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Usher (singer)

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Usher
Usher 2013.jpg
Usher performing at the 2013 SXSW
Born Usher Raymond IV[1]
(1978-10-14) October 14, 1978 (age 38)[2]
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • dancer
  • actor
  • businessman
  • philanthropist
  • NBA owner (minority)
Years active 1991–present
Spouse(s) Tameka Foster (m. 2007–09)
Grace Miguel (m. 2015)
Partner(s) Chilli (2001–2003)
Children 2
Parent(s) Usher Raymond III (father)
Jonetta Patton (mother)
Relatives

James Lackey (brother)

Ben Vereen (godfather)
Website usherworld.com
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • drums
  • bass guitar
Labels
Associated acts

Usher Raymond IV[1][3] (born October 14, 1978) is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actor. Born in Dallas, Texas but raised and lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee until moving to Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 12, his mother put him in local singing competitions, before catching the attention of a music A&R from LaFace Records. In August 1994 he released his self-titled debut album, Usher. He rose to fame in the late 1990s with the release of his sophomore album My Way (1997), which spawned his first U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, "Nice & Slow", with top-five singles "You Make Me Wanna..." and "My Way" earning him his first two Grammy Award nominations in 1998 and 1999. His third studio album 8701 (2001), produced the number-one singles "U Remind Me" and "U Got It Bad". The former won him his first Grammy Award in 2002, along with "U Don't Have to Call" in 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

Confessions (2004) established him as one of the best-selling musical artists of the 2000s decade. It sold over 20 million copies worldwide, bolstered by its four consecutive Billboard Hot 100 number one singles —"Yeah!", "Burn", "Confessions Part II", and "My Boo"—and has been certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America.[4] Confessions earned him three Grammy Awards in 2005, including Best Contemporary R&B Album. Here I Stand (2008) and Raymond v. Raymond (2010), debuted atop the Billboard 200, produced the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Love in This Club" and "OMG".[5] The EP, Versus, also produced the Hot 100 top-five single "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love". Looking 4 Myself (2012), also debuted atop of the Billboard 200 chart and produced the Hot 100 top-ten single "Scream". Raymond v. Raymond and Looking 4 Myself notably received Grammy Awards for R&B singles "There Goes My Baby" and "Climax".

The RIAA ranks Usher as one of the best-selling artists in American music history, having sold over 23.8 million albums and 38.2 million digital songs in the United States alone.[6][7] To date, his worldwide sales stand over 43 million albums[8] and 75 million records overall, making him one of the best-selling music artists.[9][10] Usher has won numerous awards including eighteen Billboard Music Awards and eight Grammy Awards.[11] At the end of 2009, Billboard named him the number-one Hot 100 artist of the 2000s decade,[12] the second most successful artist of the 2000s decade,[13] and ranked Confessions as the top solo album of the 2000s decade.[14] Billboard also placed him at number six on their list of "Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years".[15] Usher has attained nine Hot 100 number-one singles.[16] He has been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2008, he started his own record label Raymond-Braun Media Group (RBMG) a joint venture with talent manager Scooter Braun. The most prominent artist Usher represents is Justin Bieber.[17]

Early life

Usher was born in Dallas, Texas,[18] the son of Jonetta Patton (née O'Neal), from Tennessee, and Usher Raymond III.[19][20] Usher spent the majority of his young life in Chattanooga: his father left the family when Usher was a year old. Usher grew up with his mother, then-stepfather, and half-brother, James Lackey (born 1984). Directed by his mother, Usher joined the local church youth choir in Chattanooga, when he was nine years old; there, his grandmother discovered his ability to sing, although it was not until Usher joined a singing group that she considered he could sing professionally.[21] In the belief that a bigger city would provide greater opportunities for showcasing his talent, Usher's family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where there was a more conducive environment for beginning singers.[22] While in Atlanta, Usher attended North Springs High School.[23]

Career

1987–96: Musical beginnings and Usher

At age 10, Usher joined an R&B local quintet called the NuBeginnings, which was organized by local music svengali, Darryl Wheeler. Usher recorded 10 songs with the group in 1991, and the ensuing album, Nubeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV, was only made available regionally and by mail order.[24] However, Patton took him out because, according to her, it was a "bad experience".[21] The album was re-released nationally in April 2002 by Hip-O Records.[24][25]

At age 13, Usher competed on Star Search, where he was spotted by an A&R representative from LaFace Records, who arranged an audition for Usher with L.A. Reid, the co-founder of LaFace; Reid signed Usher on the spot to a contract with the record company after singing Boyz II Men hit record "End of the Road" .[26][27] Usher's mother left her job as a medical technician to manage his career, but later broke up their relationship as manager-client in May 2007. Usher was introduced on "Call Me a Mack", a song he recorded for the soundtrack album to the 1993 drama-romance film Poetic Justice.[24] During this time period is where young Usher first met Chilli, his label mate who he would later date down the road.

Preparing for his debut album the unthinkable thing happens to Usher and he loses his voice. Usher was going through puberty and having a difficult time adjusting his voice. LA Reid became skeptical of Usher and put his recording on hold thinking about dropping him from the label.[28] Usher pleaded with the label to keep him and L.A. Reid did. From this point Reid didn't know what to do with Usher so he sent him to New York in the spring of 1994 to live with Puff Daddy to attend what Reid called "Flavor Camp". Usher quickly adapted to the lavish lifestyle of Puff Daddy although in an interview with Rolling Stone, he expressed it as the "Hardest days" of his life. "I had to knuckle up, figure shit out in New York" he said. As he lived at Puff's house in Scarsdale, he noticed that "There was always girls around".[29]

On August 30, 1994, LaFace released Usher's self-titled debut album behind the co-executive production of Sean "P Diddy" Combs.[26] Usher peaked at number twenty-five on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was accompanied by three singles: "Can U Get wit It", "Think of You", and "The Many Ways".[30] The album has sold over 500,000 copies, to date.[31] The album received backlash because Usher was singing about sex which the public had a hard time believing coming out of a 14-year-old's mouth. Again the LaFace had their reservations about signing Usher because the album wasn't as successful as they anticipated. At this time Jonetta Patton, Usher's mother took control of his career and put him in more talent shows the summer of 1995 building Usher a larger fan base and ultimately putting more confidence in L.A. Reid.

After graduating from high school, Usher continued to develop his skills as a stage performer and laid the groundwork for his second album. He also appeared on their version of "Let's Straighten It Out", a 1995 duet with fellow Atlanta teen recording artist Monica;[32] and on "Dreamin'", from LaFace's 1996 Olympic Games benefit album Rhythm of the Games. He was also featured on "I Swear I'm In Love" off the 1996 Kazaam soundtrack.[33]

1997–2003: My Way and 8701

Usher developed a friendship with American record producer, Jermaine Dupri, with whom he co-wrote and produced several tracks for his second album, My Way, released on September 16, 1997. The album's lead single, "You Make Me Wanna...", reached number one in the United Kingdom, becoming Usher's first record to be top single; the record led to his popularity reaching in the country.[34][35] It also became Usher's first gold- and platinum-certified single in the United States.[36] The album's second single, "Nice & Slow", peaked in January 1998 at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Usher his first US number-one single.[37] Later in February of the same year, the single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America; My Way has been certified six-time platinum in the United States.[36]

"You Make Me Wanna..." won the Best Male R&B/Soul Single at the 1999 Soul Train Music Awards.[38] In the closing months of 1997, Usher embarked on a series of tour 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. Usher's first concert album, Live, was released in 1999, which featured appearances by Lil' Kim, Jagged Edge, Trey Lorenz, Shanice, Twista and Manuel Seal; the album has been certified gold in the United States.[36]

