Usher

Biography

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.

This time 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).

"What 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.

This initial 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.

Hard work 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.

Usher's momentum 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 outlets.

Usher did 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."

Who better 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.

Riley (Blackstreet, 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 to hear."

The other 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 Like Me".

While graduating 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.

In addition 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 it Out."

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.


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