April 30, 2008
April 30, 2008
Pop, R&B, Soul
Total Songs Added:
Beyond the 35 million albums he's sold worldwide since the release of his 1993 self-titled debut, the five Grammy Awards, NAACP Image Awards, the countless other accolades (from Billboard, MTV, Soul Train, BET, People's Choice, Vibe and ASCAP), box office records for his worldwide tours and on Broadway (during his 2006 performances as Billy Flynn in the hit musical "Chicago"), the cumulative 100 million dollar grosses for the films in which he's starred and his recognition as a bona fide global superstar (with gold and platinum albums in over fifteen countries), Usher Raymond has achieved what few other contemporary entertainers have ever accomplished: still under thirty years of age, he has created a network of thriving, successful enterprises that express his leadership in business and as a humanitarian. "It's been quite a journey," he says of the last three years since the release of his mega-platinum "Confessions" album. "I've been transforming my first passion - music - into the areas of business and community contribution and I'm committed to be successful in all that I put time and effort into "
From his all-important New Look Foundation (whose multi-faceted programs focus on empowering and motivating youth) to his own record label (US Records, a joint venture with Clive Davis' J Records), the creation of his own fragrances for men and women, his part-ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team and involvement with a chain of Atlanta restaurants (known as The Grape), Usher's skills as a forward-thinking young entrepreneur reflect the same approach he has taken as an entertainer: for the Tennessee-born, Atlanta-raised performer, songwriter and producer, working on a sixth album for release in late 2007, it's about longevity and staying power.
Conscious of icons such as James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye who helped lay the foundation for black music in the '60s and of those who built upon it through the '70s, '80s and '90s, Usher has consistently made career choices that have ensured not only his step-by-step ascendancy within the world of entertainment but also his growth as an individual. "Yes, I do want to be known as the 'hardest working man in entertainment but I'm also determined to be a great father and husband," he notes referring to his 2007 marriage to Tameka Foster. "I've been known as a 'celebrity' but now I'm prioritizing and I'm considering the preservation of wealth and its transfer to my bloodline. I'm changing my perspective on my life: my first goal is to be the best man I can be for my family and my children."
That shift in perspective comes at a time when Usher is involved with a panoply of activities in different arenas where's he's applying the same standard of excellence that has been the hallmark of his work as a multi-talented entertainer. "Today's entrepreneur cannot be close minded and just consider one area, such as music - even though music has and always will be my first passion," says Usher, unquestionably a pioneer within the generation of artists who began recording in the early '90s. "I've been learning about business, about branding, seeing how individuals like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren - on their respective fields - have created a standard to follow. My activities in music have become the means for a great reward for me: now it's about transforming my passion into business."
Building on the five multi-platinum albums - "Usher," "My Way," "Usher Live," "8701" and "Confessions" (issued in its original form in 2004 and six months later with four bonus tracks) - along with eight million sales for DVDs (2005's "Truth Tour Live: Behind The Truth" and "Evolution 8701 Live In Concert" combined) and No. 1 across-the-board singles including "Nice And Slow," "U Remind Me," "U Got It Bad," "Yeah," "Burn" and "My Boo," Usher's accomplishments are, frankly, staggering. His chart accomplishments as a recording artist include being the only artist in history to top the Billboard charts for more than half the year, ousting the legendary Elvis Presley in that spot; cementing the record for the longest time spent of any artist at No. 1 on a Billboard pop singles chart since their introduction in 1940; becoming the third artist - alongside The Beatles and the Bee Gees - to have three Top 10 singles at the same time on the Billboard Hot 100; and being the very first artist in history to officially, per the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), certify gold for digital sales of "Burn" and "Yeah".
Since 1997, Usher has participated in five major tours including his own "Evolution 8701" world tour (2002) and 2004's "Truth World Tour" and beyond making an indelible impact in music worldwide, Usher's long-held commitment to being a complete entertainer has expressed itself through his work on the stage, on screen and in television. He conquered Broadway in 2006 (as the youngest man to ever play the role of Billy Flynn in "Chicago"), noting, "It was one of the biggest steps I ever took. You have to project onstage. I studied the work of legends like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ben Vereen since I had to learn a lot of choreography. I got an in-depth view of what acting really is and performing in the theater, night after night, is the rawest form of entertainment. There's no doubt it was for the betterment of my career."