Usher made his acting debut on the UPN television series Moesha, which resulted in a recurring role on the series and subsequently his first film role in 1998's The Faculty.[22][31] Usher's extracurricular activities outside of the recording industry gathered momentum over the following year as he was cast in the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful.[22][31] He completed two more films, She's All That, and his first starring role in Light It Up.[22][31] He also appeared in the Disney TV movie Geppetto.[39]

Usher's third studio album, originally titled All About U, was slated to be released in early 2001.[40] The first single, "Pop Ya Collar", was released in late 2000 and became a number two hit in the UK but underperformed in the United States.[41] The album was subsequently pushed back and retooled after select tracks were later leaked to the radio and Internet. After having revised and renamed to 8701, the album was released August 7, 2001 (8.7.01).[22] The first two singles "U Remind Me" and "U Got It Bad" each topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four and six weeks, respectively. 8701 has been certified four-time platinum in the United States.[36]

Usher appeared in the 2001 film Texas Rangers.[42] In February 2002, Usher won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "U Remind Me".[43] The next year, he won the same award for "U Don't Have to Call",[22] making Usher the only artist aside from Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder to win this award consecutively. In summer 2002, Usher contributed vocals to P. Diddy's "I Need a Girl, Part I". The year closed out with a trio of TV series appearances, all in November, on The Twilight Zone, 7th Heaven, Moesha, and American Dreams, the latter in which Usher portrayed Marvin Gaye.[44][45]

2004–09: Confessions and Here I Stand

Usher arriving in Miami, Florida, to attend the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards

Usher's fourth studio album, Confessions, was released on March 23, 2004—just as its first single, "Yeah!", was in its sixth week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and fifth week on top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart.[46] The album's nearly 1.1 million unit debut sales was the highest first-week numbers ever scanned by a male R&B artist and the seventh best of the Nielsen SoundScan history.[47][48] To date, the album has accumulated sales of over 20 million copies worldwide,[43] over 10 million of which were sold in the United States, earning the album a Diamond certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.[49][50]

The album's second and third singles, "Burn" and "Confessions Part II", also topped the Billboard Hot 100, the former for eight weeks. Usher became the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay with four consecutive number-one singles,[51] In September 2004, "My Boo", a duet with American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, also peaked at number one at the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the album's fourth number-one single.[52] In December, the album's final single "Caught Up" peaked at number eight on the Hot 100.[41]

Confessions earned Usher numerous awards, including four American Music Awards, two MTV Europe Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and three World Music Awards.[53][54][55][56] At the 47th annual Grammy Awards ceremony in 2005, Usher won three awards, including: R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for "My Boo", which he shared with Keys; Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Yeah!"; and Contemporary R&B Album for Confessions. At the 2004 Billboard Music Awards, Usher was recognized Artist of the Year, in addition to receiving 10 other accolades.[57]

Usher supported Confessions with the "The Truth Tour". The tour set featured a small stage up on top of the main stage, where the band played with Usher and his supporting dancers left with enough room to perform. The smaller stage had a mini platform attached to it which lowered to the main stage and had two big staircases on both sides of it. To the left, a group of circular staircases climbed to the top, and to the right, there was a fire escape replete with steps and an elevator. Kanye West and Christina Milian was the opening act for the tour.[58] Usher at select dates would bring out special guest, during his Atlanta show taping he brought out his artist at the time Rico Love to rap a verse on the song "Throwback". During a more intimate part of the showing Ushers dancers selected singer Monica from the crowd to be serenaded by Usher while he sang album favorites "Do it to Me" and "Superstar". Usher also performed Confessions Pt. II remix where Kanye would appear from back of the stage. Then lastly Usher would also bring out artist Lil Jon and Ludacris where they would finish the show performing the hit "Yeah". This concert date was filmed to make the official tour DVD of Truth Tour: Behind the Truth "Live from Atlanta". It has been certified by the RIAA selling more than 7 Million copies.[59]

In spring of 2005, Usher scored a number three Hot 100 hit as a featured vocalist on Lil' Jon's "Lovers & Friends".[60] In 2007, Usher also collaborated with R. Kelly on the track "Same Girl", for Kelly's album, Double Up.[61] He was also featured in a remix version of Omarion's "Ice Box".[62] Usher also appeared on the track "Shake Down" on American singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige's 2007 album Growing Pains.[63] In November 2005, Usher starred as a disc jockey named Darrell in the Lions Gate film, In the Mix.[64]

On August 22, 2006, Usher took over the role of Billy Flynn in the long-running Broadway musical Chicago.[65] Usher, whose opening night this week brought out stars Penélope Cruz, Gabrielle Union, Clive Davis, and Rosie Perez, and others.[66] Usher played the role of Flynn for two months but a case of strep throat brought an abrupt ending to Usher's run in the Broadway revival of the musical Chicago, which saw a spike in ticket sales after he joined the cast. The New York Post reports that Usher's absence has cost the production an estimated $400,000 in refunds to disappointed ticket buyers. Producer of Chicago, Barry Weissler also issued a statement sending his thoughts and best wishes to Usher for a quick and speedy recovery. Usher made a spectacular Broadway debut, bringing a great dedication, work ethic and his amazing talent to the show. We all hope that he might return at some point for the many fans that were unable to see his wonderful performance as Billy Flynn. Usher has found a new home on Broadway and is welcomed back anytime." [67]

Here I Stand was released on May 26 in the United Kingdom and May 27, 2008, in the United States. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with first-week sales of over 433,000 copies.[68] To date Here I Stand has now sold over 1.5 million copies in the United States,[69] been certified platinum by the RIAA,[70] and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide.[71] While not approaching the success of his previous album, it received positive reviews from most music critics, who praised the maturity in the album's lyrics. To promote Usher's fifth studio album, the single "Love In This Club" was sent to radio in February 2008 and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to spend three consecutive weeks at the top—becoming Usher's eighth number-one single and the fastest-rising song of his career.[68][72] It also reached No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The single was another huge international success for Usher. It reached No. 1 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, No. 3 on the Irish Singles Chart, No. 3 on the Eurochart Hot 100, No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart, No. 5 on the Japan Hot 100, No. 5 on the German Singles Chart, No. 5 on the Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders), No. 6 on the Canadian Hot 100, No. 8 on the Swedish Singles Chart, No. 8 on the Australian Singles Chart, No. 9 on the French Singles Chart, No. 9 on the Swiss Singles Chart, No. 10 on the Norwegian Singles Chart, No. 12 on the Austrian Singles Chart, No. 13 on the Belgian Singles Chart (Wallonia), and No. 18 on the Finnish Singles Chart. The follow-up single "Love in This Club Part II", which features American singer Beyoncé and rapper, Lil Wayne, peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Its third single "Moving Mountains" peaked at No. 18 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and reached No. 6 on the New Zealand Singles Chart. The album's fifth single "Trading Places" peaked at No. 4 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[37] In September 2008, Usher announced he would embark on the 15-date tour One Night Stand, in which the audience is only females.[73] On January 18, 2009, Usher performed with Stevie Wonder and Shakira at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. He also sang "Gone Too Soon" at the memorial of Michael Jackson on July 7, 2009.[74]

