Intra intr-o noua era

Milioanele de vanzari ale muzicii USHER i-au adus toata blingerea, adulatia si atentia feminina pe care orice barbat si-ar putea dori-o. Dar a schimbat totul pentru responsabilitate si familie.

Usher has two things on his mind — Beyonce and a baby. No, not like that. Usher Raymond IV is holed up in a swank Beverly Hills hotel to service the world’s media as he promotes his fifth album, Here I Stand. However, you can set your watch by the fact Usher runs on superstar time and he’s now three hours late. At least today he has some good excuses. First, this interview was pushed back to incorporate a ‘‘hug break” as he squeezed in squeezing his newborn son, Usher Raymond V, who’s upstairs with his mother, Usher’s wife of 10 months, Tameka Foster. No one’s seen photos of the baby yet; Usher candidly admits he’s “looking to identify the publication” who will handle the story and photos best. And, no doubt, most lucratively. Then Usher-time collided with Beyonce-time as the even-more-freshly-married superstar arrived to sign off on a duet for a belated remix of Usher’s US No.1 Love in this Club. It’s hard to tell which distraction has put the spring in his step, but Usher bounds in, full of joy and apologies, in that order. ‘‘It’s a treat for me. I’ve been wanting for years to do a record with Beyonce,” Usher says. ‘‘Even though it’s a remix, it’s a really special record for me.” Things have changed dramatically for Usher since 2004’s Confessions, his highest-selling album in a career that has clocked up a whopping 30 million sales. One obvious thing is missing in 2008 — Usher comes minus any of the bling that 30 million sales can afford. Though he still looks as though he could bench press everyone in the room, he admits the rare fabric allergy that saw him spend much of his last tour shirtless may have been cured. ‘‘This album doesn’t call for me to have my shirt off,” Usher says. ‘‘I came with the glitz and glamour last time. Now you won’t see a lot of diamonds. I haven’t even put earrings in for three years. It’s time out for that. It’s time to man up.” Usher calls it ‘‘GMT” — Grown Man Trend. He’s 29 and has become both a father and a husband in the past year, and his estranged father, Usher Raymond III, passed away in January. ‘‘I’m not a perfect father but I can do my best at making sure I lead my son in the right direction,” Usher says. ‘‘I recognise I’m responsible for his life, I’m responsible for what he becomes, for who he is.” The huge diamond-studded letter ‘‘U” that hung around his neck (and cost more than most houses) has been put in storage until he tours; he jokes it gets in the way when he changes nappies. ‘‘I now think if you look inside yourself you’ll recognise you are diamond, you ain’t got to have them on you. I don’t need all that now.” His new diamonds-on-the-inside life didn’t come without pressure. Usher met Foster around 2003 when she worked with him as a stylist — at the time he was dating Chilli from TLC. Foster was married with three children. The pair became friends, with Foster even offering older-woman advice on his tumultuous relationship with Chilli, and he would listen to her marriage problems. Once both were single, they started a relationship in November 2005. Gossip writers at the time pointed out that Foster was still married; she points out that she and her husband had started divorce proceedings and were both seeing other people. Then there was the age difference — Foster is 37 — and rumours swirled that she clashed with Usher’s mother, also his manager. A flashy Hamptons wedding planned for last July was cancelled (rumours said it was because of the infighting between the two women in Usher’s life) until the pair wed in a smaller private ceremony in Atlanta last August. Columnists and bloggers took Usher’s hiring of new management (Benny Medina, who also steers Mariah Carey) around the time of the aborted wedding as proof of the fiery relationship between his wife and his mother. Usher isn’t having any of it. ‘‘You can look at a magazine story as something negative or you can take the positive from it,” he says. ‘‘I choose to take the positive out of life, push away any negative force. The thing that’s positive in someone talking bad about you is it motivates you to keep going.” That may be so but when pushed, he admits the stories hit him where it hurt — his family. At the time his mum moved from manager back to mother, Usher said: ‘‘It means I now get to have my mother strictly as my mother with no added pressure.” Today he’s even happier with the decision. ‘‘There was drama, in terms of me bringing in new management, but that’s a product of me becoming more responsible about my home, my life, taking control. I’m making decisions I feel very comfortable with and in no way should that be taken as a bad thing.” He fires up at accusations at Foster, which started with ‘‘gold-digger” and most recently saw rumours (denied by Medina) that she started a feud on the set of the Love in the Club video — where she acted as stylist — over Usher’s not-very-ugly female co-star Keri Hilson. ‘‘Unfortunately my wife has been portrayed as someone who broke a family up — I could never break away from my mother, she’ll always be my mother,” Usher says. ‘‘And my wife has been portrayed as someone who has some ulterior motive. No, it’s just love, and always