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Usher's position at the forefront of R&B spans the post-new jack swing mid-'90s through the genre's flirtations with Afrobeats and amapiano. Primed early for the spotlight, the singer, songwriter, and dancer started in the church and vaulted quickly from Star Search contestant to major-label signee. Although "Call Me a Mack" (1993) was a lofty declaration from a 14 year-old on his debut single, it wasn't long before Usher gained control of a fully developed, flexible tenor voice and could lay valid claim to the R&B throne. My Way (1997) followed the modest success of his self-titled debut with a barrage of Jermaine Dupri-produced singles that either topped or nearly topped Billboard Hot 100. After scoring his second Top Ten album and first Grammy, respectively with 8701 (2001) and its "U Remind Me," the singer went supernova with Confessions (2004). The source of four distinct number one pop hits, from the party-starting Lil Jon collaboration "Yeah!" to the romantic Alicia Keys duet "My Boo," Confessions won a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album and earned a rare diamond platinum certification. More trips to the top of the album chart were made with Here I Stand (2008), Raymond v Raymond (2010), and Looking 4 Myself (2012), a period during which shrewd collaborations such as "Love in This Club" (featuring Jeezy), "OMG" (produced by and featuring, and "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" (with Pitbull) did much to maintain Usher's commercial momentum. (The latter two were among the era's biggest crossover EDM hits.) Less prolific from that point onward, Usher returned to the Top Ten in the mid-2010s with Hard II Love (2016), teamed with Zaytoven for the comparatively low-profile "A" (2018), and not until the mid-2020s offered his cosmopolitan ninth album, Coming Home (2024), issued after he completed a 100-show Las Vegas residency.

Born Usher Terry Raymond IV in Dallas, Usher spent much of his childhood in Chattanooga, and eventually moved to Atlanta for the sake of his budding music career. After a LaFace A&R representative spotted him on Star Search, his career took off. The 14-year-old auditioned for LaFace co-founder L.A. Reid, who signed the gospel choir boy to a recording contract. He made his recorded debut in 1993 on the Poetic Justice soundtrack with "Call Me a Mack," a single that reached number 56 on Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart. The following year, Usher released his debut album of the same name, which featured co-executive producer Sean "Puffy" Combs. The first single, "Think of You," gained Usher wide recognition and reached gold status. From that initial exposure, Usher was approached to do other projects. In 1995, he recorded a national holiday jingle for Coca-Cola. He also joined several top male R&B vocalists to form Black Men United for the single "You Will Know," featured on the Jason's Lyric soundtrack. He also teamed with teen singing sensation Monica for a remake of Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out."

After graduating from high school, Usher released his sophomore album, My Way, in 1997. In an attempt to display his maturity and songwriting abilities, he co-wrote six of the nine songs and enlisted the help of producers Jermaine Dupri, Babyface, and, again, Combs. The album's first single, "You Make Me Wanna," reestablished Usher as one of R&B's hottest artists, and also made him a crossover sensation. It topped Billboard's R&B chart for 11 weeks, hit number two on the Hot 100, and eventually went double platinum. Both of the follow-up singles, "Nice & Slow" and "My Way," also went platinum; the former stayed at number one on the R&B chart for eight weeks and became his first number one pop single. In the meantime, Usher launched an acting career, appearing in the 1998 horror spoof The Faculty and the 1999 urban high-school drama Light It Up.

To tide fans over until his next studio release, Usher issued a concert recording titled simply Live in 1999. He returned on the Arista label with his third proper album, 8701, in 2001, and progressed from a teen pop star to a sultry R&B singer. "U Remind Me" and "U Got It Bad" topped the Hot 100 and R&B/hip-hop charts, while the latter and "U Don't Have to Call" (merely number three pop, number two R&B/hip-hop) won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in consecutive years. In 2004, Arista released the single "Yeah!" Produced by Lil Jon and guesting Ludacris, the addictive, lightly crunk cut fast became a club favorite, and then it went global -- a number one pop hit in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and several other territories. Confessions, the parent album, was Usher's most mature and diverse work. It won a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album, while "Yeah!" took home the award for Best Rapped/Sung Collaboration, and the Alicia Keys duet "My Boo" won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Usher starred in 2005's In the Mix and returned in 2008 with Here I Stand, an album that topped the Billboard 200 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts but inevitably failed to do as well as what preceded it.

Raymond v Raymond, inspired in part by the end of Usher's marriage, was released in 2010 as three of its songs were climbing the charts. Its buzz single, "Papers," had already topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. An EP titled Versus followed later in the year. At the Grammy ceremony the following February, Raymond v Raymond won in the category of Best Contemporary R&B Album, and "There Goes My Baby" won for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. Led by yet another Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart-topper, "Climax" (co-produced by Diplo), Looking 4 Myself was issued in 2012, driven by the Top Ten single "Scream," and it became Usher's fourth number one album. "Climax" made Usher an eight-time Grammy winner when it took the award for Best R&B Performance.

In 2013, Usher began a stint as a coach for the NBC talent show The Voice. His contestant, Josh Kaufman, won season six of the competition in 2014. Meanwhile, Usher released singles throughout the year, including "Good Kisser," "She Came to Give It to You," and "I Don't Mind," the last of which -- featuring Juicy J -- became his 13th number one R&B/hip-hop smash. In 2016, Usher starred as Sugar Ray Leonard in the movie Hands of Stone. The song "Champions" (with Ruben Blades) was included on the film's soundtrack. It became one of four singles -- along with "Missin' U," "Crash," and "No Limit" featuring Young Thug -- released in preparation for his eighth album, Hard II Love, which entered the Top Five of the Billboard 200 and R&B/hip-hop charts that September.

In October 2018, on the weekend of his 40th birthday, Usher made a surprise return with "A," a brief album produced by "Papers" collaborator Zaytoven with features from Gunna and Future. It peaked at number 31 on the Billboard 200. In 2019, he issued the track "LaLaLa" with Black Coffee and guested on Summer Walker's single "Come Thru" (from her album Over It) while he worked on a new album. He released the single "Don't Waste My Time," featuring Ella Mai, at the end of the year. Four more singles in 2020 included the charting "Bad Habits." Featured on tracks by Justin Bieber and City Girls over the next couple years, Usher didn't headline again until 2023, when he increased anticipation for his ninth album with a series of tracks highlighted by "Good Good," a Top 40 collaboration with Walker and 21 Savage. Usher completed a year-and-a-half residency in Las Vegas that December, and the following February, two days before his halftime performance at Super Bowl LVIII, released Coming Home. In addition to "Good Good" and final prelude "Ruin" (featuring Pheelz), Usher's ninth album contained his and H.E.R.'s duet for the 2023 version of The Color Purple ("Risk It All") and additional collaborations with Burna Boy and Latto. ~ Lynda Lane & Andy Kellman

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