2010–11: Raymond v. Raymond and Versus

Usher on the OMG Tour

Raymond v. Raymond, was released on March 26, 2010, in Germany, on March 30, 2010, in the US, and on April 26, 2010, in the UK.[75] The album was expected to follow in Usher's Confessions album's footsteps. Raymond v. Raymond was released only months after Usher's divorce from Tameka Foster. "Papers", a song about divorce,[76] was released as the first single for the album in October 2009. It topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for two consecutive weeks, becoming his tenth number one single on that chart. It also peaked at number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Critics praised the song for its emotion. "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)", was released as the second single on December 8, 2009. The single peaked at number 24[77] on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 2[78] on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song was released as the second international single in July 2010. "Lil Freak" was announced as the album's official second single in the United States. Usher and Nicki Minaj shot the music video for the song on March 9, 2010, in Los Angeles with director TAJ Stansberry.[79] It reached number 8 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart[80] and number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.[81] It became Usher's fourth Top 40 hit single from Raymond v. Raymond, when including the buzz single "Papers".[82]

"OMG", which features will.i.am, is the third official US single and the first international single. The song received mixed reviews, complimenting the song's dance and club vibe but criticizing the Auto-Tune effect. It reached number-one in Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. The song became his ninth number one in the United States, making him the first 2010s artist to collect number one singles in three consecutive decades, and only the fourth artist of all-time to achieve the feat. Usher also became the third artist to have at least one number one song from five consecutive studio albums. The song's choreography and dance-heavy accompanying music video has been compared to that of "Yeah!". "There Goes My Baby" was released to airplay as the album's fourth single in the United States on June 15, 2010.[83] The song reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number-one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, becoming Usher's eleventh number-one hit on that chart. The song ended up tying with "You Make Me Wanna" for fourth longest stay on the chart with 71 weeks. All of the album's singles received incredible air play. On April 7, 2010, Raymond v. Raymond debuted at number No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart, becoming his third consecutive No. 1 album and selling an impressive 329,107 copies in its first week of release,[5] making him the first male artist since Eminem to have three consecutive albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. After one month of release the album was certified Gold by the RIAA.[84] On June 17, 2010, the album was certified Platinum by the RIAA.[85]

Raymond v. Raymond also dominated the International Charts. Debuting inside the top 10 in Canada, the United Kingdom, Holland, Australia, Germany, Spain, and Italy. Due to the huge international success of Ushers newest single "OMG" and the good first week sales for Raymond v. Raymond Usher is considered to have repaired his mainstream image and to have made a good comeback.[86] The album reached number-two in Australia and the album has been certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[87] The album debuted at number four in Canada[88] and has been certified Gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA).[89] Raymond v. Raymond debuted at number-two in the United Kingdom.[90]

Usher announced on July 8, 2010,[91] a follow-up extended play to his sixth studio album Raymond v. Raymond called Versus, and a deluxe edition of Raymond v. Raymond, both to be released on August 24, 2010.[92] Usher described Versus as "the last chapter of Raymond v. Raymond", and that it would explore the subjects of being newly single and a father.[91] The album included 9 tracks, including 7 new tracks, Raymond v. Raymond single "There Goes My Baby", and Justin Bieber single "Somebody to Love (Remix)". The tracks would be included on a deluxe edition of Raymond v. Raymond. The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart and is preceded by the singles "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" featuring Pitbull, for mainstream audiences, and "Hot Tottie" featuring Jay-Z, for urban circuits.[93]

Usher performing in 2010

The first single from the album, "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love", was released to iTunes on July 13, 2010, and sent to radio on July 20, 2010. Due to strong digital sales the song debuted at number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100.[94] The song became the fourth highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100 of his career, behind 1997's "Nice & Slow" at number nine, 1998's "My Way" at eight, and 2010's "OMG" at number fourteen. Since its release, it has gained international success, peaking in the top 5 in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. It reached the top 10 in Canada, and Europe. It reached number-nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in its third week of release, and became the first time Usher has had two top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time since his album Confessions.[77] It also became Ushers sixteenth Billboard Hot 100 top-ten hit of his career. The second single, Hot Tottie has reached number nine on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart[95] and number twenty-one on the Billboard Hot 100.[96]

Usher appeared at the 2010 MTV VMAs on September 12, 2010.[97] He then performed at the 2010 American Music Awards on November 21, 2010, and also won the awards for Male Soul/R&B artist and Favorite Soul/R&B album for his album, Raymond v. Raymond.[98] According to Rap-Up.com, Usher has started working on his next studio album,[99] and that he is again teaming up with long-time collaborator Rico Love.[99] The OMG Tour began in November 2010[100] and ended on June 1, 2011, it made $70 million worldwide.[101]

Usher also made an appearance at the Super Bowl XLV to sing his song, "OMG" with The Black Eyed Peas' singer will.i.am.[102]

2012–14: Looking 4 Myself and The Voice

In November 2011, Usher revealed that for his next album he was working on a new type of music which he has depicted as "revolutionary pop", which combines different genres to form a new sound.[103] His seventh studio album Looking 4 Myself was released on June 8, 2012, worldwide and received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics.[104][105] American singer-songwriter and record producer Rico Love was interviewed by Billboard magazine stuff, where he spoke about his relationships with artists and experiences. He commented on how Usher wanted to do things differently on the album compared to his previous efforts, saying: "What he wanted to do [on Looking 4 Myself] was explore himself musically. He stepped outside of what was safe and normal. He wanted to make an album that expressed where he was going sonically and not just where he's been for the past 12 to 15 years. He's growing, developing, moving, shaking, and being something that's new, cultural, and that's affecting people sonically. That's kind of forcing the people to grow and elevate".[106] In an interview for MTV News, Usher stated that Looking 4 Myself is "the most artistic of an album" he has ever had in history.[107] When questioned by Reuters during an interview regarding the latter quote, and how this project was different, Usher explained that he felt he was near a 'rebirth' and that prior to Looking 4 Myself, he felt restricted and conformed to a specific standard. He said to himself "I gotta go with what I feel and hopefully people will follow me".[108]

The lead single from Usher's seventh studio album is titled "Climax". It impacted Urban radio on February 21, 2012, and was made available for purchase as a digital download on February 22, 2012. It impacted US mainstream radio on March 13, 2012.[109][110] The second single released from the album was "Scream" and the third single "Lemme See" which features Rick Ross. "Scream" was premiered on April 26, 2012, while "Lemme See" was premiered on May 8, 2012.[111] On Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, "Climax" enabled Usher to add a second song of his in the six longest stays at number one for (11 weeks) after "You Make Me Wanna" with (12 weeks).

In 2013, Usher substituted for CeeLo Green as a coach for the fourth season of NBC's The Voice. His last act, Michelle Chamuel, lost the winning title to Danielle Bradbery, mentored by Blake Shelton.[112] He returned for the sixth season and his last act, Josh Kaufman, won.[113]

Usher performing the URX Tour

On March 19, 2013, Usher made initial notice of his eighth studio album, titled UR, was being in the works.[114] Talking to The Fader, he described the album as "everything you can imagine", saying that it's "gonna be freaking out of here".[114] In an interview with singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger by Rap-Up, the former explained that he, along with Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, and Brian Alexander Morgan, was working on Usher's next album.[115] Bellinger compared the album's music to Usher's Confessions (2004), saying that it is "more R&B, more urban" than Usher's Looking 4 Myself.[115] The latter declared that his next album would show that he is "still Usher".[115] "Good Kisser", a dance-heavy throwback R&B track, was released as the first single allowing Usher to achieve his 13th no.1 on the Airplay chart, tying Drake for most leaders in the list's history.[116] Produced by Pop & Oak, it was performed at The Voice.[117] Since then, two other singles have been released from the album: "She Came to Give It to You" featuring Nicki Minaj and "I Don't Mind" featuring Juicy J. The latter allowed Usher to lead the Rhythmic charts with the most number ones (13).

