so electric than this five-time Grammy Award-winning American R&B and pop singer, dancer, and actor who rose to fame in the mid-late 1990s with a series of albums and small parts in various films.

To date, he has sold approximately 20.4 million albums in the United States and over 35 million worldwide. His 2004 album, Confessions, sold 1.2 million copies in the United States in its first week of release—setting a record for the most number of records sold in week for an R&B artist.

Though he has a competitor for the “King of Pop” title in Justin Timberlake, Usher is staking his claim in his fanbase, and continuous strings of #1s. He is seen at the best parties, goes to the right clubs, has the coolest friends, and is currently engaged to Michelle Vella.

Early Life

Usher was born to Usher Raymond III and Jonetta Patton, who lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the time of his birth. However, Usher was primarily raised by his mother, and they relocated the family from Chattanooga to Atlanta, Georgia when he was still a child. Usher's mother focused family life around her faith and religion, and Usher started singing in the church choir at a young age. Soon his singing talents were noticed: as early as junior high school, Usher began entering local talent shows in which he won by unanimous vote.

Usher was for four years by Ernest Miller, and at age 13, Usher was performing at a Star Search audition when he was spotted by an A&R rep from LaFace Records who arranged an audition with L.A. Reid. A record contract with the company soon followed and in late1993, "Call Me a Mack," a song recorded for the movie soundtrack of John Singleton's Poetic Justice.

Usher (Debut album): 1994 - 1996

In August 1994, LaFace released Usher's self-titled debut album. Heavily involved in the project was Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, who produced several of the albums tracks and co-executive produced the album. Usher peaked at #25 on the R&B Albums chart - spinning off three singles: "Can U Get Wit It," "Think Of You," and "The Many Ways."

Though the album was moderately successful and garnered Usher attention with urban listeners, it was not a runaway hit and went virtually unnoticed by pop audiences. Some critics, meanwhile, criticized Usher for its quasi-adult theme coming from a then sixteen year old singer. Usher, himself, later admitted that he wasn't fully comfortable with the direction of the album. The album was not a huge success and sales were initially lower than expected: in America the album sold 48,000 copies and worldwide sales of nearly 100,000.

Over the next three years, Usher honed his skills as a stage performer, concentrated on graduating from high school, and laid the groundwork for his second album. Meanwhile, he was heard on "Let's Straighten It Out," a 1995 duet with fellow Atlanta teen recording artist Monica; and 1996's "Dreamin’,” the first single from Rhythm of the Games, LaFace's Olympic Games benefit album.

My Way and Versatility: 1997 - 2001

Usher developed a friendship with Jermaine Dupri, with whom he co-wrote and produced several tracks for his sophomore album, My Way (executive produced by L.A. Reid, Babyface, and Dupri.) The advance single, "You Make Me Wanna" was serviced to radio in summer 1997 and hit number one in its second week out — the same week that the album was released. "You Make Me Wanna" stayed on top of the R&B/Hip-Hop track charts for a total of 11 weeks (the longest-charting R&B hit in more than 3 years) and at #2 on the Pop charts for 7 weeks (second only to Elton John's "Candle In the Wind"). The single remained on the R&B chart for an unprecedented 71 weeks and became Usher's first platinum single. The albums second single, "Nice & Slow," was released in November, and in January 1998 peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 Singles Chart for two weeks, as well as #1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart for eight weeks. The following summer, the albums title track peaked #2 pop/#4 R&B.

Beginning in the closing months of 1997, Usher hit the road on a series of engagements including a spot on Puffy's No Way Out Tour, dates with Mary J. Blige, and the opening spot on Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope Tour. My Way, meanwhile, was certified 6-times platinum in the United States. Usher received his first Grammy Award nomination as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "You Make Me Wanna," which was also nominated for a Soul Train Music Award as Best Male R&B/Soul Single.

Usher made his acting debut on the UPN television series “Moesha,” with Brandy, which resulted in a recurring role on the series and subsequently his first leading film role in 1998's, The Faculty. Usher's extracurricular activities outside of the recording studio gathered momentum over the following year as he was cast in the daytime drama, “The Bold and the Beautiful” and was seen in the family series “Promised Land.” He completed two more films, She's All That, with Freddie Prinze Jr., and his first starring role in Light It Up. He also appeared in the Disney television-movie "Geppetto" with Drew Carey.

Usher also became involved community activities, such as being a role model to youth; he served as national spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Get Big On Safety" campaign; and appeared on NBC's NBA Inside Stuff. He also participated in the NBA "Stay In School" program and performed at several of the franchises' jamborees entertaining students while showing them the importance of education.

Usher’s first concert album, Live was released in 1999, which featured Lil' Kim, Jagged Edge, Trey Lorenz, Shanice, Twista, and Manuel Seal.

8701: 2001 - 2004

Usher’s next album, 8701, was named for the years of his career at that point [1987-2001], and for its release date of August 7, 2001, or 8/7/01. The song "Pop Ya Collar," produced and co-written by Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, was released in Europe in early-2001 and became a #2 hit in the UK. In the US, "U Remind Me" (produced by Philadelphia's Edmund "Eddie Hustle" Clement) was chosen as the album's first single. Exactly one month before the album's release, "U Remind Me" hit #1 on the U.S. Hot 100, staying on top of the charts for 4 weeks.

