What Fans of The Voice Should Know About Usher

Categories: Usher

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http://www.nbc.com/the-voice
Not enough people take Usher Raymond IV seriously these days. A long standing icon of 90s r&b, Usher bridged the gap with pop, subsequently ended up as a judge on The Voice, and is now probably better known as the dude with the open mouthed pose in the show's promotional posters on the subway that New Yorkers decided would be hilarious to draw a dick on. It might be easy to write off a guy who has a number in his name, or who released a song with will.i.am called "OMG," but there's so much more to Usher than you might be aware of, or that you forgot all about. Never fear! I'm here to remind you exactly why Usher, at a mere 35 years old, is the r&b icon of our generation, and why you should continue to take him very, very seriously.


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What's So Funny About A Little Bump N' Grind? R. Kelly, Frank Ocean, And The "Right" Kind Of R&B

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R. Kelly.
In case you haven't yet gotten your fill, over the past couple of years, of artists beating Aaliyah samples into a flavorless pulp, not to worry—Yeasayer frontman Chris Keating has got your back. In a Rolling Stone interview published this week, Keating recalls being struck by watching high school classmates dancing to "Are You That Somebody," despite not being into "mainstream music" at the time; he then cites Aaliyah as a major influence on Yeasayer's new record, Fragrant World. Who am I to say—perhaps Aaliyah and the Supafriends truly did resonate with Keating all these years, although it did take until his band's third album for this influence to supposedly manifest itself. Or perhaps, what with a certain Canadian rapper engaging in obsessive melodic fan-fiction, Aaliyah's name is just on peoples' lips at the moment. Or perhaps Keating and his bandmates got the memo that, hey, R&B isn't totally embarrassing anymore—or at least, a specific type of it.

Which brings us to Frank Ocean. Apparently Yeasayer and Ocean were both at the Wythe Hotel on the day of the interview, which led to a receptionist mixup, which led to Keating being asked his thoughts on Ocean. His reply: "I think he is a good new face for the R&B world right now, to kind of usher out—no pun intended—some of these folks. Because, let's get real, R. Kelly is a terrible person. I like R. Kelly and how crazy he is, but he's a terrible piece of shit, a horrible person, really bad all around. Let's get rid of him. Let's gay it up a little [in R&B]." It seems that in between his initial Aaliyah encounter (which would have been just after the release of One in a Million) and his band's music being influenced by her, Keating neglected to Google and find out that Kelly wrote and produced the vast majority of her debut Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.

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100 & Single: fun., Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen, And The Era Of The Snowball Smash

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If you're a pop fan, I'm going to guess you like at least one of the last three No. 1 songs in America. In many ways, 2012 has been an entertaining year for discriminating chart-watchers, as a slew of left-field singles have made strides on Billboard's Hot 100.

I've met people who love fun.'s "We Are Young" featuring Janelle Monáe—it spent six weeks atop the Hot 100 for a reason—and people who hate it. But at least some members of the latter group have a soft spot for the record that ejected it from No. 1 in April, Gotye's Kimbra-assisted "Somebody That I Used to Know."

That Gotye smash, one of the least predictable chart-toppers of the last decade and the current frontrunner as Billboard's 2012 song of the year, inspired both admiration and passionate loathing during its eight weeks on top. But virtually everyone I know who hates "Somebody" loves Carly Rae Jepsen.

I mean, does anybody hate "Call Me Maybe"? About the worst thing anyone's said about it is it's like a drug. Frankly, even those of us who loved the Gotye record were rooting for Carly Rae to take over the penthouse, which she finally did in late June. Her smash is now in its ninth week on top.

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100 & Single: The R&B/Hip-Hop Factor In The Music Business's Endless Slump

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Usher's Looking 4 Myself, Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, and Chris Brown's wingdinged-out Fortune.
Here are a few recent data points from chart bible Billboard and data provider Nielsen Soundscan as we move into the second half of 2012:

• In its midyear music-industry report card, Soundscan reports a return to the dismal album sales climate; year-to-date disc sales are off 3.2% from the same period in 2011. Last year saw the first annual rise in sales in nearly a decade, with albums eking out a 1.4% gain in 2011 over 2010. In the first six months of 2012, only one album sold more than a million copies, and it didn't come out this year: Adele's 21. Among the Top Five best-sellers for the year so far are a pair of stalwart acts from the 1980s: Lionel Richie, who on Tuskegee reupholstered his old hits as country songs and wound up with the year's second-best seller to date (912,000 copies); and Whitney Houston, who passed away in February, fueling sales for her 2000 disc The Greatest Hits which is now the year's fourth-best seller (818,000 copies).