On August 25, 2014 Usher announced his UR Experience Tour in support of his then-titled eighth studio album UR. The UR Experience kicked off in Montreal, Quebec on Nov. 1 and closed in Tampa, FL. on Dec. 14.[118] The 27 city North American leg was supported by opening acts DJ Cassidy and R&B newcomer August Alsina. The European leg of the tour visited 23 cities and the support would be Nico & Vinz.[119] "With The UR Experience, I want to give my fans an ever-changing live show full of surprises and special guests," Usher says, via a press release. "I am really excited to be with my fans and give them an Usher experience like they've never seen or heard before."[118] While on tour, with the collaboration of Honey Nut Cheerios, he released “Clueless,” a new song that If you purchased a specially-marked Honey Nut Cheerios boxes at Walmart, you will receive a download code to get the song for free.[120]

2015–present: Hard II Love and Hands of Stone

On October 16, 2015, Usher released an interactive music video exclusively on the music streaming platform Tidal called "Chains" that featuring artist Nas and Bibi Bourelly. "Chains" literally forces the viewer to confront the issue of racial profiling and police brutality head-on: By utilizing the webcam on the viewer's computer as well as facial recognition technology, "Chains" paused mid-song whenever the viewer's eyes deviate from the video. Usher performed the song for the first time at the Tidal X:1020 concert on October 20, 2015 at Brooklyn's Barclays Arena.[121] On January 14, 2016, after continual delays of his eighth album, Usher announced via Daniel Arsham Instagram post that he changed the title of the album from UR to Flawed. It was scheduled to be released in April 2016, but has been pushed back with no release date.[122] On June 9, 2016, Usher released a new single from his expected forthcoming album Flawed on the music streaming platform Tidal titled "No Limit" featuring Young Thug, along with a second single titled "Crash" on June 10 for all digital platforms.[123]

On June 12, 2016 it was reported that Raymond signed a management deal with business partner Scooter Braun, who represents Justin Bieber whom him and Raymond have a joint venture with.[124] This report was confirmed by Usher while doing a sit down interview with Ryan Seacrest at the 73rd annual Cannes Lions Festival in Cannes, France during a panel on June 21, 2016.[125] Usher furthered his acting career, starring as American former professional boxer Sugar Ray Leonard in the 2016 American-Panamanian biographical sports film Hands of Stone about the career of Panamanian former professional boxer Roberto Durán. In it, he starred opposite of Édgar Ramírez, Robert De Niro and Ruben Blades. On August 26, 2016, Hands Of Stone premiered worldwide.[126] "Missin U" was also released as a third single by RCA Records for online streaming and digital download, along with "Champions (from the Motion Picture Hands of Stone)", both on Vevo.[127] On August 30, "Rivals" featuring Future was released and debuted exclusively on Tidal with it's accompanying video.[128] It was released on Vevo on September 2, 2016.[129] On September 13, 2016, both "Missin U" and "Rivals" impacted radio as the album's third and fourth singles.[130]

Hard II Love was released on September 16, 2016 and received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics. The lead single, "No Limit" featuring rapper Young Thug initially impacted Urban radio on June 9, and eventually peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number-one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop charts.[131]

Artistry

Musical style and influences

Usher's music is generally R&B, but also dynamically incorporates pop amongst other genres.[134] Complex regards his artistry to bring out “the best of pop music in R&B”.[135] Contextually, his narratives often have an autobiographical nature of emphasis on lifestyle, relationships and love,[136] often said to personify him as “an R&B Casanova”.[134][137] My Way was said to contain influences of Soul and Hip hop.[9] 8701 “introduces touches of '80s rock guitar and the minimal rhythm of '80s hip hop” according to NME’s Lucy O'Brien, and displays versatility.[138] Confessions is viewed to be a “top-of-the-line pop-soul showcase”,[139] with established critic Robert Hilburn of Los Angeles Times seeing lead single "Yeah!" to be something Michael Jackson would have created “if he still had the old Thriller magic”.[140] Here I Stand was noted to be more ballad-heavy by critics,[141] where the album title track’s usage of jazz notably drew comparisons to Stevie Wonder.[142] Raymond V Raymond was described as a “skillful fusion of R&b/hip-hop/pop” by Billboard.[143] Looking 4 Myself further explored those genres into progressive R&B, hip hop ballads and synth pop, where the albums overall sound was coined “hybrid pop”[144] for its additional incorporation of EDM, Dubstep, Neo soul and Funk, as his most diverse work.[134][145] Hard II Love sees Rolling Stone’s Maura Johnston commend his R&B craft, claiming the album “manages to stretch the boundaries of R&B”.[146]

Michael Jackson performing in 1988.

On many occasions, Usher has named Michael Jackson as his biggest influence. Usher once told MTV, "He influenced me in so many ways, more than just music ..... as a humanitarian, as a philanthropist, as an artist, as an individual who transcended culture. I wouldn't be who I am today without Michael Jackson."[147] During the television special 'Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special', Usher was able to dance with Michael while performing "You Rock My World".[148] Prince being another main influence, Usher said "every album I’d always do like one song that is very Prince-influenced, because he’s a great influence on me musically, especially just kind of being expansive and creating music that represents many different genres."[149] In Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" issue, he explained "I was interested in music and trying to find a model. It was Michael, or it was Prince. He had an attitude, a rawness that Michael didn't have. He was not urban, but he was our version of what cool could be."[150] In addition, he has spoken of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder as great musicians and philanthropists stating that "they figured out what they were as they were going, by inspiration as well...allowing their music to speak to where they were and what they had to say". Other musical influences include Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Al Green, Boyz II Men, and Bobby Brown.[151]

Usher was inspired by Frank Sinatra's My Way album released in 1969 so much that he decided to name his sophomore album My Way.[152] Prince would inspire "Nice & Slow" while giving him his first number-one single on Billboard 100.[150] Usher's third album 8701 would be inspired by love and heartache, containing influences from Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson.[153][154] His fourth album was inspired by rapper Eminem, who he credited for being transparent. Usher said in an interview with Sway Calloway; "the honesty of hip-hop and what Eminem was saying on his records it motivated me, like, if he can be that honest through hip-hop -- and there'd been other story tellers but never quite as vivid as his. So I was like, we need to keep it real like him. I wanna go all the way in."[155]

Vocal style

Usher possesses a Leggiero tenor vocal range of 3 octaves and 2 notes.[156] At the age of 13, he set the record for the longest note ever held by a child on Star Search, with 12 seconds.[157] Usher’s vocals are described to be “agile” and “balletic”,[158] with the ability to “easily drift from wavering tenor to fine-tuned falsetto” to create emotions of urgency and burning.[159] Rick Juzwiak speaks "his vocal range is even more impressive than his emotional one" with emphasis on his falsetto being "something that sounds as natural as a speaking voice...he's the picture of grace against shrieking synths". Juzwiak emphasizes the singer's expressiveness by commenting "his emotional range is vast enough to sell tenderness, lechery and wistfulness within minutes of each other”.[160] Usher had been working with Atlanta Grammy nominated music and vocal producer as well as vocal coach, Jan Smith, since his teenage years on early albums such as My Way and 8701. Smith cites Usher as “the single most gifted singer I’ve ever worked with in 26 years”.[161] Usher performed a cover of Luther Vandross’s "Superstar" on the The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005,[162] which earned him a Grammy nomination in 2006 as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.[163] On Looking For Myself Usher received positive acclaim for his vocal ability on singles such as "Climax" and "Dive". Consequence of Sound's Ryan Hadfield praised Usher stating that he was showing his “superior R&B vocal range”.[164] Matt Fibula from PopMatters added “Usher’s voice has never sounded better—and that’s saying a lot”.[165] MadameNoire named him on their list of "Male Singers With the Best Falsetto Game", citing songs such as “Superstar” and “Can U Handle It?” from Confessions along with “There Goes My Baby” and “Climax” as his most exemplifying ones.[166]

Performance

Usher is an old-school showman who has been performing since childhood: a dancer, a singer, five feet and seven inches of raw charm and taut musculature. I’ve seen superstars perform before, but always in large venues, where they are isolated from the plebes by an appropriate distance. Seeing Usher in such a small venue, beaming ear-to-ear the whole evening, I was bowled over by the sheer amount of raw talent and charisma on display.