has been. ‘‘That’s the thing that was so disturbing, you have something that’s beautiful, a man being a man for his home, his wife, his child, is that really a bad thing? Should I be running back to the solo life where I was unhappy? ‘‘Maybe happy for the moment. But those one-night stands, those few-nighters, those random relationships that turned out to be a waste of time — they weren’t worth it and they’re not worth leaving my family for.” Usher admits he’s come a long way from the artist whose hit Confessions centred around a man telling his partner he was about to become a father to another woman’s child. ‘‘Music, as well as the world, portrays sex as the thing,” Usher says. ‘‘Sex sells. I understand it, I’m a product of it. But at the same time there has to be something else, something that balances the scale out, something of substance. And that’s the path I’m on. ‘‘I’m 29 years old. I can officially say I’m a man and not only because I have a wife and child, but just the range of things I’ve experienced. I view things as a man. When I viewed things as a child I did childish things. Now as a man I put those childish things away.” He’s not only a father, he’s an instant stepfather to Foster’s other children. ‘‘My oldest son graduates this year,” Usher says, ‘‘the youngest isn’t in pre-care yet.” His nickname at home is ‘‘Two Dads”. ‘‘I’m proud of it,” he says. ‘‘I understand it. I had two stepfathers. I can understand having love for a man other than my own father, especially because my father was not there. I considered it a bonus. Now these three individuals are very open and caring and greeted me with open arms for loving their mother.” Usher says the lack of a father figure meant he was ‘‘forced to be a lot more mature” than many his age. He neatly deflects to this fact when nosy fans question the age difference with his wife. ‘‘I’ve always been responsible, I couldn’t be negligent and furthermore my mother wouldn’t stand for that. “But I was happy, I believed in my goal and I knew if I wanted to make it I can’t do that by throwing my life away to drugs or any miscellaneous activity that does not help me grow.” The Beyonce collaboration was one of several last-minute additions to Here I Stand as Usher rushed to release the record before it was leaked on the internet. Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z, fired off an 11th-hour rap to add to Best Thing. There were also collaborations with Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake that were workshopped but didn’t happen in time. Usher says he and JT share a special bond. ‘‘Artists that make rhythmic music that you dance to and they sing and they’re musicians — there’s none. They’re almost extinct. Who else does that? Prince. The person who can give you performance, musician and dancer.” He’s hoping their collaboration will happen either for JT’s next album, or a reworked version of Here I Stand planned for next year. ‘‘Look out for the repackage,” Usher says. It’s a strange comment, considering the original album has yet to hit stores, but the Confessions repackage (featuring the hit Alicia Keys duet My Boo) gave sales a second wind of several million copies. ‘‘Oh yeah, but buy this one first.” Several songs from Here I Stand have already leaked on the internet, including The Realest, an ode to Foster. Usher hopes the love song will also make the repackage. ‘‘The difference between my wife and all these other chicks I had a good time with, but wasted all my time with, is that she’s real. If I wanted a mannequin or a model I would have gone there. I wanted someone full of life. ‘‘She obviously knows about caring given the fact she has children, and she has created her own life. She was a dreamer, she made it. I love who she is, obviously, because I married her.” And though he admits to initial — and unsurprising — tension between Foster and his mother, he insists they’re now pals. ‘‘My mother just held a baby shower for my son, everything is fine. It’s odd. In the beginning I think my mother did give a bit of resistance. Which is natural. Mothers will always feel no woman is perfect for their son. ‘‘She’s definitely proven to be a great woman in my mother’s eyes, to the point where they’re now friends. It’s the oddest s— ever, they’re having dinner together and laughing! And my mother’s enjoying being a grandma, but she thinks she’s a mom again. ” It’s love and his new responsibility-filled life that Usher has channelled into the emotion-charged moments on Here I Stand. He compares the album’s musical diversity to his hero Stevie Wonder, and compares the lyrical honesty to ‘‘real men” of the ’70s such as Barry White and Al Green. ‘‘I wanted a record that would be a great soundtrack for life,” Usher says. ‘‘It represents the tumultuous situations you go through, as well as the fun times, the intimate times. I want people to listen to this album like it’s a book, to walk through the journey. ‘‘You start by looking at this guy who was a player, a hustler, finding his way and finding love. That guy is me now, very solid, and I have a foundation, which is my family. ‘‘I was the guy who was at the club, I had the one-night stands, sometimes two in the bed, the whole nine yards. Then I’ve gathered substance over the past four years. It’s like a book . . . and there’s a happy ending.” Here I Stand (Sony BMG) out Saturday.