[HOT TRACK]After Fall, Usher Refixing House"This boy can sing; he is a singer," Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the respected co-producers of hotshot artists such as Janet Jackson, said of Usher.
If "a singer can sing" is the best the producers can say of one of their artists, it doesn't sound too hopeful. Jam and Lewis, however, were trying to assure a perhaps skeptical public which mainly knows Usher as a showy dancer, a mediocre actor in some forgettable movies like "Light It Up" (1999) and a fashion model for Tommy Hilfiger.
Usher Raymond, 22, got his break on the TV program "Star Search" in 1993 and was later auditioned by the rhythm and blues music producers Baby Face and L.A. Reid. But his self-titled debut in 1994 was not impressive, selling slightly over a quarter of a million in the United States.
His 1997 second album, "My Way," gave him one successful single "Nice 'N' Slow," but despite this flash in the pan, Usher has always been better known for the other strands of his career.
Now he is ready with his third studio album with the rather indecipherable title "8701." Officially, the title is supposed to indicate the international release date of his album, Aug. 7, 2001. However, Usher recently revealed that it also represents the year 1987, when he first sang in public － in church － and this year.
The album was originally titled "All About U." After Napster leaked several tracks on the music sharing Internet site, an irate Usher freshened the album with several new tracks and a new name.
Among the ambitious 17 tracks, "U Remind Me" is a melodic and up-tempo R&B track, which gives Usher a chance to show off his vocal range.
The lyrics don't require too much brain power － Usher dawdles on the less-than-riveting subject of a girl who reminds him of another girl that he once knew. The track has been at number one on the Billboard chart for the last four weeks.
Another track, "I Don't Know," features Puff Daddy (who recently, unfathomably, changed his name to "P. Diddy") and looks set to become a hit in clubs.
Meanwhile, the last track, "Separated" is a romantic ballad, which Usher's plaintive vocals particularly suit.
Usher may be a little overambitious, saying "I'm building myself as an artist, singer, dancer and R&B king," but his third album will pleasantly enliven your summer days － or, as Usher would probably have it, nights.
by Chun Su-jin