By SPENCER BRIGHT
Under Usher's wing: Justin Bieber has been nurtured by the global superstar who wanted to help him succeed
How do you learn to become a superstar? Well, the best way must surely be to ask one who did it. Even better, get them to be your mentor.
And Usher, with 45 million record sales, is undoubtedly a superstar. Justin Bieber may have a way to go — but his ascent already looks certain at the tender age of 16.
Bieber’s success may partly be down to the business deal the pair struck in 2008 when a former music executive brought the youngster to Usher’s home town of Atlanta, Georgia.
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Bieber’s YouTube performances of songs by Usher and Justin Timberlake were yet to become an internet phenomenon. But Usher instinctively knew he was in the presence of a precocious talent, not unlike his younger self.
Usher, 32, is contemplating this as we talk backstage at London’s O2 Arena, where he is performing for five nights as part of his UK tour.
‘The day I met Justin was special,’ he tells me. ‘I saw that he had a raw talent — and he was cute, girls would like him. I thought OK, if this is properly nourished it could become huge. But I didn’t know how huge.
‘At that time, there was a pop phenomenon that was all very Disney and Nickelodeon.
But here was a guy who was the antithesis to all that. He had introduced himself to the world online. I knew if we could guide him then we’d have a product that is the Justin you see.’
Mentor: Usher, seen here performing during the halftime show at the NFL's Super Bowl, is no stranger to fame and fortune
Usher, who glows with the confidence that only true success can bring, started out at the same age as Bieber — 13 — signing with respected producer Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid.
But even then, he still insisted on entering a TV talent show called Star Search.
‘I didn’t have to do the show. Reid asked me: “Are you sure you want to do this, as you can actually lose?” I said: “I’m not planning on losing, I’m going there to win.” ‘Nobody pushed me to do anything. Aged 12, I told my mother: “Listen, this is what I want to do with my life and I need your support.” I felt I had a great talent.’
Usher has never been troubled by self-doubt — though his career and life have not been without hiccups.
His father left home when he was one-year-old and later died as a result of cocaine abuse. But aside from this, his childhood was stable. His hard-working mother Jonetta, a former medical technician, took her son’s ambitions seriously, moving the family from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia — then a hub of rhythm and blues music.
‘I didn’t have a rough childhood. I’m not from the ghetto,’ he says.
Child stars: Bieber and Usher met when Justin was only 13, and have remained close ever since
Signing a record deal and winning Star Search were no guarantee of instant success, however.
He was dispatched without his mother at just 14 to New York to work with Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs, head of Bad Boy Records. Here he was taken to wild parties, where drug use was rife and women easily available. ‘Puffy’s idea was to make me a bit rougher, with more edge,’ he says.
‘But I’m not saying Puff was wrong. That album wasn’t my most successful, but it launched the career I’ve enjoyed for 18 years since. It’s helped me understand the importance of having a mentor when I’m working with Justin. You have to make music relevant for now.’
It’s a lesson he learned from one of his own heroes — Michael Jackson.
‘Michael was very serious about his craft. He’d say don’t get caught up in whatever that moment is, be mindful that you’re always making history. It inspired me to come up with my mantra — what we do in this lifetime echoes through eternity.’
The two became friends and Usher sang Gone Too Soon in front of Jackson’s coffin and family at his memorial service in Los Angeles. ‘That was the hardest yet most gratifying moment of my career. The song summed up what people were feeling, as nobody believed Michael had passed. He was such an iconic figure, but icons like him live for ever.’
Like Jackson, Usher found fame at a young age, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he had his first Number 1, aged 19.
Usher Surprises Justin Bieber -- and the Entire Audience!
source: dailymail [endtext]