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Black Music Innovators: Usher

Black Music Month

Black Music Innovators: Usher

With a career that now spans sixteen years, Usher has become an undisputed force in R&B and pop. Following in the footsteps of legendary performers including Michael Jackson, Prince and James Brown, Usher has carved a path not only for himself since his self titled 1994 debut but, for other R&B male artists proving that they are just as valuable as their chart-topping pop counterparts.

Not just a talented vocalist but an overall entertainer, at one point dubbed Mr. Entertainment, Usher’s success can be attributed to well choreographed dance routines, relatable lyrics, a keen eye on overall stage presence including an almost always on point fashion sense, the ability to transcend across several generations, languages and backgrounds, recently the ability to look beyond music as both a successful entreprenuer and philanthropist aiding the community at large and lastly consistently working hard to deliver what is expected of a top notch entertainer.

While many have watched Usher grow over the years from opening for Janet Jackson on ‘The Velvet Rope’ tour to selling out arenas on his ‘Evolution’ tour, it was his 2004 album, “Confessions” that turned the “Call Me A Mack,” “Think of You,” “Slow Jam,” “You Make Me Wanna,” “My Way,” “Bedtime,” “Nice & Slow,” “U Remind Me,” “U Got It Bad,” “U Don’t Have To Call” and “Pop Ya Collar” singer into a phenom and household name. To that end, several R&B male artists followed in what you could call the post-confessions era. Those artists are Trey Songz, Lloyd, a re-emerging Sammie (“You Should Be My Girl,” “Come With Me”), Chris Brown, Omarion, Ne-Yo, Bobby V., and many more. While each of these artists have their own individual style, which has garnered them success both in the mainstream and in R&B and urban arenas, they cannot deny the influence Usher had on their careers and those that will follow. Yes, the influence may not be as clear on the surface but if you look closely you can see pieces of Usher’s “Caught Up” and “Rhythm City, Vol. 1” in projects from Ne-Yo (“Closer,” “Miss Independent”) and Chris Brown (“Gimme That,” “Wall To Wall’) to records from Lloyd (“Get It Shawty”) and Trey Songz (“I Invented Sex,” “Wonderwoman”), each reminding us of Usher’s early successes like “My Way,” “I Need A Girl” and “Can U Help Me”.

We salute Usher for being an innovative entertainer, taking chances with musical compilations and short films like “Rhythm City, Vol 1;” raising the bar with music videos like “Burn,” “Confessions,” “Yeah” and “Caught Up;” taking on Broadway as Billy Flynn in Chicago; and consistently delivering music that in some way touches each listener from the dance floor and bedroom to signing those “Papers” and everything in between.
—— By: Njai Joszor

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