Usher opens up about how success feels and managing expectations from fans.
Usher's eighth studio album Looking 4 Myself debuted at number one last week, selling 128,000 copies – nearly 200K less than his previous album Raymond vs. Raymond – leaving critics wondering if he has lost his touch. But the reigning king of R&B says he doesn't feel pressure to live up to his past albums, especially his most successful album to date, Confessions.
While relaxing in his pool in Atlanta, the ESSENCE Music Festival alum tells ESSENCE.com, "Every album is a different experience. In terms of what Confessions means to my catalog, selling 17M albums, that's cool. I hope that every album will grow. I don't think I felt pressure to live up to Confessions. I felt like I want to live up to the expectation of having an incredible story in the end where every piece of music has some meaning to my overall story and as an artist."
He won't shy away from the fact that his current album title leads fans to believe he's searching for himself. But it's simply not true. "I have never felt so good in search of something," says Usher. "I think the perception that everything that is written is about a specific experience in your life. And that's not the case. The album isn't about me looking for myself. The album is about the many different things I've decided to think about and talk about. The journey if anything, is about experimenting musically. Finding different ways to interpret music."
Usher's music has certainly evolved since his debut album in 1994. Some would call his current sound pop while others would label it euro-dance. Usher says you can't put him in a box, he's an artist. "[My music] is called relevant music. I don't know if it's genre specific." He admits he wants to revolutionize music and make something he believes is truly relevant to the times. "Nowadays, the number one pop record could be a folk record or and R&B record or a rap record. I began to think about my music in that way. I want to make music I enjoy listening to."
With a successful 18-year career under his belt, Usher reflects on the time he earned his first major paycheck. "I think I bought my mom a Benz," he says with a giggle. "I bought myself a ton of Reebok Classics… I bought purple, green, orange, white, black, red, turquoise, blue! That was my first paycheck."
When asked to reveal something about him fans may not know, Usher said, "You may not know this about me but I play the bass and love it. I picked the bass up when I was 14. I played around with it, nothing serious. But as of recent, I've gotten back into it. I've gotten really serious. I'm recording and making songs."