The pop superstar opens up about his new hit album, ''Here I Stand,'' and what it says about how far he's come

Here I Stand

Following a year of relentless media scrutiny of matters dear and personal — getting engaged, canceling the Wedding only to finally see it through, falling out with his mother, and seeing the death of his father shortly after becoming one himself — the generally laid-back Usher enters this interview with a firm declaration: ”This should be the last time that I have this type of dialogue about my wife or my family, and it’s because I’ve never really had the opportunity to speak,” he says, answering a question that hasn’t even been asked, his smooth Southern drawl infused with a hint of combative aggression. ”But I really don’t wanna make my business the focus of what this is.”

The catch, though, is that quite a bit of that ”business” informs Usher’s new CD, Here I Stand (out May 27), which mirrors the singer’s transformation from carefree bachelor to devoted husband and father, and which he is here to talk about. He quickly realizes he can’t discuss the one without the other — in many ways, they are one and the same. ”I’ve pulled from a lot of my personal experiences to tell the story of this album,” acquiesces the 29-year-old R&B singer, becoming more his relaxed self. ”It starts off with a guy who’s in the club, having a good time, and going home with a woman. The character that I’m setting up is not a guy who is married right off; he’s a guy who goes through the journey of getting married.”

The album’s first single, the sleek and seductive ”Love in This Club,” is already a ubiquitous dance-floor staple that’s hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and notched 1.5 million digital sales. ”It’s an A-plus,” says Ebro Darden, programming director for New York’s Hot 97. ”It’s catchy, sexy, and it has edge, while being accessible to a mass audience at the same time.” It is also a snapshot of Usher’s very different single life from two years ago — an important part of the Here I Stand story. Though few people knew it at the time, the then 27-year-old was in the midst of a life-changing existential dilemma. ”I was going out night to night, having a different woman in my bed every time I chose, and I began to wonder: Am I really being a playa or am I a whore?”

NEXT PAGE: ”I was exposed to the lifestyle of a young, fly A&R who was the man in New York. He took me to clubs. I was around women. It was like swagger camp. I said, So this is what I do when I finally make it….”

Here I Stand
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