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The Top Six Contenders For 2012's Song Of The Summer

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Now that the calendar has flipped to May, and the schedules for the area's big sheds have been announced, and the Hot 97 Summer Jam lineup is on the verge of being made public, it's time to think of other musical concerns related to the year's hottest months. Today, let's wonder about what song will be the year's official Song Of The Summer—that jam rendered inescapable by blaring bodega radios, cruising cars with the sound turned up, and people gleefully singing along to it when it comes on the sound systems at parties. Previous winners of the title: Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks" (2011); Katy Perry's "California Gurls" (2009—hey, I didn't say everyone had to like the song for it to count); Rihanna's "Umbrella" (2007-09). Six contenders for the imminent summer's top musical dog below.

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The 17 Best Songs Of 2012 (So Far)

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Tomorrow is the last day of March, as you might already know, and it also marks the end of the first quarter of 2012. What better way to close out a three-month span than to size up its musical offerings via playlist? Below, please find the contents of my "2012 awesomeness" playlist, a running-all-year diary of the songs that have hit my ear in a particularly pleasurable way. Among the 17 bands on it are Tanlines, Pop. 1280, fun., and Pistol Annies!

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Radio Hits One: The Elusive Superstar Duet (Or Three-Way)

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In last week's breakdown of Lil Wayne's chart ubiquity, I noted that while Lady Gaga's Born This Way and its singles seemed to be everywhere, she hasn't staked out much additional Billboard territory with collaborations. Her only charting collab of late is "3-Way (The Golden Rule)," a little orgy-themed ditty with The Lonely Island and Justin TImberlake that debuted on Saturday Night Live's season finale last month. The episode aired after the release of the Lonely Island's latest album, so the song was thrown out as an iTunes single and spent a week at No. 3 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart (which charts songs that haven't yet made the big singles chart, but are just scraping its bottom). "3-Way," like previous Lonely Island/Timberlake viral hits "Dick In A Box" and "Motherlover," is a catchy R&B tune full of dirty jokes. But it's also an opportunity for two of the world's biggest pop stars to make a song together while shrugging off the kind of expectations that would ordinarily accompany such a high-profile duet.

Pop music may be more collaborative than ever, but that's almost entirely due to hip-hop. The nature of its loop-driven production style and the traditions of posse cuts and guest verses have made it all too easy to cut and paste 16 bars of one rapper into another MC's song, or use a rapper's verse as a bridge in a pop song, or let a pop singer belt out the hook for the rapper's radio-friendly single. As hip hop's influence has seeped into almost every corner of the pop charts, it's become increasingly rare to find two pop stars simply singing a song together.


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100 & Single: Lady Gaga Gets Ready To Join The Million-Weeker Club

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The phrase "the calm before the storm" appears in virtually every chart-related story this week. That's because the latest edition of the Billboard 200, which covers sales from the week ending May 22, is topped by Adele's 21. That album is No. 1 for the ninth and (presumably) final week before Lady Gaga's monster Born This Way makes its foregone chart-crushing debut.

But, come on now... "calm"? For chart-watchers, industryites and Gaga fans, I'd say the storm is already happening.

A meta-discussion has been raging all week around just how many copies Gaga's album will sell in week one, and whether all of the downloads she's racking up should count. Amazon's jaw-dropping decision to sell Born This Way for the unprecedented full-album price of 99 cents has not only engendered controversy—so much that Billboard's editor felt compelled to respond to some angry Britney Spears fans—it's rocket-fueled Gaga's sales.

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Justin Bieber Update: A Report From Never Say Never's Opening Night

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I should start by stating by own critical bias. When last week I told my younger, Bieber-loving sister that I'd be seeing Justin Bieber's 3D movie on Friday night at Union Square, she told me straight up that if I were to write a negative review she would kick me out of the family. Still, neither this devotion, nor a colleague's warning that she felt more afraid when interviewing Bieber fans than at any point during the Gathering of the Juggalos, prepared me for what I was about to face when I bought my opening-night ticket for Never Say Never 3D.

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The Ballad of 2010: A Journey Through the Insipid Year That Was

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As previously noted, the pop-house that dominated the charts in 2010 was really fucking insipid. So to see this boneheaded year off, here's an anti-poetic tribute comprised of over 30 hits, misses, and album cuts that came out (or flourished) this year about going to the club, taking shots, dancing, and generally being as mindless as possible. If things continue on like this, you may not have to use your brain whatsoever in 2011. Fingers crossed! (Click on the line for its source track.)

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