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Interview:
Usher's One Night Stand One For The Ladies
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Usher was serious when he named his new tour One Night Stand Ladies Only. But that doesn’t mean the guys aren’t welcome.

“I never really ‘opened’ the show up for males,” explains the R&B singer. “However, I can’t prohibit them from buying tickets and being a part of it. Obviously you can’t discriminate in America.

“But I do want them to know, in the event they decide to come, that this show is catered specifically to women.” So he’s not worried about hitting the stage to discover a front row filled with dudes? “Well, I hope not!” Usher, 30, says with a laugh.

There’s probably little chance of that, however.

Since he released his self-titled debut album in 1994, the Dallas-born Usher Raymond IV has been one of pop music’s latter-day New Jack love men, seducing the ladies’ ears with pillow-talk and bump ’n’ grind hits such as “You Make Me Wanna,” “Nice & Slow,” “Burn,” the “My Boo” duet with Alicia Keys and “Love in the Club” from his latest album, the platinum “Here I Stand,” which came out in May. The love has been returned with worldwide album sales of 35 million copies and five Grammy awards.

And with 17 charted hit singles, he made Billboard magazine’s list of All Time Hot 100 Artists.

Through all that, Usher says, “I have such a huge female audience,” and the One Night Stand outing is “a way for me to thank my female fans for their support throughout the years.”

“The concept of the show came from older performers like Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye and Prince. These are all artists I’ve respected very much, and they did special things like this for their female fans. It’s intended to be up close and personal and give you something you’ll never forget.”

Usher, who’s expecting a second child with his wife, Tameka Foster, has tailored everything from the stage set — “It’s intended to feel as though you’re looking into my great room and here we are about to have a party in this house,” he says — to the repertoire for his intended audience. “A lot of the songs and tempos specifically cater towards an intimate night,” he explains. “It’s like a fantasy date, in a way. I’m telling the story through music, but also playing out certain pieces of it.

He also predicts “a lot of crowd participation,” including one fan who will be brought on stage to get a little closer to the singer.

While Usher’s show bends toward the bootylicious, his offstage activities of late have been more high- minded.

He’s established the nonprofit New Look Foundation designed to steer fans, particularly those on the younger tip, toward public service. His Project Restart campaign benefited victims of Hurricane Katrina and launched another project, I Can’t But You Can, that enlisted teens 17-years-old and younger to register new voters.

Usher — who is youth chairman of the Service Nation Summit and was a national co-chairman for President-elect Barack Obama’s voter registration program — also released a socially conscious single, “Hush,” on iTunes last month to raise funds for the foundation.

“Service in itself is innerhealing,” says Usher, who credits his mother’s influence and experiences at Boys and Girls Clubs while growing up with inspiring his drive.

“I feel like my voice matters on a ground level, not just because of the celebrity I bring but just because I can speak about something and make a difference.

“Community service is what I’ve pledged, so ... we’re going to continue to keep (New Look’s) star lit for any and every situation where I can be helpful”

That won’t stop him from pursuing star-making entertainment opportunities, though. With acting credits in “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “Light it Up” and “In the Mix,” Usher says he’s “looking at a few movie opportunities ... maybe doing an ensemble piece.” But the singer’s primary focus is his next album, which he says will be a “worldwide entertainment experience” with a decidedly international flavor.

“It’s all about adapting new musical styles in creating a unique blend between what I know works here in America and what I know will be appreciated worldwide,” Usher explains. “I may go to France and do some work. I may go to London ... Japan.

“There’s tons of artists I want to work with abroad. I can’t give you specific (names) but I am interested in working with artists who are out of the range I’m accustomed to. I want to try new things.”



HE GETS AROUND

Five places you’ve heard Usher besides his own records ...

“How Much,” with Mariah Carey (1999)

“I Need a Girl (Part One),” with P. Diddy (2002)

“Lovers & Friends,” with Lil Jon (2004)

“Same Girl,” with R. Kelly (2007)

“My Life, Your Entertainment,” with T.I. (2008)



Usher performs his One Night Stand Ladies Only show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 12)at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $49.50. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.







Web Site: www.livenation.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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