On The Mend, Usher Can’t Wait To Get On The Road

Singer's world tour was sidelined last year by rotator cuff surgery.

He’s young, he’s pretty, his moves are as fluent as tap water, and he’s coming back strong. No, not Will Smith as Muhammad Ali in the re-enactment of the “Rumble in the Jungle” title fight — it’s Usher, and he says he’s almost fully healed from recent rotator cuff surgery.

“It’s been a process, a tedious process,” he explained Tuesday (see “Usher Tour On Hold After Singer Dislocates Shoulder” ). “It’s taking a lot of patience and strength to get through it.”

Although he’s not yet able to execute any of his acrobatic choreography, like handstands and flips, Usher can still pop, spin and rip off his T-shirt off faster than Hulk Hogan, as he showed on the American Music Awards Wednesday night, where he performed “U Got It Bad” with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.

“I’m facing the realities that music is music, and that’s what I wanted [the AMA] performance to say. I call it rock and soul. Every bit of energy you have saved up for a whole show, you put it into one song.”

As for “U Got It Bad,” which is #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, “I knew the record would be successful,” Usher boasted, “but I never knew it would do what it’s done for me. Me and Jermaine [Dupri] make hit records together. I found my niche. He was there to listen and catch that record right on time.”

The Atlanta native said that although his dislocated shoulder sidelined a world tour in November, being forced to take time off was a blessing in disguise.

“My life is one that’s very busy. I’m never standing still,” he explained. “It actually happened at a great time for me because Christmas this year was about family. It had to be about family because of what’s going on in my life. For some reason I’m feeling a difference, a change of heart. I guess because I’m getting older. I’m 22. … [And] after what happened on September 11, you want to go embrace your family.”

Besides, why should he harbor any self-pity? His triple-platinum 8701 has been flying off the shelves for months, and his “U Remind Me” was nominated for a Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Grammy. He’s up against Brian McKnight, Maxwell, and Musiq Soulchild.

“They all are great artists, so may the best man win,” he said. “Brian McKnight has had great success with his record, even crossing over to top 40. I just hope that [8701] has had a lot of time to help me. ‘U Remind Me’ came out around the beginning of [nomination] voting. But you think about Musiq Soulchild and what he brought to soul music — it was a great release for him. People were talking about him when he first came out and still are. I just hope ‘U Remind Me’ will stand by itself.”

Standing on his own as the main attraction is something he’s looking forward to doing when his tour finally starts this spring.

“You’d be surprised [that with] how many hit records I’ve had I’ve never toured on my own as a headliner,” he marveled aloud. “I have at least six hit records that I can think of off the top of my head. I have to focus on [performing] the records that took me to #1. ‘My Way,’ ‘U Got It Bad,’ ‘U Remind Me.’ Those fans who have been there from the beginning, it’s a treat for them. For the new fans, they get an education.”