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Nov 13, 2014

Network Front | The Guardian: Usher on Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and the struggle to stay a superstar

Network Front | The Guardian
Latest news, sport, business, comment, analysis and reviews from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice 
Usher on Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and the struggle to stay a superstar
Nov 13th 2014, 18:00, by Alex Needham

He had the biggest album of the noughties and has dabbled in musicals, movies and mentoring. But could the R&B star be at a career crossroads? Music is being used as free goods, he tells us, before announcing that his next single will be free with Cheerios

From his fur trappers hat to his black Margiela hi-top trainers, Usher looks like the consummate modern pop star. Sitting in a posh hotel meeting room in New Yorks Upper East Side, two days after playing a triumphant, sold-out show at Madison Square Garden, he should be basking in his success, though one thing suggests that he is nervous: when I tell him how much I enjoyed it, he immediately inquires: What was your favourite part?

In fact, though the 36-year-olds demeanour is calm and genial, with a molten southern accent thats sheer aural nectar (he has a surprising habit of pointing for emphasis), Usher is navigating a predicament that comes to most megastars, however impregnable they might appear. In May, his comeback single, Good Kisser, only got to No 65 in the States (No 10 in the UK), and the followup, She Came To Give It To You, despite borrowing the melody of the SOS Bands Just Be Good to Me and a rap by Nicki Minaj, did even worse, reaching No 89 (No 16 in the UK). The day after we meet, Billboard announces that Ushers next song, Clueless, will be made available exclusively via boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios sold at Walmart; youll find a download code at the bottom of the packet. It doesnt exactly scream confidence.

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