My Way is
not the only title of LaFace Records' teen superstar Usher's platinum
sophomore album, but how this 20 yr. old singer is handling his
transition into manhood, his career, and his explosive return
to the music scene. Usher first surfaced in 1994 with his self-titled
debut album and instantly earned the hearts of many fans, young
and old, male and female, with his powerful voice, charming smile,
adorable babyface and electrifying performances. The following
that this kid from Chattanooga, TN received immediately was very
impressive. His self-titled debut album, Co-executive produced
by Sean "Puffy" Combs (CEO-Bad Boy Entertainment), yielded
one gold top ten hit "Think of You" produced by label
mate Donell Jones, which introduced Usher to the world.
around Usher is taking no chances. The creative control and personal
input he had on this album is evident in all 9 melodic tracks.
The combination of Usher's matured voice, self confidence and
youthful flavor meshed together displays much of Usher's vibrant
personality through his music. "This time around I wanted
people to know Usher," he explains, "so, Jermaine and
I just hung out a lot; he got to see my life." Usher said
about Co-Executive Producer of My Way and Super Producer Jermaine
Dupri (So So Def Records).
we ended up writing and recording is about my life - about what
I've dealt with, being a teenager who's going into manhood. It's
my feelings." LaFace Record's Co-presidents Antonio "L.A."
Reid and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, also Co-executive
producers of the album, brought on the Atlanta based hit maker
to work with Usher and help guide his comeback. "If it was
ever his time, I think it's right now.", says Dupri (who
produced seven tracks). "He's older and definitely ready
to take it to the next level. "
And he definitely
does with his first single off the album; the platinum certified
"You Make Me Wanna..." a Dupri produced signature track
laced with a thumpin' bass line and outstanding guitar chords
guaranteed to make you have to move. The single reached #2 on
Billboards's Hot 100 chart, second only to Elton John's Princess
Diana Tribute "Candle in the Wind" and stayed at the
#1 spot on Billboards R+B chart for an amazing 11 weeks. "You
Make me Wanna.."also broke the record for highest number
of R+B radio listeners ever, according to BDS radio detection.
Usher leaves no question on his superb vocal abilities, providing
a variety of ranges and delivery with great strength. As one of
'97's most played jams, "You Make Me Wanna.." was the
perfect track to reintroduce this charismatic star to the world.
success led to a series of engagements including a spot on Puff
Daddy's "No Way Out" Tour, and several television appearances,
such as the Billboard Music Awards show, VIBE TV, The Keenan Ivory
Wayans Show, Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, The Oprah Winfrey
Show, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, UNICEF's Gift of Song,
Nickelodeon's Big Help-A-Thon, and all that. Usher made his acting
debut on UPN's "Moesha" starring opposite Brandy (Atlantic
Records), resulting in a recurring role on the series and several
other television opportunities.
and a busy schedule have definitely paid off in the certification
of Usher's very first platinum album. My Way recently charted
at #1 on the Billboard R+B chart for a total of 3 weeks and hit
#4 on on Billboards top 200. The album has garnered Usher's first
Grammy nomination of Best Male R+B vocal Performance for "You
Make Me Wanna... " and a SoulTrain Award nomination for Best
Male R+B/Soul Single.
continues to build with the release of his second single "Nice
& Slow." Within weeks of its release, it reached #1 on
both Billboard's Hot 100 and R+B singles charts. The sensual ballad
is accompanied by a grand scale video that was filmed in Paris,
France and can be seen on MTV, BET, the BOX and other local video
more than voice his opinion about the production of My Way; he
decided to add his words to the record by co-writing six of the
album's 9 tracks including "You Make Me Wanna.." along
with Dupri. "I want to show people that I've grown a lot
since my last album, and writing was part of that process,"
says Usher. "I've wanted to keep this project simpler, work
with fewer producers -- people who could help me tell my experiences."
to do that than three of today's hottest producers - BabyFace,
Teddy Riley, and Dupri? Babyface adds his golden touch to My Way
with two beautiful ballads displaying the romantic side of Usher.
The dreamy ballad "Bed Time" will leave you falling
for your love while Usher professes his love with a little help
on background vocals from Shanice Wilson. Whenever I'm near you
my love just comes down, Whenever I see you, I just want you around,
'cause I want to feel you all through the day and the night, Whenever
I'm near you it feels like Bed Time. Babyface also added a classic
to the album when he produced one of his first hits, Midnight
Starr's "Slow Jam." He placed an additional bridge and
invited Arista recording artist Monica to match Usher's powerful
vocals and recreated another hit.
Guy) also contributed a ballad, "I Will" to this well
balanced collaboration of emotional slow jams and funky party
tracks. "The album had to be half and half," says Usher,"
I wanted enough of everything so there's always a song you want
six tracks on My Way are credited to Dupri, who dedicated a lot
of personal time to ensure Usher's project provides hits into
the next year. They include the midetempo groove "One Day
You'll be Mine," which samples the Isley Brothers "Footsteps"
and "Come Back," a bumpin' dance track laced with JD's
classic raps. The Queen Bee, Lil' Kim, also lends her risque vocals
to a slammin' mid-tempo track with hard baseline entitled "Just
from high school and finishing his sophomore album, Usher also
made time over the past couple of years to polish one of his greatest
strengths - his show."I love the stage, to dance and perform,"
says an excited Usher, " the stage is my first love."
And it shows. Antonio "L.A." Reid describes Usher as
"the ultimate entertainer" and attributes much of that
to his "great voice, fashionable looks and super star presence."
Dubbing him "the king of hip hop soul," Reid explains,
"there hasn't been an artist with this much excitement in
many years. Usher makes a serious contribution to urban culture."
That is true
both on and off the stage. Understanding the responsibility of
being in the limelight, Usher feels it's very important to portray
a positive image to America's youth. He has involved himself in
several community activities including serving as the national
spokesperson for the US Dept. of Transportation's "Get Big
on Safety" campaign. Usher participated in the NBA "Stay
in School" program and performed at several of the franchise's
jamborees entertaining students while showing them the importance
of education. He also appeared on NBC's "Inside Stuff."
Much of Usher's
level headed attitude and responsibility comes from strong family
values and a good old fashioned church upbringing. Raised by his
mother, who also manages him, he and his little brother moved
to Atlanta from Tennessee when Usher was 12. Usher started singing
in the church choir under the direction of who else but his mom,
who was also the choir director. "I've learned that this
business is very demanding and stressful, but my mother's been
a great teacher. She keeps me grounded." Once in Atlanta,
Usher started entering talent shows where he was spotted by LaFace
Records representatives and was asked to audition for L.A. Reid.
Soon after that, Usher was signed to the label and began recording
his debut album.
to recording two albums, Usher has also lent his voice to several
different projects. In 1995, he was tapped by Coca-Cola, USA,
to record a national jingle for the holiday season. He joined
forces with several of the industry's top male artists to form
"Black Men United" to record the gold single "You
Will Know ," featured on the Jason's Lyric soundtrack which
was performed on the American Music Awards. His single "Dreamin"
was the first release off the LaFace Record's 1996 Olympic Album
Rhythm of the Games and he did a duet on Arista recording artist
Monica's debut platinum album remaking the hit "Let's Straighten
My Way is
another step on the ladder of success that Usher is confidently
climbing. "This is still just the beginning," says the
young star, enthusiastically," I'm only 19 years old. I feel
like I've accomplished so much already, but I still have my whole
life ahead of me and much more to do. I'm learning to play instruments,
I want to get into acting, I'm open to doso much.