Usher in the Chumps 

How to write a puff piece: an instructional transcript.

The following is an honest-to-God transcript of a teleconference that took place between rock journalists and superstar Usher Raymond on Wednesday, July 28. It has been edited for space, and questions have changed order, but it is otherwise untouched.

Operator: Thank you for joining us today for the Teleprint conference call with Usher, regarding his upcoming The Truth Tour. Usher's The Truth Tour sold out all over Europe, and tickets are flying fast here in North America. With Kanye West joining him on the road, three singles lighting up the charts, and album sales going strong, Usher's The Truth Tour promises to be the hottest tour of the summer. [Editor's note: Seriously. Someone said this.]

The Classic Softball

Q: Hi, Usher. First of all, I just want to start off by saying that I really respect your music, and I really respect you for just keeping it so real. You know?

Usher Raymond: Well, thank you.

Q: My question is: What song off the album is most meaningful to you and why?

Usher: I would say "Burn," because that song I experienced. [Editor's note: The song is about his high-profile split from TLC's Chili.] I know what it feels like once you let it burn. And those songs are written from a very personal place. In addition to that, they represent what I call my style. You know how every artist has those songs that they're just known for, that style like they say, "Oh, that sounds like an Usher record," or "That sounds like a Marvin Gaye record." It's a part of that brand.

The Slip-Up

Q: Good evening, Usher. How are you doing?

Usher: I'm just fine, woman.

Q: Excellent. I want to congratulate you on a stellar year, and I'm curious, since you've clearly had sex -- excuse me, success in the past, what do you think it is about this year that really allowed you to break through in a major multiplatinum way?

Usher [ignoring the slip-up]: It could have been the fact that, after ten years, I've been constantly doing it. And it could just be, surely, God's grace and my persistence, prayer, and patience.

The Futile Attempt at Journalism

Q: Hi, Usher. Being from Chicago, I have to ask about Kanye West, who's blown up so big this year, and he's opening the show. To what extent did you have a role in choosing him?

[Editor's note: This question comes from Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times, a well-regarded music critic; thus I have no idea what he's doing on this teleconference.]

Usher: I'd already admired him as a producer, but when I heard his music, man, it was in high rotation in every car that I own.

Q: Sure, well, earlier you mentioned another Chicago artist, R. Kelly. A lot of different stories out of Chicago regarding him ...

Usher: Yes, he's a great tourer. He's always thinking of ways to woo the audience.

Q: Yes, but he's got this thing hanging over his head ...

Usher [talking over him]: Yes, but I think he's a great tourer. He's amazing onstage.


The Silly Question

Q: I have a silly question for you. Who do you think is the better dancer -- you, Michael Jackson, or Justin?

Usher: I mean, to be perfectly honest with you, I work hard to the point where I feel like I'm the best at everything that I do, but not in comparison to anyone else. We all individually have a different style. I think that Michael Jackson is a person who motivated both of us, and that's that.

The "????" Question

Q: Hey, man, how's it going? When you're onstage and you're performing the Confessions songs and the more honest songs, do you go into a different head space?

Usher: Am I conscious?

Q: Yes, do you go into a different head space, though, when you're ...

Usher: Of course. Each moment is very personalized. The emotions that go through it, the body language, all of that. Sometimes it's not about a dance. Sometimes it's about your body telling the story.

[Editor's note: ????]

The Why-Did-I-Agree-to-This-Again Question

Q: Hi, Usher. I've heard that when you were a kid you got into entertainment because you wanted to own a McDonald's franchise.

Usher: No. You got that wrong. It was a franchise, but it wasn't McDonald's. Because McDonald's is not going to ever give me the endorsement. They'll give it to Justin first. No, just kidding [laughs]. It was Krispy Kreme. And as a child, I said to my grandmother, "You know, one day I'm going to own one of these Krispy Kremes. I've got to make some money," you know?

Q: And so when you're on the road, do you get to indulge in some Krispy Kremes?

Usher: No.

Q: No?

Usher: No.

Q: Okay.

Best Question/Worst Response

Q: My question is about "Confessions, Part Two." [Editor's note: The song is about a man who impregnates his "woman on the side," an act that has been rumored to have caused his breakup with Chili.] Tell me whether or not you were ever self-conscious writing that song. Because, pardon the bluntness, it sort of makes you look like an asshole.

Usher: [laughs] Well, yes. In making this album, I wanted it to not just -- don't just focus on me. Allow me to be the vessel that allows you to, you know, get this story. You want to feel like "I understand this guy," you know, or "I can relate to his situation." You may be that asshole, you know what I mean? So it's like, you know, I'm singing for you. You know, sometimes in life, you've got to go through something to get to something. You've got to let it burn sometimes, you know?

The Gimme-a-Break Question

Q: Recently you've had three massive hits off the Confessions album, and at one point they were all in the top ten at the same time. Do you think you can safely say you're the King of Pop?

Usher: I don't ever want to be the person who is self-proclaiming myself as the King of Pop. If I was given that title, I would accept it, and I would hope that I would represent it properly because Michael Jackson held it down for almost forty years. So I hope that I would last that time and then some. You know, I am a consummate professional and perfectionist. I try to be as mindful of everybody when I'm doing my albums and making my music. This has truly been a great experience. I'm extremely happy. But to be the King of Pop, the Stage King, the R&B King -- I don't want to self-proclaim myself as anything, man. I'm blessed. I'm blessed to be here. I'm blessed to be able to have you individuals on the telephone, even to hear what I have to say. Thank you. Thank you all very much.

Operator: And that's all the time we have for questions. This concludes today's teleconference call. You may now disconnect.


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