ATLANTA — These days, Usher is busy listening to new bass lines and drumbeats being offered up by producers vying to have him sing on their tracks.
The singer is back in the studio working on his new album, but as MTV News recently reported, he'll be hearing another type of music in the not-too-distant future: wedding bells (see "Usher Plans New LP — And Marriage — By End Of Year"). He's engaged to stylist Tameka Foster.
"When you find the right one, you don't wanna live your life without her — you wanna make sure you have a real partner," said Usher when asked what made him pop the question. "I think every man wants to have that partner in life he can share the hottest moments with — the one that is down with you in the clutch and keeps it real and keeps you in check if things ain't right."
Usher says he and Foster have been engaged since the beginning of 2007, although he's not sure exactly when he'll be walking down the aisle. "Nah, the date ain't set yet," he said. "I'm so caught up in the everyday, focused on music. But it's gonna happen before the end of the year."
The music Usher is focused on, he said, is about six months away from being finished, and he wants to release an album around November. Being happily in love has definitely served as inspiration for at least one track.
"Most of the time with Usher it's about the magic," producer Jermaine Dupri said of working with his longtime friend and collaborator. "Even the concept of making records is different with Usher. For the first month or so of us being in the studio, it's all mostly conversation to drive me to that point where I go into the room and hear something that clicks.
" 'The Realest' is actually one of the first songs that we did," Dupri continued. "It was pretty much what he was on. He was like, 'I got the realest woman in the world. You ever had the realest woman in the world? You ever have a real one?' That was how he was talking to me. And within the hour, I heard what we should be saying in the hook, and he was like, 'Yeah, let's go.' "
Another muse for Usher's new album is the music game itself.
"Music is somewhat in a box right now, 'cause everybody is trying to follow the same thing," he said. "But then you have those artists that try to cut through — artists that really take a risk. Artists like Robin Thicke. Artists like Musiq Soulchild. I just heard great reviews about his album. Artists that are willing to take a chance and try to go into a new territory and not be afraid to do something different."
Usher says he's definitely going to be stepping on some new ground with the album but won't forget the fans who helped him reach the top.
Check MTVNews.com next week for more about Usher's new music and what it's like to work with him in the studio.