NEW YORK — is expecting a new baby in mid-December, so he might get his Christmas gift early. His fans will be getting their holiday present from him a little later, however — the Atlanta megastar is dropping a new LP in the beginning of 2009.
“I got big gifts and, at the top of the year, the gift back to my fans — another album,” he smiled during a tour stop earlier this week at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
“It’s the way I should have always done it,” Ush said about coming with another project so soon. “I multitask. There are so many other things that I do. You know, I have my philanthropic efforts. As an entrepreneur stepping out into other areas, I’ve always managed to keep myself busy in between. Well, this time I really wanted to focus on my music and really focus on a specific record. And then to get on tour. I don’t have a date yet [for my next tour], but there is some time in the middle of next year. You can expect something in the first quarter of next year in terms of music.”
One of music’s most acclaimed songwriters is already being looked at to collaborate with Usher when he goes in the studio next month. “Ne-Yo is actually potentially gonna be a part of this project,” he revealed. “On the last one we didn’t work together until the very end — hopefully we are gonna try and get together early.
“I’ll be working with some of the greatest in the game,” he added. “I plan on doing something very creative, working with a few different styles of producers. But it’s really about bringing the center people — who have been with me throughout the years — along with me on building this next album.
“I know the boy Usher is about to go back in,” Ne-Yo told us. “We are definitely going to do some stuff together. We’ve been kicking it a lot lately. We were in France just recently for the whole fashion week thing, just talking about where he wants to go and everything. That was a real cool situation.”
Ne-Yo has a very distinct game plan he would like to see his friend follow.
“Well, I was one of the first people to tell Usher, personally, that I didn’t think he was focused on the album … on Here I Stand,” Ne-Yo explained. “I don’t think his focus was in the right place. And I’m a dude, and that’s my personal opinion and I’m entitled to it, and he respected that I kept it real with him about that. I think that this time around … It’s not so much that I think Here I Stand was a bad record, it just wasn’t the Usher that we remembered. I mean, that joint [Confessions] right there went 10-15 million worldwide, so it was going to be difficult to come back from that anyway. So I just think he’s gotta get back to what he knows, which is to get out there and make ’em dance — entertain them at the end of the day. Like, it seems like he had a lot to say, almost like he had something to prove with the Here I Stand record. Like a different dude now: ’I got a family now, and this is who I am.’ As opposed to before, when it was about, ’I’mma get up and entertain y’all. I’m gonna sing songs that got something to say, but at the same time, I’m gonna entertain y’all.’ And I think he just needs to get back there. And I think that’s where he’ll wind up.”
Usher certainly made the ladies cheer during his stint at the Hammerstein. He came with swag, with sexiness and with a disposable shirt — one lady in the crowd came with some underwear she wasn’t too attached to, and she had no problem sharing them with Usher.
“Who do these beautiful pink panties belong to?” he asked during a break in “Do It to Me.” “I need the bra set, too. You need to make your way to the front.”
A lot of the hits were rolled out, such as “Love in This Club,” “Yeah” and “U Remind Me.”
“It’s like [an] Usher [show] on steroids,” he described in his dressing room, while his mom looked on with a smile. “It’s 10 times more because it’s closer. The energy is almost kinda compact, but great for the fans because for many years they haven’t had that opportunity to be right there. … But if you’re playing huge arenas, it’s kind of a very broad performance. … This one is like we are getting down. We are having a good time. We’re enjoying this night. You leave motivated. The songs that are chosen are intended with a kinda somewhat sexy [feel], yet still complemented specifically to the women.
“It was intended specifically for women,” he continued about the tour. “Last night, I had noticed that guys don’t really pay attention to detail. They actually decided to come to the show. It actually turned out to be real cool. But everybody that comes to the show should understand that it was specifically designed for my female audience. You know, something very intimate. I’ve done the big shows. I’ve been around the world, seen a lot of places, seen a lot of faces — but this one, it’s about being up close and personal with my audience in a way that I haven’t done in a long time.”
True to his word, Usher had the women fanning themselves during the performance of his current single, “Trading Places.” He sat at the piano for a while, but most of the action took place on top — before the song was over, he had one of his dancers in her panties, laying down on the piano.
“It’s a little bit of dance,” he said of the show’s theatrics. “I think the one thing is the connection with the audience. The dance is cool. You know every time you come to an Usher show, you’re gonna get dance. You gonna get entertainment. You’re gonna get the band. You gonna get the dancers. You gonna get background. You’re gonna get all of that. Right? You gonna get some lights. But the one thing you’re gonna get [during this tour] is a connection — it’s about us having a good time. I slide in and out, choreography, like it’s nothing — you know, to connect with the audience. They are basically writing a story while I’m dancing for them. Like, if they are going crazy, then I’m off the choreography for a moment, and I’m rocking on the left side with the ladies having a good time. Bring me back over to the right. I even step down into the audience and pull out a lady — one special lady in the show.”
Usher still has more than half of his 14-city tour left; the outing ends on November 25 in Dallas.