Usher Raymond IV (born October 14, 1978), known simply by his first name Usher, is an American R&B and pop singer-songwriter and actor who rose to fame in the 1990s. To date, he has sold approximately 30 million albums worldwide and has won five Grammy Awards. Usher is a part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, and has his own record label, US Records. On September 13, 2008 Usher has been inducted into the All time Hot 100 Artist by the Billboard Hot 100. He is one of the few artists of his generation to be mentioned.
On August 30, 1994, LaFace released Usher's self-titled debut album. Sean "P Diddy" Combs produced several of the tracks and co-executive produced the album. Usher peaked at number twenty-five on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was accompanied by three singles: "Can U Get Wit It," "Think Of You," and "The Many Ways.
After graduating from high school, Usher continued to hone his skills as a stage performer and laid the groundwork for his second album. He also appeared on "Let's Straighten It Out", a 1995 duet with fellow Atlanta teen recording artist Monica; and on "Dreamin'", from Rhythm of the Games, LaFace's 1996 Olympic Games benefit album. He was also featured on the Kazaam soundtrack with "I swear I'm in love"
Usher developed a friendship with Jermaine Dupri, with whom he co-wrote and produced several tracks for his second album, My Way, released on September 16, 1997. The lead-off single, "You Make Me Wanna" was serviced to radio that summer and hit number one in its second week out—the same week that the album was released. "You Make Me Wanna" stayed on top of the R&B/Hip-Hop track charts for a total of 11 weeks (the longest-charting R&B hit in more than 3 years) and at #2 on the Pop charts for 7 weeks (second only to Elton John's "Candle In the Wind.") The single remained on the R&B chart for an unprecedented 71 weeks and became Usher's first platinum single. The album's second single, "Nice & Slow," was released in November, and in January 1998 peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 Singles Chart for two weeks, as well as #1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart for eight weeks. The following summer, the album's eponymous single title track peaked #2 pop/#4 R&B.
In the closing months of 1997, Usher embarked on a series of tour engagements including a spot on Puffy's No Way Out tour, dates with Mary J. Blige, and the opening spot on Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope tour. My Way was certified 6x platinum in the United States. Usher received his first Grammy Award nomination as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "You Make Me Wanna," which was also nominated for a Soul Train Music Award as 'Best Male R&B/Soul Single.'
Usher made his acting debut on the UPN television series Moesha, which resulted in a recurring role on the series and subsequently his first film role in 1998's The Faculty. Usher's extracurricular activities outside of the recording studio gathered momentum over the following year as he was cast in the daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful and was seen in the family series Promised Land. He completed two more films, She's All That, and his first starring role in Light It Up. He also appeared in the Disney TV movie "Geppetto" with Drew Carey. Usher also became involved community activities: he served as national spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Get Big On Safety" campaign, and appeared on NBC's NBA Inside Stuff. He also participated in the NBA's "Stay In School" program, and performed at several of the franchise's jamborees.
Usher's third studio album, originally titled All About U, was slated to be released in early 2001. The first single, "Pop Ya Collar" (co-written and produced by Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs), was released in late 2000 and became a #2 hit in the UK—but underperformed in America. The album was subsequently pushed back and retooled after select tracks were later leaked to the radio and Internet, and garnered a largely cold public response.
After having revised the album, it was renamed 8701 (named for the years of his career at that point [1987-2001], and for its release date of August 7, 2001, or 8/7/01). The first two singles "U Remind Me" and "U Got It Bad" each topped the U.S. Hot 100 singles chart for four and six weeks respectively in the summer and fall. In early 2002, "U Don't Have to Call," also went top five pop. The albums final single, "U-Turn" was released outside of America, and became a top twenty hit in Australia and the U.K.. 8701 was certified 4x platinum, selling more than eight million copies worldwide.
In February 2002, Usher won a Grammy for 'Best Male R&B Vocal Performance' for "U Remind Me." The next year, he won the same award for "U Don't Have to Call," making Usher the only artist aside from Luther Vandross, more than a decade before, and Stevie Wonder (in the 1970s) to win this award consecutively.
In summer 2002, Usher contributed vocals to P. Diddy's "I Need a Girl, Part I". The year closed out with a trio of TV series appearances, all in November, on The Twilight Zone, 7th Heaven, Moesha , and American Dreams (in which Usher portrayed Marvin Gaye).
Usher's fourth studio album, Confessions, was released on March 23, 2004—just as its first single, "Yeah!" was in its sixth week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and fifth week on top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. The album's 1.1 million unit first week sales was the highest first week numbers ever scanned by a male R&B artist in Soundscan's 13-year history (breaking R. Kelly's record of 540k for TP-2.com back in 2000).
The album's second and third singles: "Burn" and "Confessions Part II" also topped Billboard's Hot 100 singles charts, the former for eight weeks. Usher became the third lead artist in pop music history (but the first solo artist) to have three singles inside the Hot 100's top 10 since The Beatles in 1964, and the Bee Gees in 1978. In September 2004, "My Boo," a duet with singer Alicia Keys (which was included on a Special Edition, released a half year after the original version), also peaked at number one and gave him a total of twenty-eight weeks on top of the U.S. charts that year. In December, the album's final single "Caught Up" peaked at number eight on the Hot 100. Confessions became the most successful album of the year; certified nine time platinum in America, topping the world charts for several weeks and as of 2008 it sold nearly 19 million copies all over the globe. After "Caught Up", Usher released another single "Redlight" which is also shown on the Special Edition album.
Usher was recognized with numerous awards, including two MTV Video Music Awards for "Best Male Video" and "Best Dance Video", three World Music Awards ("Best Male Artist," "Best Male Pop Artist" and "Best R&B Artist"), two Source Hip-Hop Music Awards ("Male R&B Artist of the Year" and "R&B/Rap Collaboration of the Year," a Nordic Music Award, three Radio Music Awards, four American Music Awards, eleven Billboard Music Awards and two more MTV Europe Music Awards. At the 47th annual Grammy Awards ceremony in 2005, Usher won three awards, including: "R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals" (for "My Boo" with Alicia Keys), "Rap/Sung Collaboration" (for "Yeah!") and "Contemporary R&B Album" (for Confessions).
In spring of 2005, Usher scored a #3 Hot 100 hit as a featured vocalist on Lil' Jon's "Lovers and Friends." In November 2005, Usher starred as a disc jockey named Darrell in the Lions Gate film, In the Mix.
On August 22, 2006, Usher took over the role of Billy Flynn in the long-running Broadway musical Chicago. Critical response to his overall performance were mixed. Usher is currently recording his fifth studio album. The album was due for release in November 2007 but was delayed to March 4, 2008. In June, an album was leaked onto the internet, claiming to be the singer's new album; it is however just a bootleg compilation of his previously unreleased material. In 2007, Usher also collaborated with R. Kelly on the track "Same Girl," for Kelly's album, Double Up. He was also featured in a remix version of Omarion's Ice Box. Usher also appeared on the track "Shakedown" on Mary J. Blige's new album Growing Pains.
US has not released any further material since the In the Mix soundtrack. One Chance's debut album, originally scheduled for release in late 2006, has been pushed back numerous times.