The following is an honest-to-God transcript of a teleconference that took place between regional journalists and R&B superstar Usher Raymond on Wednesday, July 28. It has been edited for space, and questions have changed order, but it is otherwise untouched.
Operator: Thank you for joining us today for the Teleprint conference call with Usher, regarding his upcoming "The Truth" Tour. Usher's "The Truth" Tour sold out all over Europe, and tickets are flying fast here in North America. With Kanye West joining him on the road, three singles lighting up the charts and album sales going strong, Usher's "The Truth" Tour promises to be the hottest tour of the summer.
1) The Classic Softball
Journalist: Hi, Usher. First of all, I just want to start off by saying that I really respect your music, and I really respect you for just keeping it so real. You know?
Usher: Well, thank you.
My question is: What song off the album is most meaningful to you and why?
I would say "Burn," because that song I experienced. [The song is about his high-profile split from TLC's Chilli.] I know what it feels like once you let it burn. And those songs are written from a very personal place. In addition to that, they represent what I call my style. You know how every artist has those songs that they're just known for -- that style -- like they say, "Oh, that sounds like an Usher record" or "That sounds like a Marvin Gaye record." It's a part of that brand.
2) The Futile Attempt at Journalism
[This question comes from Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times, a well-regarded music critic, and I have no idea what he's doing on this teleconference.]
Jim DeRogatis: Hi, Usher. Being from Chicago, I have to ask about Kanye West, who's blown up so big this year, and he's opening the show. To what extent did you have a role in choosing him?
Usher: I'd already admired him as a producer, but when I heard his music, man, it was in high rotation in every car that I own.
Sure, well, earlier you mentioned another Chicago artist, R. Kelly. A lot of different stories out of Chicago regarding him --
Yes, he's a great tourer. He's always thinking of ways to woo the audience.
Yes, but he's got this thing hanging over his head --
[Talking over DeRogatis] Yes, but I think he's a great tourer. He's amazing onstage.
3) The Silly Question
Journalist: I have a silly question for you. Who do you think is the better dancer: you, Michael Jackson or Justin?
Usher: I mean, to be perfectly honest with you, I work hard to the point where I feel like I'm the best at everything that I do, but not in comparison to anyone else. We all individually have a different style. I think that Michael Jackson is a person who motivated both of us, and that's that.
4) The "????" Question
Journalist: Hey, man, how's it going? When you're onstage and you're performing the Confessions songs and the more honest songs, do you go into a different head space?
Usher: Am I conscious?
Yes, do you go into a different head space, though, when you're --
Of course. Each moment is very personalized. The emotions that go through it, the body language, all of that. Sometimes it's not about a dance. Sometimes it's about your body telling the story.
5) Best Question/Worst Response
Journalist: My question is about "Confessions, Pt. Two." [The song is about a man who impregnates the other woman, an act that has been rumored to have caused Usher's breakup.] Tell me whether or not you were ever self-conscious writing that song. Because, pardon the bluntness, it sort of makes you look like an asshole.
Usher: [Laughs] Well, yes. In making this album, I wanted it to not just --don't just focus on me. Allow me to be the vessel that allows you to, you know, get this story. You want to feel like "I understand this guy," you know, or "I can relate to his situation." You may be that asshole, you know what I mean? So it's like, you know, I'm singing for you. You know, sometimes in life, you've got to go through something to get to something. You've got to let it burn sometimes, you know?
Operator: And that's all the time we have for questions. This concludes today's teleconference call. You may now disconnect. -- Sarah Hepola
A Q&A with Amy Lee of Evanescence
The Riverfront Times: Is it awkward touring with the person you're dating [Seether singer Shaun Morgan]?
Amy Lee: It's really cool, actually. We never get to see each other, because we're always touring -- so now we can do both.
Does he have to beat back all your groupies?
First of all, my groupies don't want to sleep with me. I love my fans -- the people who truly care about our music -- but groupies are the kind of people who hound you just because.
I heard you did some killer karaoke with Seether and Stone Sour in Texas.
Oh, yeah. That was right when [Shaun and I] were first starting to get to know each other. It was after a big Godsmack show. Everybody got pretty drunk and sang their asses off.
I have a tough time imagining Corey Taylor [Stone Sour, Slipknot] singing "Brown Eyed Girl" or whatever.
With his pants around his ankles, no less. Nobody could get him off the stage. He did, like, twelve different songs.
And you and Shaun did something from Grease?
I wanted to do Dirty Dancing, but all they had was Grease.
So which song did you sing?
Um...you know the one at the end? When [John Travolta] is dressed up like a nerd? [Sings] "We'll always/Be together" -- that one.
So is that "your" song?
Noooooooooo. --Nathan Dinsdale
You'd have thought that maybe Reverend Al was in the house at Union Station last week instead of John Kerry and John Edwards. As the crowds arrived to see their candidates, the campaign was greasing them up with the funk. First it was "Addicted to You" by Britney Spears, which, you gotta admit, is funkier than it should be. We were expecting Bruce and Mellencamp, but the Dems must be gunning for the tween vote. Then, in an effort to secure the hometown rap vote, the PA juiced up "Shake Ya Tailfeather" by Nelly, P. Diddy and Murphy Lee. Surprising, sure, but a harmless-enough ode to ass-shaking.
We lost it, however, when the Kerry campaign went all Lil' Kim on our asses with "Magic Stick," an ode to humpin' that makes even us blush. Check this rhyme, cameoed by 50 Cent, which kicks off the song: "I'm a freak to the core/Get a dose once, you gon' want some more/My tongue touch ya girl, ya toes bound to curl/This exclusive shit I don't share with the world." Yo, Kerry, we heard you were packing a pretty impressive magic stick of your own, but we had no idea that you'd flaunt it as well. Alas, some campaign operative somewhere must have figured it out, because halfway through Kelis' "Milkshake" -- an ode to cold, cold pussy -- the music abruptly stopped and, after a moment's silence, some touching female singer/songwriter crap came on, much more in tune with Kerry's demeanor. But for a brief fifteen minutes, before Foo Fighter Dave Grohl did his best Bob Seger impression, the Kerry/Edwards campaign was hitting it hard. -- Randall Roberts