Usher Raymond IV may have been born to sing.
As a youngster, he sang in the choir, and as his family watched his talent develop, they made what would be a fateful decision – to move from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia, where a more fertile music scene was growing.
Turns out his family was right to believe in his musical skills. The Recording Industry of America has certified Usher as one of the best-selling acts in history, selling over 65 million records in his career. And he’s achieved all this success – including a shelf full Grammys, BET, Soul Train and American Music Awards at just 32 years old. To boot, he’s also considered responsible for the discovery and development of another young pop sensation: Canada’s Justin Bieber.
Usher started his professional career as a teenager, releasing his self-titled debut in 1994. He was discovered via an appearance on “Star Search,” a distinction he shares with another pop superstar, Beyonce, who also competed on the show. He was mentored by Jermaine Dupri and P. Diddy, who helped shaped the young man’s sound and showmanship. Their influence must have stuck, as his next CD, 1997’s “My Way,” went platinum off the strength of the singles “You Make Me Wanna” and “Nice and Slow.” Well on his way to heartthrob status, Usher continued his success with his next effort, 2001’s “8701,” which hurtled him to the top of the charts and made him the most popular young artist in R&B.
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From that point on, the successes have been frequent. “Confessions,” his top-seller to date, was the CD that helped place Usher into a rare stratosphere of multi-platinum selling artists, and he’s barely looked back since its 2004 release. While his short-lived married to Tameka Raymond, his former stylist, was blog fodder, (but still produced two beautiful sons) his career recovered. “Here I Stand,” recorded around his marriage, may not have been as popular an album as “Confessions,” but he soon rebounded with “Raymond vs. Raymond” and reigned once again at the top of the charts. (And many consider “Here I Stand” his most mature yet.)
Despite his youth, Usher has made a mark on the music industry that few can contest. Given what seems to be the lack of any new artists with his complete set of skills following in his coordinated footsteps, Usher can hold the throne of R&B’s top male solo artist for some time. He will just be 33 this year, still a prime age for artistic achievement. If he can top all that he’s already achieved, then he’ll definitely join his predecessors in music history – and that’s aside from the history he’s already made.
What’s next? He’s yet to announce it, but his fans, detractors and his competition – if there is any – will surely be waiting to see what Usher has in store.