His array of television appearances includes "Moesha", "The Bold & the Beautiful", "Promised Land", "The Famous Jett Jackson", "Parent Hood," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Soul Food," "American Dreams," "7th Heaven," "The Twilight Zone" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Currently open to finding "the right movie, right bio pic," Usher's starring roles have included "In The Mix", "She's All That", "The Faculty", "Geppetto", "Texas Rangers" and "Light It Up."
Extending his impressive portfolio in entertainment and utilizing his star power, Usher's commitment to making a difference has included making contributions to Art For Life, the Atlanta Respite, the Tsuanmi relief, Hillside (an organization offering a continuum of care for severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents), the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and participating in two videos and one performance for the families of the September 11th tragedy.
The formation and subsequent 2005 re-launch of his New Look Foundation, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization has been one of the most significant areas of interest for Usher. He explains, "I've made all types of contributions through the years, starting with the "Make A Wish Foundation" and I wanted to do something unique, something that would motivate young entrepreneurs and give them real world experiences. For the past three years, New Look has offered a two-week-long camp, bringing in celebrities as experts in their field and giving youth between the ages of nine and seventeen the opportunity to leverage their talents and skills. Our other initiatives have included providing up to one year's housing for one thousand families in New Orleans' 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina and mentoring youth-at-risk." Usher's commitment to help rebuild the Gulf Coast began with Project Restart which successfully helped over 700 families re-establish housing through rent and utility assistance and provided over 1,200 youth and families with food and clothing. In 2006 Usher launched the "Our Block" program targeting issues associated with the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, utilizing a block by block approach. The program supports the reconstruction of both the infrastructure and community personality of schools, education, homes and businesses. Other New Look programs include seminars and model programs to train youth as teen mediators to help eliminate school violence and an 'Intervention and Referral Program" which provides referral, identifies and coordinates social-service resources, conducts self-help and skills workshops and provides supportive services for children.
In the three years since the release of his "Confessions" album (his most successful album to date), Usher has also turned his attention to the world of business. "I've found that once they achieve a certain financial status, some other young entertainers don't know what to do with their money," Usher comments. "I've created opportunities to challenge myself. A part of a goal I set for myself as a businessman was to be well-faceted and not just work in one type of business. I became a part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers (basketball team) in 2005 and I've constantly shown support for the team, I've used my celebrity to help ticket sales and I was very proud when we made it to the finals in 2007."
Following the dictum "to save the money I've earned as an entertainer and not spend it too frivolously," Usher is involved with a chain of restaurants in the Atlanta area known as 'The Grape,' owning one personally. "It's a wine and retail bar," Usher notes. "The model is for our customers to have a great dining experience and at the same time learn about the different wines we serve. It's what I call 'edu-tainment' and it's the wave of the future, an area of business I will be involved with by opening more similar establishments."
A natural outgrowth of his global celebrity status, Usher launched his own fragrance line for men and women ("Usher He" and "Usher She") bearing his name in 2007 and now available in major department stores. "I wanted to have a business which focused on lifestyle, something where I could offer a piece of myself and," he smiles, "I believe 'sexy' starts with the one thing that stays on you your fragrance!"
Understanding the importance of the business of music as much as the aspects of recording, production and performance, Usher says he started his own US Records "after my brother J. Lack decided to become a producer which made me even more aware of the wealth of talent around me. It took years for me to develop myself as a recording artist and I was fortunate to have someone like L.A. Reid as a mentor in the business. We're making this a slow build as we look for the right artists for the label which is a joint venture with Clive Davis and J Records. There's a short list of established recording artists who've been successful with their own labels - Madonna is one of the very few - and it is a great responsibility to make sure you pass the torch to others. And directing and developing people to express their musical talent is a real passion for me..."
Speaking of passion brings Usher full circle to comment on his next recording project on which he's working with Jermaine Dupri, his brother J. Lack and others. "I want to turn in the kind of album people expect from me," Usher says. "Each record has been like a living autobiography of my life, reflecting everything I'm going through at the time, the realities of my life. I think that many of the great R&B albums of the '60s and '70s were like that - autobiographical experiences for the artists who made them and who understood the integrity in music. I find I'm a lot more careful and honest with my music, that I'm giving people a true perspective on my life and the choices I've made as an individual. I'm involved almost entirely in writing the songs for this next album and people who hear it will be able to relate to what I'm talking about in the material."
As he surveys his life in 2007, Usher considers, "It wasn't easy to get to where I'm at, it's taken a lot of work. Now that I'm a husband and about to become a father, my perspective has changed. I want to be the best husband and father I can be. I have a different understanding of what life is about, what business is about, what wealth is about. What you're seeing is the growth of an individual, the transformation of a boy into a man."