Chris Brown will tell you that Michael Jackson is his biggest influence, but it was Usher who came to mind when you first saw the then 16-year-old budding R&B, hip-hop, pop star pop-locking across a high school gymnasium in his debut video "Run It!" nearly three years ago.
Usher's recurrent singles from his 9 times platinum Confessions album were still lingering on the charts as Chris entered the game capturing the attention of Usher fans and even connecting with tweens who couldn't yet relate to Usher's need to confess his infidelities and to painfully "let it burn."
As Usher took a break from music and instead garnered limelight for his rumored romance with his stylist with whom he later confirmed in their marriage, Chris Brown took full advantage of not having any competition in the genre. He released two albums, his 2005 self-titled debut and 2007's Exclusive, and achieved platinum results during Usher's hiatus.
Eight back to back hit singles from Chris Brown made you wonder exactly where Usher would fit in upon his return. If you saw Chris's performance and high tech stage show last year as he headlined his own tour, you would have no problem accepting the proclamation that he is the future of R&B as a leading urban glossy declared shortly after his debut.
But now Usher is back. The seasoned performer turns 30 this October and is a new husband and father. Can he pick up the momentum of where Confessions left off? Or should he be prepared for Chris Brown to do to his career what Ciara has done to Janet's?
Don't get excited just yet Chris.
The answer is in the Usher's comeback single "Love In The Club" which happens to be No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Even though Chris has three songs in the top 10, his collaboration with Jordin Sparks "No Air" is No. 3, his solo tracks "Forever" and "With You" are No. 9 and No. 10, Usher's cache should not be underestimated.
The anticipation of something new from Usher helped propel "Love In The Club" to the top of the download charts with great assists from a Young Jeezy feature and the incredible, slow grind Polow Da Don track. The video may not have resonated as much as Usher's "Yeah," or even Chris's "Wall To Wall," but guest appearances from Keri Hilson, Kanye West, and Jeezy, prove that Usher's reemergence was grand.
Though the "Love In The Club" video focused less on dance than a typical Usher video and the short dance sequence was not spectacular, it by no means signals any less energy from Usher.
At Yahoo! Music, Chris Brown is the second most searched for artist on the site and Usher is fourth. But I'm expecting the positions to swap as we get closer to May 27, the release date for Usher's fifth studio album Here I Stand.
It's my bet that Usher has no need to worry any time soon. But I do appreciate Mr. Brown for turning up the heat and forcing Usher to stay on top of his game.
I'm not sure if you all know that Usher was actually instrumental in helping Chris Brown determine what record label offer to accept. In an interview with Chris just before he released his debut, he told me that Usher called him unexpectantly one day while he was in the midst of a label bidding war. L.A. Reid, who heads Island Def Jam and signed Usher to his LA Face Records in the early '90s, asked Usher to call Chris basically as a personal reference.
While this surprise phone call was Chris's first time meeting Usher, he listened to Usher's advice that encouraged him to make his own decision. Chris's decision was to join the Jive family, also the home to Usher. Reid and his partner had sold LA Face to Jive's parent company years earlier.
Considering Usher and Chris's friendly history, maybe the two can successfully co-exist? Who says there can only be one R&B, hip-hop, pop male superstar?