— Anna Silman of New York Magazine [167]

Usher's stage performances have been complimented for being "packed with high-octane choreography held together by sleek, masterful showmanship",[168] as well as his engagement skill with audiences being "enough to pull off a one-man show".[162][169] His performances and dancing technique have often marked comparisons to his influences Michael Jackson and James Brown.[169] He told People Magazine in 2008 that "James Brown introduced me to soul. Because of him I was given a clear view of what a real performance is and should be. I learned showmanship from him."[170] On his 8701 Evolution Tour in 2002, Larry Nager of Cincinnati Enquirer hailed Usher’s simultaneous ability, stating “the 23-year-old Atlantan proved you can sing and dance at the same time. Of course, that's how James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Usher's most obvious role model Michael Jackson did it, but in today's high-tech, gimmicky concerts, it's a lost art”, and claims his show “ended the reign of 'Nsync, Britney and the rest of the lip-synching, teen-pop acts”.[171] Usher performed singles "Confessions Part II" and "Yeah!" at 2004 MTV Video Music Awards under a rain machine, in which he eventually threw the mic stand at a mirror during the former. Rolling Stone placed it at number 13 of their “20 Best MTV VMAs Opening Performances”.[172] Chad Batka for The New York Times said "He has established himself as one of R&B’s supreme performers and craftsmen, following through on what he learned from Michael Jackson in particular: songs that alternate between choppy and smooth, vocals punctuated by exultant high whoops, a dance vocabulary."[137] Capable of playing the piano,[173][174] Usher also began to adopt playing on other instruments such as the drums and the bass guitar, amid singles "Good Kisser" and "She Came to Give It to You" in 2014.[169][175] The UR Experience Tour was reported to have consisted of a nine-piece band and three backing vocalists according to Billboard,[176] in which The Guardian called him "a masterful all-rounder who surrounds himself with talent on stage" on the tour.[177] Maura Johnston of Rolling Stone labels him the "Award Show King", explaining "His dedication to choreography dates back to the days when Janet Jackson made videos that looked like they were shot in one take. He's an entertainer that would have been stunning at any point in the last 60 years of television."[178]

Art and feminism

Usher is a staunch fan of art and also supports feminism. In 2014 December, he attended Art Basel Miami and participated in an art installation at JJ Brine’s VECTOR Gallery at Select Fair by performance artist Lena Marquise “Body As Commodity” during which she offered collectors to purchase 10 minutes of energy for $100.[179] The news of the participation became the #1 reported on event of Art Basel[180][181] Though Usher refused to issue any official statements about his participation,[182] many assume his participation has to do with support for art and feminism due to the topic and tone of Usher's recent release at the time of song “I Don’t Mind” featuring Juicy J which talks about supporting the work of an exotic dancer, hinting at his support for the new wave of feminism.[183]

Usher is an art collector; in an interview with Vulture he said: "It's significant to where you are in your life," explaining his turn to art collecting. "As you get older and have children, your reflections on what matters begin to change." Raymond says "I started slowing it down," he went on, "enjoying the places I went, going to museums, understanding the nature of what artists were trying to say."[184] Raymond is good friend with graffiti and street-style-inspired artists RETNA, who did the cover art for Justin Biebers studio album Purpose,[185] as well as a contemporary American artist, Daniel Arsham who directed his music video "Chains" and did the cover art for his singles "No Limit" and "Crash".[186]

On Tuesday, June 2, 2015 Usher was honored alongside Robert Di Nero by the Gordon Park Foundation Dinner and Auction in downtown Manhattan for his contributions to the arts at a charity gala in New York. Receiving the Gordon Parks Patron of the Arts Award, named in honor of the late photographer-turned-filmmaker Gordon Parks.[187]

Public image

Usher has been regarded as "An international sex symbol" from a young age, predominantly for his stage persona.[188] Fusion states “Usher—one of the greatest R&B sex symbols in the past 20 years, paving the way for Chris Brown, Trey Songz and Justin Bieber—used sex as a major part of his image”,[173] while VH1 considers him to be “the sexiest male performer ever to walk a stage”.[189] People magazine named Usher the "Sexiest R&B Star" in 1998, quoting singer Monica who said on stage, the sexiness was manifest in "his movements, his gestures, the way he expresses his lyrics." Actress Adrienne Frantz who played with Usher in The Bold and the Beautiful also said "Usher definitely has a way with women. His smile is sweet and sexy at the same time", adding "he's a great kisser." [190] Usher made the cut for People magazine’s "Sexiest Men Alive" in 2004,[191] as he did 4 years later again in 2008.[192] In 2005, Madame Tussauds New York unveiled a wax figure of Usher during a competition to launch The Usher Interactive Experience.[193] Another wax figure was unveiled alongside other singers for the opening of a “VIP room” in 2007.[194] Rihanna told MTV in 2006 "I was in love with Usher when he first came out. I was just like he's so fine![...]I thought he was the hottest thing. I think he was my first crush definitely."[195] After his marriage, the sexual nature of his music was expected to mature as The New Yorker writer Sasha Frere-Jones writes “The challenge here is to convince us that he is a married and responsible man—grown and sexy, without sacrificing the louche, frictionless sense of play that made him famous.”[196] VH1 have listed Usher at number 9 of its 100 Sexiest Artists List.[197] According to Glamour magazine, Usher was one of the “50 Sexiest Men of 2010”.[198] In 2012, Billboard reviewed his fashion evolution stating “The singer came onto the scene in the '90s rocking baggy jeans and suits that made us question his celebrity status, but over the years this R&B star has developed his own signature look, rendering him a modern day fashion icon”.[199] In 2013, Complex magazine placed Usher in its “Most Stylish R&B Singers of the 90’s" list.[200] InStyle magazine rate him both for sex appeal and style as he was included their “Hottest Celebrity Abs” collection [201] before coming under “37 of the Most Stylish Dads”.[202]

Legacy

Usher at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.

