Usher "Here" with new stories

Fri May 16, 2008 9:26pm EDT
 
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By Clover Hope

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Outside the windows of a 36th-floor conference-room suite at New York's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the morning is gray and befit for April showers. Always the trendsetter, R&B star Usher has plucked from his wardrobe a navy blue military-style button-up adorned with gold clasps to complete his jeans-and-sneaker ensemble.

He's in town to promote his fifth album, "Here I Stand," due May 27 via Jive, and to premiere the video for his hit single "Love in This Club."

The synthy club track rocketed from No. 51 to No. 1 in its third week on the Billboard Hot 100 in March -- the third-highest leap to No. 1 in Hot 100 history and Usher's eighth chart-topper.

"This is the 'Design of a Decade' and then some," Usher says of his new disc, making a reference to Janet Jackson's compilation of classics. "I'm more excited about this album than I was about the last."

Usher is a tough act to follow, though, even for Usher himself. His last album, 2004's "Confessions," has sold more than 9.5 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

SHAKING IT UP

Since "Confessions," the 29-year-old entertainer has stayed active on a number of fronts. He starred in a Broadway musical (as Billy Flynn in "Chicago"). He changed publicists and talent agencies. (He is now at Creative Artists Agency.) In May 2007, he fired his mom, Jonetta Patton, as his manager and replaced her with Benny Medina, whose clients include Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. He married stylist Tameka Foster and became a father for the first time.

In that time, too, the music business has taken a big hit. Though file-sharing is usually blamed for the downturn, Usher also cites a lack of quality material.   Continued...

 
<p>Singer Usher appears on the BET Awards nominations during BET's "106 &amp; Park" show in New York May 15, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>