One month after the album's release, "U Got It Bad," a "slow jam" written by Usher, Dupri and Brian Cox entered the charts and eventually peaked on the top of the charts (6 weeks), while staying at #1 of the R&B/Hip-Hop tracks chart for further 7 weeks. "U-Turn" was the fourth international single followed by "U Don't Have To Call." "U Don't Have To Call" was the third U.S. single and one of two album tracks produced by the Neptunes, which kept the heat on the singles charts into 2002, reaching the top 3. Usher also joined P. Diddy and Loon and contributed vocals to Diddy's song "I Need a Girl.”

By that time, "Can U Help Me" (a collaboration with hit-makers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) was released as the fourth US single from 8701 in late-summer 2002. To date the album had past 4-times platinum, selling more than 8 million copies worldwide. The year closed out with a trio of dramatic television series appearances, all in November, on "The Twilight Zone," "7th Heaven," and Dick Clark's "American Dreams" (portraying Marvin Gaye).

Because of Grammy deadline peculiarities of eligibility, "U Remind Me" was able to win the Best Male R&B Vocal award at the ceremonies in February 2002; and "U Don't Have To Call" won the same award at the ceremonies one year later, making Usher the only artist besides Luther Vandross (more than a decade before) and Stevie Wonder (back in the 1970s) to win that award in consecutive years.

Confessions: 2004 - 2006

After months of recording Raymond's fourth studio album, Confessions, was released on March 23, 2004. The album's sales topped 1.1 million units in its first week of release and was not only the highest first week numbers ever scanned by a male R&B artist in Soundscan's 13-year history (breaking R. Kelly's record of 540k for TP-2.com back in 2000), but also the highest first week scans by any male artist since Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP (also in 2000, with 1.7 million units). Following this, the album became one of the most successful records of the year, topping the world charts for several weeks and eventually selling more than 15 million copies all over the globe.

This success was simultaneously extended by the releases of the album's second single, "Burn," and third single, "Confessions Part II," which once again topped Billboard's Hot 100 for further ten weeks and made Usher the third lead artist in pop music history (first solo artist) to have three singles inside the Hot 100's top 10, since The Beatles in 1964 and the Bee Gees in 1978.

In September 2004, "My Boo," Usher's first collaboration with singer Alicia Keys (which was included on a Special Edition, released a half year after the original version) also peaked at number one and gave him a total of twenty-eight weeks on top of the U.S. charts in 2004. In the December of the same year another single made its way to the top 10, when the album's final single "Caught Up" peaked at number 8. The track also was used as the lead single of the Rhythm City CD/DVD, Usher released in March 2005 with a few previously unreleased tracks and a short motion picture.

In the meantime, Usher was recognized with a number of awards, including two MTV Awards for "Best Male R&B Artist", three World Music Awards ("Best Male Artist", "Best Male Pop Artist" and "Best R&B Artist"), two Source Hip-Hop Music Awards ("Male R&B Artist of the Year" and "R&B/Rap Collaboration of the Year", a Nordic Music Award, three Radio Music Awards, four American Music Awards and two more MTV Europe Music Awards.

At the 2005 Grammy Awards ceremony, Usher also won three Grammy awards, including "R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals" ("My Boo" with Alicia Keys), "Rap/Sung Collaboration" ("Yeah!") and "Contemporary R&B Album" (Confessions).

In 2005, Usher announced that he was beginning his own record label, Us Records. The first two signees are rapper Rico Love and R&B group One Chance. The first album from the label, One Chance's Private, was released on February 13, 2007. Rico Love's The 5th Element is expected to be released in early 2007.

In spring 2005, Usher's work entered the top 5 of Billboard's Hot 100 when "Lovers and Friends", with Ludacris and Lil Jon, was released as the second single from Lil Jon's album Crunk Juice. The track eventually managed to peak at #3 on the U.S. singles chart.

Around this same time Usher also finished working on his motion picture In the Mix, a crime-comedy, in which he portrayed the leading role Darrell, a DJ, which was released on November 23, 2005.

Still on Top: 2006 - present

On August 22, 2006, Usher took over the role of Billy Flynn in the long-running Broadway musical Chicago. Critical response to his appearance has been mixed; his singing and dancing received more positive reviews, while his acting received negative notices. Usher is reportedly currently engaged to girlfriend and stylist Tameka Foster. However no one from his camp has verified this information to be true.

Usher is also back in the recording studio to work on his next album, The Untold Story. It is scheduled for a summer 2007 release. The album will feature production from The Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Rich Harrison, Dre & Vidal, Robin Thicke, Ryan Leslie, and Swizz Beatz, and will feature Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Robin Thicke. Chris Brown is also rumored to be on the album.

Charity Work

In late 2005, Usher headlined the Project Restart concert to aid Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita victims. The show took place in the singer's hometown of Atlanta on October 9th. Proceeds from the benefit went to the Project Restart Objective, a charity that is providing temporary housing for those who lost their homes in the storms


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