Billboard named Usher the Hot 100 Artist of the 2000s decade. Usher had the most no. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with 7 and held the no. 1 position for a total 41 weeks.[203] Confessions was ranked as the top solo album of the decade, selling over 20 million copies worldwide.[204] Considered by Vibe to be “the Thriller of our generation”,[205] Complex says the album “became pop culture catnip” because of its theme.[206] Pop music critic, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker remarks that “For a while, Confessions was pop music” and says it “may turn out to have been the last true blockbuster in pop”.[196] According to Angus Batey of The Guardian, Usher is “hailed as the best dancer in pop since Michael Jackson, and credited with inventing Justin Timberlake (the former 'N Sync star's debut album was built from Usher's blueprint).”[136] Jody Rosen says “He’s the biggest male pop singer in the world; sometimes, it seems like he’s the only one, in a marketplace still dominated by divas”, and describes him as “the most reliable hit-maker of his generation”.[134] Usher has attained 9 Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles, tied with the Bee Gees, Elton John, and Paul McCartney.[207]

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, performed a duet with Usher in 2005 at the 47th Grammy Awards in which he honorably dubbed him the “Godson of Soul”. Brown reiterated "The new godson; Usher, the new godson" following the performance.[208] Usher later responded saying "James Brown will always be the Godfather of Soul and to receive that compliment was great on national television." [209] Usher was inducted into the 29th Annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016 with a star located at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard.[210][211]

Billboard ranked "Yeah!" at number 14 in their “Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs”,[212] while VH1 ranked it at number 15 in their “Greatest Songs of the 2000s”.[213] Confessions is placed at number 16 on Billboard's “Greatest of All Time 200 Albums”,[214] with Vibe magazine placing it at number 10 of its “Greatest 50 Albums since '93”.[215] Los Angeles Times critic Randall Roberts marks dance singles "Yeah!", "Caught Up" and "OMG" to have influenced contemporary dance-pop, stating the former two also “helped define the [20]00s”.[144] Time magazine's pop stardom ranking metric, ranked Usher 3rd in history, based on all-time chart performance and contemporary significance.[216] Usher is placed at number 14 on Billboard's "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Artists" list,[217] before also being included in their "35 Greatest R&B Artists of All Time" list at 31.[218] Described by Fuse as “R&B icon”,[219] Yahoo Music classed him as the best R&B act behind Michael Jackson in the 2000s purely based on album sales.[220]

Usher has been referred to as the “King of R&B”,[221] as well as “Mr. Entertainment”.[222] The BET Honors honored him for his contributions to music with a Musical Arts award, presented by Bobby Brown who said "You remain a game changer, for your discipline, for your perfectionism. You're just a god man".[223][224] The BET Honors recognised his influence on many contemporary artists such as Chris Brown,[225] Trey Songz,[226] Jason Derulo,[227] Miguel,[228] Drake,[229] Justin Bieber,[230] Omarion,[231] Ray J,[232] August Alsina[233] and Eric Bellinger.[234] Ne-Yo further cited Usher as an influence upon the honor saying "I feel that without Usher, there would be no me, there would be no Chris Brown, there would be no Trey Songz. He paved the way for us".[235] Other R&B, hip hop and pop artists who have cited Usher as an influence are Bruno Mars,[236] Zayn Malik,[237] Jeremih,[238] Sam Hunt,[239] Leon Bridges,[240] Sammie,[241] B.Smyth,[242] and Jacob Latimore.[243] Actor Tahj Mowry cites 8701 as an influence in his role of pursuing music and a singing career.[244]

Achievements

Usher has received numerous awards throughout his career from having one Diamond certified album in Confessions, two multi-platinum albums in My Way and 8701, two Platinum albums in Here I Stand and Raymond v. Raymond, and one Gold album in Looking 4 Myself, collectively selling over 23 million albums in the US and 43 million albums worldwide.[8] This includes eight Grammy Awards, eighteen Billboard Music Awards, nine Soul Train Music Awards and eight American Music Awards. In 2004, Usher set the record for most Billboard Music award wins in a single night by a male artist, taking eleven awards.[245] At The 26th annual ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in 2013, Usher was honored with the Golden Note Award which recognises extraordinary career milestones in American music.[246]

On the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "Nice & Slow", "U Remind Me", "U Got It Bad", "Yeah!", "Burn", "Confessions Part II", "My Boo", "Love in This Club" and "OMG" have all reached number-one accumulating 47 weeks at the top, more than any other male artist.[247] Usher spent 28 weeks at number-one in 2004 alone, marking an all-time record for most cumulative weeks spent atop in a calendar year on the Hot 100. He broke the record set by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in 1940; whose records spent 26 cumulative weeks atop on charts which preceded the Hot 100 era.[248] "OMG" made him the first 2010s artist to collect number-one singles in three consecutive decades ('90s,'00,'10s).[249] He became the fourth artist of all-time to achieve that feat behind Stevie Wonder ('60s,'70s,'80s), Michael Jackson ('70s,'80s,'90s), Janet Jackson and Madonna ('80,'90s,'00s) and became the third artist in history to have at least one number-one single from five consecutive studio albums. On the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Usher has 13 number-one singles tied with Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye.[250] Usher also has 13 number-one singles on the Rhythmic chart,[251] and 15 number-one singles on the Airplay chart,[252] with "You Make Me Wanna" (12 weeks) and "Climax" (11 weeks) becoming two of the longest stays atop on the latter.[253][254] Billboard also placed him at number 6 on their list of "Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years".[255] Usher has topped several Billboard Year-End charts, including three in 2004. He topped the Hot 100 Songs chart with "Yeah!", while "Burn" held second place,[256] making him the first act since The Beatles in 1964 to have two singles occupy the top two positions.[257] He further topped both the 200 Albums and R&B/Hip-hop Albums charts with his Confessions album.[258] On the 2000s Billboard Decade-End chart, "Yeah!" finished second, behind Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together".[259]

Other ventures

Business ventures

Usher founded vanity record label US Records, in 2002. The label is a subsidiary of Clive Davis's J Records, which is distributed by Sony BMG. The first album released by US Records was the soundtrack to In the Mix in late 2005, which was used to introduce the label's acts, such as rapper Rico Love, Canadian teen R&B artist Justin Bieber, and R&B vocal quartet composed of Jon A. Gordon, Michael A. Gordon, Courtney Vantrease, and Robert Brent p/k/a One Chance, and singer Rayan. Usher served as songwriter-producer in the project.[260][261] The Raymond Braun Media Group, which Justin Bieber is signed up to, is a joint venture between Usher and Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun.[262]

Usher during product launch of fragrances Usher He and Usher She in 2007.

Aside from recording music, Usher is involved in other businesses, including several restaurants.[263][264] Usher is a part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team. He is part of a group which bought the team with a reported total purchase price of $375 million. He became the third pop artist to own a large stake in an NBA team.[265] On June 19, 2016 Raymond won the 2016 NBA championship with the Cavaliers as a minority owner.[266] In 2007 Usher worked with Richard Herpin and Honoring Blanc for the fragrances Usher He and Usher She. The promotion for the fragrance, featured Usher and Martha Stewart in the Macy's, "The Magic of Macy's" commercial.[267] In September 2008 Usher released the fragrances, UR for Men and UR for Women. Usher fifth fragrance, VIP was launched in 2009.[268] Usher served as the contestant mentor for the Top 10 Week of Season 9 of the television show American Idol. He appeared on the ITV1 show Britain's Got Talent on June 5, 2010. Recently Usher joined as a new coach of American reality talent show The Voice alongside Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Shakira for season 4, which premiered on March 25, 2013, on NBC.[269]

