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Over the course of 17 sweat-soaked years, R&B lover boy Usher has sold 65 million records, bringing him in at number 21 on billboard's list of the most successful artists of all time. Celina Murphy goes backstage with the seven-time Grammy winner to talk breaking ground - and breaking hearts.
Celina Murphy, 19 Apr 2011
“Music is an interpretation of what we experience, where we go, and the things that we are motivated by. Sometimes it’s a club. Sometimes it’s life and love.”
Let the record show that I’m not the most bashful woman on the planet. In fact, I haven’t been embarrassed since the age of 9, and even then it was only because I fluffed my words in the Christmas play.
This is the story of how pop star Usher made me blush. Four times.
I meet the impeccable creature in the press room at the O2, having waited four hours for him to finish doing his hair. He says “hello”, clasps my hand and calls me “Sweetie”. Blush One. Next, he gestures to a space on the edge of a black leather couch. This, it seems, is where I’m supposed to sit. Still trying to regain decorum from Blush One, I park myself in what I’m convinced is a very commanding and authoritative pose. He produces a stool from somewhere and perches it right in front of me, so that when he sinks into it, his knee is pretty much parallel with my chin. Blush Two. He leans forward, as if to peer down at me, but he’s wearing a pair of fuck-right-off reflective shades, so I can’t be sure. “Your glasses are kind of throwing me off,” I say. I’m joking, but he still grins and removes them. Blush Three. “So,” he says, barely stirring, “Are you ready for an incredible night tonight?” Kablooie.
Realising that he’s talking about his sold-out O2 show, and probably not a magical evening of lovemaking, I tell him that actually, I’ve been waiting a good 15 years to see him live. No one’s pulse raced faster than mine when baby-faced, Adonis-bodied Usher Terry Raymond IV crash-landed onto MTV in 1997 with R&B masterstroke ‘You Make Me Wanna’. The hopelessly slick pseudo love song was based in a moment of frustrated indecision, as a barely-legal Usher contemplated leaving his girlfriend for another woman. Even the hook was a pick-up line – “You make me wanna leave the one I’m with/And start a new relationship with you” – and it was the perfect introduction to the man who would become pop’s most notorious smooth-talking bad boy.