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This Ain't (just about) Sex

2008-07-07 17:11
You've just come back from three years out of the game. Has it been relaxing to have time off?
Even in my hiatus of three to four years I'm still working like crazy, you know? I'm preparing, thinking, setting up the next play - whatever may be. But, you know, it's a very busy life.

How easy is it playing the promo game?
I know that I have to go out and physically shake hands, kiss babies and whatever it may be - to make sure that the people know you, man - [so that] they like you, your music and like what you do as a performer.

The musical landscape has changed dramatically during the years since you first came out. How has this affected your direction and choice of producers and songs on the new album?
With every album there's a certain expectation. So it's important for me to go back to the producers that have…uh, an understanding of what the brand is, and understand how to grow it. Okay? In terms of the music. But I want to go in a different direction, do something more musical. I want ya'all to really challenge yourself, bring in musicians and let's really make this thing feel like it's live. You know, saying that to producers that really understand your sound pushes them. So when you hear records like "Something Special" - that Jermaine Dupri did - you just hear right. When I play that record for people and say 'Jermaine did this record', they say' what?' because it's just so different from what we've done before. But yet perfect for where I am and what needs to be said.

In terms of working with new producers I'm just open-minded, but they have to be respectful to what the brand is. Don't try to come in here and change it, you know? There's a certain expectation - they want their sound, they want to hear this emotion, this feeling, but here's the story I want to tell. But now can you find a template for me to do that in. Can you find either a beat or a melody that helps me tell that story?

Listen to Usher talking about key cuts from the new album
Love in this Club
Moving Mountains
Something Special
This Ain't Sex
Here I Stand
What's Your Name
People often compare you to Justin Timberlake, now you're label mates what do you think of him?
He's a great producer. I love to see an artist you know, start off somewhere and then grow. You know, coming from a group, to becoming a solo artist and then finding his way to his music. I'm really proud of him.

Beyonce features on the "In the Club" remix. You obviously have a lot of respect for her as an artist?
While you look an artist that you obviously feel can't get any bigger, she's still under 30. (chuckles) How old is Beyonce? She's under 30! So she's noweher near her prime, she's not done. So you just love success stories like that.

What was the last track you heard that got you really excited?
thinks....Robin Thicke. Robin Thicke is an artist that inspired me up and beyond. I think that he is a genius, he is a genius of our time. It ain't even just his music, it's him, he's a genius (laughs). His connection with music and his versatility, and the fact that he's just a walking classic artist. You know, it's funny because it takes time for you to really build a profile. I think that he's had a hit - he's had a few hits - actually had two albums. There's just certain artists that you follow. You look at and you just say 'wow! Everything about this artist is right. It's just the right record that's going to take it over the top.

The US presidential campaign is big news. We saw a picture of you and Barrack Obama, are you into politics - who are you supporting?
I don't get into politics to the point where, you know I like to I turn it into a debate. But I will say this, I feel like Barrack Obama is a great candidate for our president which is why I've chosen to stand by and support him. As a person, as a thought, as a theory, as an action, as a motivation I think that he is capable of moving...the ball, you know?

What's next for Usher
I don't know what the future holds right now in terms of me...leaving? I don't think I'll ever retire. And even if I decide to slow down I think that I'll always have a song because there's always something new to talk about you know? A familiar old story (chuckles)...you know you go through something and you got to know that someone else has got to be feeling it. So as long as I've got a voice I'll be using it.

Touring is on the horizon because you know I've got to promote this album.... But acting is a priority. I don't know if you know about the fact that I went to Broadway. I decided to go outside the norm of how an artist entertains. A pop/R&B artist going to Broadway was a really big deal because of the challenge. People immediately say 'oh wow, that's not going to work. They're just giving him a pass because of who he is.' I didn't really want that. As a matter of fact I never read any press. I always said, 'you know what? I could care less what they have to say, even if it's good because I'm doing this for self, I'm challenging myself. I really love this relationship with entertainment - the fact that it challenged me is what made me love it so.

Part of the reason I did it was that I wanted people to…undeniably recognize me for that. You know, not only do I do this and have I done this and this, separately – music, acting and dancing - but I also can do them together. And in the most genius, most intimate, monogamous way – you know, entertainment at its best is theatre. There are no cuts, no re-takes, there are no do-overs. You have to get in the mode and lock into it. That’s what acting is, that’s what artistry and entertainment is and I probably will do it, I don’t know when. I don’t know if it’ll be soon, but I do know that it took a lot of time to prepare and get it right. It was the hardest work that I’d ever done. Eventually it did become a little easier, but there’s always that thought in the back of your mind – ‘damn, what if I mess up?’ so throughout this entire two hours I have to stay focused. You know what I mean?

Interview couresty of SonyBMG

R&B smoothie Usher gives us the low down on his acting aspirations, his admiration for Beyonce and Barrack Obama, a guide to his new CD, Here I Stand & more.


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