On March 30, 2015, it was announced that Usher is a co-owner, with various other music artists, in the music streaming service Tidal. The service specialises in lossless audio and high definition music video with curated editorial. Jay Z acquired the parent company of Tidal, Aspiro, in the first quarter of 2015.The slogan "Turn the tide" and the hashtag "#TIDALforAll" was used by various artists on social media during the buildup to the press conference relaunching the service.[270] Usher, along with sixteen artist stakeholders (such as Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, J.Cole, Nicki Minaj and more) co-own Tidal, with the majority owning a 3% equity stake.[271] The idea of having an all artist owned streaming service was created by those involved to adapt to the increased demand for streaming within the current music industry, and to rival other streaming services such as Spotify, which have been criticised for their low payout of royalties."The challenge is to get everyone to respect music again, to recognize its value", stated Jay-Z on the release of Tidal.[272]

On June 28, 2015 Usher became partners with Yoobi the fast-growing school supplies company called based out of The Los Angeles.[273] The company donates a portion of its products to schools and has brought in over $20 million in revenue between June 2014 and June 2015, CEO Ido Leffler tells Inc. exclusively. Usher line of supplies with Yoobi features a collaboration with Jonni Cheatwood, the artist who does the designing. The slogan is “Mixing street smarts with school smarts". The collection is available online and at Targets nationwide, and for every purchase, school supplies are donated to kids in need in US classrooms. When asked why he partnered with Yoobi, Usher said, “Preparing future leaders through my New Look Foundation has always been about having the proper tools to succeed in life. If they don’t have the tools, young men and women from underserved communities can’t even begin to understand the idea of having a new or different perspective. So that’s where this collaboration came together giving young people the tools and supplying them with hope.”[274]

Endorsements

Usher has worked with MasterCard since 2004, together they launched the Usher Debit MasterCard. A sleek black card, which features the Usher's face, has that was passed out to concertgoers during his nationwide The Truth Tour." [275] In 2009, Raymond partnered with Belvedere Vodka, launching the campaign Product (Red) that went to donate half of all profits from a new special-edition bottle to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.[276] MasterCard again teamed up with Usher in 2015 to surprise one cardholder. Usher was disguised as a street performer to surprise one of his biggest British fans, who was flown in to Los Angeles as part of MasterCard’s Priceless Surprises campaign in support of the 2015 BRIT Awards.[277]

Usher, in 2012 partnered with the number-one selling dance game Microsoft Dance Central 3. Exclusively made on Kinect for Xbox 360. His role in the game was to bring his iconic talent and lend out his authentic choreography of his dance routines to his hit songs "Scream" and "OMG".[278] Usher himself provides voiceover instruction for players participating in the Dance Central 3 game.[279] At the launch of the game Usher gave a surprise performance of his song "Scream".

In 2013 Usher partnered with Samsung shooting a 2:28 minute short film directed by Rich Lee that included his single "Looking 4 Myself" from his then new album. The video features two Ushers in a face-off, as “down-to-earth” Usher seeks revenge against his “celebrity” alter ego after fame destroys his relationship. According to superstar, Hancock and The Matrix inspired the choreographed fight scenes with himself.[280] The short film featured him using a Samsung's smart TV using the new motion control features that allows users to swipe through the channels. The commercial generated twenty-two million views making it the second highest viewed Samsung commercial behind LeBron's Day with the Samsung Galaxy Note II.[281]

In 2015 Usher teamed up with Pepsi for The New Pepsi Challenge along celebrities Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, and many others. Every month, Pepsi “ambassadors” will use social media to issue a new challenge, many of which blend social responsibility with popular culture that encourages consumers to “do something different.” [282] Usher's challenge invited fans to capture a single photo of an image that they feel inspires and amazes others to look at the world in a new way.[283] The winners photo would be selected and used in an upcoming Pepsi film.

Acting career

Usher made his television acting debut on the American sitcom Moesha in 1997 playing Jeremy Davis, the love interest and classmate Moesha played by Brandy Norwood. He has acted in feature films, debuting in 1998's The Faculty. In 1999 Usher appeared as a student disc jockey in the teen romantic comedy film She's All That. The same year he starred in his first leading role in the movie Light It Up with Rosario Dawson, Vanessa L. Williams and Forest Whitaker. The following year he played in Gepetto and Texas Rangers. He starred in the 2002 Twilight Zone revival episode To Protect and Serve as a police officer. Usher continued to make appearances in various television shows, including the period drama American Dreams (2002) in the role of Marvin Gaye. In 2005 he starred in the crime-comedy film In The Mix with Chazz Palminteri and Kevin Hart. He has acted on stage, making his debut on Broadway in 2006 in Chicago as lawyer Billy Flynn and joining the cast of the Off-Broadway play Fuerzabruta in 2012;[284] the former performance was critiqued by theater critic Ben Brantley as unfitting for the character played (Usher was "cast so hard against type, you would think you would hear him cracking from the collision"), despite commending Usher's vocal and choreographic performance in the show.[285] In 2013 he began filming his role as boxer Sugar Ray Leonard for the upcoming American biographical film Hands of Stone the follows the life of Argentinian boxer Roberto Durán. In the film he stars alongside Édgar Ramírez, Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin and Ana de Armas. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 16, 2016 and is set to release in the United States August 26, 2016.[286]

Philanthropy

Usher founded New Look, a non-profit charity organization which aims to "provide young people with a new look on life through education and real-world experience". Its flagship project, camp New Look, ran from July 11 to July 23, 2005, in Clark Atlanta University.[287] In 2006, the charity started an initiative called Our Block, for which it helped rebuild and revitalize city blocks in New Orleans. The project went on one street at a time, and the funding was helped through part of the proceeds of Usher's team-up with Armani Exchange in creating "Love 4 Life" dog tags, which were made available at the company's stores and Web site.[288] Since then, Usher has launched chapters of New Look in such cities as Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, and Washington D.C. New Look has for basic pillars; Talent, Education, Service, and Career. New Look program begins in the 8th grade and progresses through a student’s high school and post-secondary education. Education is the center focus, Usher and his program ensures this. Students who participate in Usher’s New Look achieve 100% graduation rates and all of New Look participants go on to Higher Education or Job Placement.[289]

In 1999, Usher participated in "Challenge for the Children", a benefit basketball game hosted by American boy band NSYNC. The event, which was held on the campus of Georgia State University, had raised an estimated $50,000 for several local charities.[290] In 2005, Usher is one among the artists who signed on for a Hurricane Katrina relief concert.[291] He has also performed a public service announcement to promote Do Something's campaign for civic engagement.[292]

After the devastating events of Hurricane Katrina, Usher launched Project Restart that would go on to help more than 700 families with housing and keeping their lights on. Usher also while in New Orleans would meet with students from Dillard and Xavier to aid them with cleaning up the city. "I'm here to physically do something and hopefully motivate other people to do the same," said Usher in an interview. Usher, because of his efforts and dedication to helping the city of New Orleans rebuild was presented the key to the city of New Orleans in 2008 from former Mayor Ray Nagin.[293][294] Also in this presentation, Usher in his honor was proclaimed his own day, Usher Day.[295]

In 2011, Usher was honored with the Freedom Award by the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.[296] The Freedom Awards honor individuals who work for justice, equality, philanthropy, civil and human rights and humanitarian causes. Raymond was awarded this honor for his philanthropic work done by his New Look Foundation. Others honored with this award in the past Usher included Oprah, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Cicely Tyson, Coretta Scott King and other great figures.[297]

