Anyone who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s will remember the chokehold that Usher had on mainstream r&b for years. As a singer, actor, dancer, and model, he was a quadruple threat and you would find him or his work around every corner. If you had a radio or television between 1995 and 2015, then you’ve heard Usher’s voice. Taking a look back at his career, it’s not hard to see his appeal and understand how he rose to fame so quickly.
Usher’s Big Break
Usher, born as Usher Raymond IV in 1978, got his big break on the television show Star Search, like several other big names that came out of the 90s. The appearance resulted in Usher landing his first record deal in 1992, with LaFace, while he was still in high school.
His debut album, Usher, dropped in 1994, but it was his second album, My Way in 1997, that took his singing career to the next level, spawning number-one single Nice and Slow and two more legendary hits, My Way and You Make Me Wanna. It was around this time that Usher started to gain a lot more attention, and his fanbase exploded.
The media ate him up, too. Not only could he sing, but he had serious dance moves — it didn’t take long for people to draw parallels to Michael Jackson (who he eventually went on to perform within 2001 at Michael’s 30th anniversary special). Like Jackson, Usher’s work crossed the popular music threshold, and while it was still r&b, his music gained a widespread appreciation and more mainstream coverage.
Usher and Michael’s careers had a few other things in common as well, and both men dabbled in acting. He appeared in a couple of the most quintessential 90s programs, contributing to his status as one of the most sought-after stars of the decade. Usher’s first acting gig was in the sitcom Moesha starring Brandy Norwood, as Mo’s love interest Jeremy. But it was his appearance in big screen sci-fi flick The Faculty that truly solidified his interest in acting, and his acting career took off from there. He’s worked on- and off-screen as an actor, recently appearing in Hustlers and Bad Hair.
But even though Usher proclaimed his love for acting in a number of interviews, his first love has always been music.
He now has eight studio albums in his discography, with the highly-anticipated Confessions 2 on the way. It was reportedly ready to drop this year, but it now looks like we may not see it until 2022. The first Confessions album had four songs go to number one on the Billboard 100, making Usher only the third artist ever to have three songs in the top 10 at the same time. Confessions also won Usher three Grammy Awards, and four American Music Awards in 2005.
His 90s and 00s persona were sultry but pretty clean compared to many other artists. Between his smooth voice, confident presence, and multiple business endeavors, Usher’s career has been built to last. For those of us who had some of our best years in the 90s and early 00s, we’d be lying if we said this man’s music wasn’t part of the soundtrack to our youth.
“With every album, I try to better myself,” Usher stated on his website. “I’m a perfectionist and with the success of my last record, I wasn’t sure about where my growth should be — as a performer, as a vocalist. I always felt like I held something back on my albums — on every album, I was playing a ‘role.’ I decided to shake my fears and allow my personality to come through.”
These days, you can catch Usher at his Las Vegas residency and special appearances, like The Lovers and Friends festival coming up in May 2022.
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