On February 12, 2015 Usher visited his former hometown Chattanooga making a surprise visit at Dalewood Middle School, the Orange Grove Center and the Center for the Creative Arts. Dalewood is the middle school he attended before moving to Atlanta and the school is not that far away from the road "Usher Raymond Parkway" that was presented to Usher in 2001.[298] Usher spoke to students at the Center for the Creative arts explaining the importance of education. His effort of giving back was to honor the legacy of his grandmother who passed early in the year. Who he called Nanny expressed to singer at a young age "whatever you want to do, I promise you can do it. We're going to look back one day, your teachers and I, and be very proud of you". At CCC, a donation of an undisclosed amount was made by the singer that would pay for new surfaces for the floors of two dance studios, a new digital lighting board and LED lights for the performing arts school's auditorium.[299] Usher's second stop was Orange Grove Center, a nonprofit that serves adults and children with intellectual disabilities. There, he took part in a groundbreaking for planned improvements to the facility's track, said development director Heidi Hoffecker. The track will be named the Nancy Lackey Memorial Track to honor his grandmother.[299]

In 2015, Usher teamed up with Anthony Anderson, Kevin Hart, Big Sean, Chris Paul and more collectively donating more than $500,000 in scholarships that was given to 20 students attending historically black colleges and universities.[300] This is following the partnership with the UNCF in 2014 creating the Usher Raymond Scholarship Program, where last year he gave a student $100,000 to attend the Tuskegee University.[301]

Politics and activism

Usher in 2007 launched his campaign in "Change in the South" in Atlanta, Georgia on the campus of Georgia Tech in support of then presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Obama, asked Usher to serve as National Co-Chair for his voter registration campaign "Vote for Change."[302][303] Doing more groundwork for Obama the following year Usher and Kerry Washington would lead a rally on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C. Later in 2008 Usher released an exclusive song "Hush" that was influenced by social issues and voting, In the video he features a motivational Barack Obama speech. Usher performed "Higher Ground" alongside Stevie Wonder and Shakira at the 2009 presidential inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2009. He continued to endorse Obama in 2012 and supported on the 2012 reelection campaign.[304]

On September 13, 2014 Usher and Bill Clinton held a special campaign event for Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn.[305] Dunn was honored for her work with the Points of Light Foundation at a charity event in 2010 and has been a semiregular attendee at Clinton Foundation events since 2009. Usher's New Look Foundation also awarded Clinton its Service Legacy Award in 2010.[306]

In October 2015 Usher partnered with the organization Sankofa which focuses on issues of social injustice that disproportionately affect the disenfranchised, the oppressed, and the underserved. On October 23, 2015 Usher and the founder of Sankofa, former Civil Rights Activist, Harry Belafonte led the conversation titled “Breaking the Chains of Social Injustice at 92nd Street Y in Manhattan speaking about popular culture and activism.[307][308] At this panel he introduced his music video "Chains" featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly. The music video is geared towards facing the issues of social Injustice and features images of Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Sean Bell, Marlon Brown, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Caesar Cruz and other recent victims of police violence.[309][310]

In August 2015, he attended a major celebrity fundraiser at the Brentwood home of Scooter Braun held for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Also in attendance Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Tom Hanks were also among the crowd of 250 whose ticket prices of $2,700 per person.[311][312]

Usher was selected among a 33-member delegate for the Presidential Committee for Arts and Humanities of the United States of America to Cuba seeking to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries. Less than a month after the historic visit by President Barack Obama, a U.S. government cultural mission to Cuba that took place from April 18–21, 2016.[313] The President described his trip as extending the hand of friendship to the Cuban people, and this delegation, including some of America’s most distinguished writers, artists, musicians, as well as arts and cultural leaders, will continue this historic collaboration with the Cuban people.[314]

Personal life

Chilli on stage.

In 2001, Usher began dating TLC member Chilli. Their relationship lasted for two years: they broke up in December 2003, followed by a media frenzy surrounding the personal nature of Usher's fourth album, Confessions. His fans inferred the reason he and Thomas split is due to infidelity on his part, giving allusions to the lyrics of the songs.[21] In an interview on The Bert Show on the Atlanta radio channel Q100 in February 2004, Thomas claimed that Usher cheated on her: "Usher did the ultimate no-no to me....I will never be with him again, and that is that".[315] Usher defended: "...it just didn't work out. But cheating is not what caused the relationship to collide and crash. That ain't what broke it up".[21]

In 2004 it was reported that Usher briefly dated British supermodel Naomi Campbell for a few months, together the pair attended the MVT Europe Awards and it was reported that Naomi jumped out of a pop out cake to surprise him for his birthday.[316] Then the following year he was linked to model, Eishia Brightwell for sometime in 2005. They were seen together at different events including the Grammys, the Vanity Fair Oscar party and the NAACP Awards.[317]

In November 2005, Usher began dating stylist Tameka Foster, who had worked as his personal stylist for several years.[318] Their engagement was announced in February 2007.[319] After the sudden cancellation of a planned July wedding in the Hamptons,[320][321] the two were wed on August 3, 2007, in a civil ceremony in Atlanta.[322] This was followed by a larger wedding ceremony on September 1, 2007, held at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort outside Atlanta.[323] Upon their marriage, Usher became a stepfather to Foster's three sons from previous relationships, one born when she was a teenager and two from her first marriage, to Atlanta clothier Ryan Glover.[318][319] Usher and Foster also have two sons together: Usher "Cinco" Raymond V, born in November 2007,[324] and Naviyd Ely Raymond, born in December 2008.[325] Usher's father died of a heart attack on January 21, 2008.[326]

In February 2009, two months after the birth of their second son, Foster suffered a cardiac arrest in São Paulo, Brazil, when she was given general anesthesia prior to scheduled cosmetic surgery (reportedly liposuction), which was ultimately not performed.[327] She was induced into a coma to aid her recovery and was transferred to a larger facility, the Hospital Sírio-Libanês.[327] Usher cancelled his performance at Clive Davis's pre-Grammy Gala in order to fly to Brazil to be with Foster.[327] After a week of recovery, Foster's surgeon issued a statement saying that she was "doing very well".[327]

Usher filed for divorce from Foster in June 2009 in Atlanta.[328] The divorce was legally finalized in Fulton County Court on November 4, 2009.[329] This preceded a highly publicized child custody dispute spanning three years, which ultimately culminated on August 24, 2012, with a judge awarding Usher primary custody of his two sons with Foster.[330][331]

Foster's 11-year-old son Kile Glover, Usher's former stepson, was declared brain dead on July 8, 2012, after being struck by a personal water craft on Lake Lanier the previous day.[332][333] Glover died on July 21, 2012, after being removed from life support.[334] Just over a year later, on August 5, 2013, Usher's eldest son, Usher V, was hospitalized in the ICU after he became stuck in a drain while swimming in a pool at Usher's home.[335] The next day, Foster filed a request for an emergency custody hearing in Fulton County Superior Court, seeking temporary primary custody and citing Usher V's "near-death accident" as evidence of a lack of supervision of the children.[336] At the hearing on August 9, 2013, the case was dismissed and Usher retained primary custody of their two sons.[337]

For a short period of time adopted a vegan diet shortly after the death of his father, Usher Raymond III, from a heart attack in January 2008.[338][339][340] After several years, Usher dropped all egg and dairy products, embracing an entirely vegan diet for health reasons.[341] Usher years later told reporters that he stopped his vegan diet saying that maintaining the lifestyle was expensive.[342]

Usher quietly married his long time girlfriend and manager Grace Miguel in September 2015 while vacationing in Cuba. Speculation was made of the two being married when Miguel's Instagram post showed a picture of a gold wedding band on Usher's finger. He confirmed the marriage during an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.[343][344]

Discography

Main article: Usher discography
Studio Albums

Tours and concerts

World tours
Regional tours
Televised concerts

Filmography

Stage productions

See also

References

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External links