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Ushering in new prince of pop

There are not many red-blooded males perhaps who would end a relationship with Naomi Campbell citing the supermodel as "boring". Usher -- the bling-bling demi-god of r 'n' b due in Dublin next month for two shows at the 02 -- dumped Ms Campbell in 2005 because he was reportedly "bored" with her and her high-drama antics and endless rowing. (Usher could have saved himself the headwreck and the heartache had he consulted with Naomi's ex Adam Clayton of U2 before getting involved with the catwalk uber-diva.)

Naomi retaliated by saying Usher's management was "very controlling and wanted her to behave a certain way and do as they said -- including showing up to every red carpet event with him and posing for every picture. She was sick of it". A year later, she was still seething because she refused to pose with Usher for a Vogue For Men's magazine front cover. She demanded that it be Sean 'P Diddy' Combs instead.

I'm sure Usher's gargantuan ego wasn't even as much as dented by this slight: Usher once called himself "the master of the moment", the self-styled "Ultimate Entertainer" and the natural successor to Michael Jackson. He turned up at the 2004 MTV awards in a silver yacht because he said at the time he "wanted not only the sexiest and fliest boat, but also the fastest". It is hard to reconcile this with the modest young man, born Usher Raymond IV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1978, who began singing in the church choir at the age of six under the direction of his mother, Jonnetta Patton, who raised him and his younger brother, James, on her own.

The multi-zillion selling recording artist has the face and voice of a choirboy entertaining (and enjoying) impure thoughts, said the New York Times, adding that his songs exude sexual swagger while also speaking "pleadingly of a bruiseable soul beneath, of a heartbroken heartbreaker".

Watching him perform, you think immediately of Michael Jackson and then James Brown, who once dubbed Usher "the godson of soul" after they performed together at the Grammys in 2005. "James Brown introduced me to soul. Because of him I was given a clear view of what a real performance is and should be. I learned showmanship from him," Usher said.

Usher's hi-octane choreography is old school r 'n' b dance. "I'm looking to be a triple threat: acting, singing and dancing," he said. "I study Gene Kelly for the grace, the shoulders, the posture. I watch Bob Fosse for the sexy moves. I'll never be able to dance like Fred Astaire but I can take something from him and do it my way." Of the late Jackson he said: "He influenced me in so many ways, more than just music . . . as a humanitarian, as a philanthropist, as an artist, as an individual who transcended culture. I wouldn't be who I am today without Michael Jackson.

"They say if you ever want to be great, you've got to study who the greats studied, so, of course, I studied his moves -- studied them down to a T. But there was much more to him than that. Really, he created an eclectic style of life and from his childhood to his adulthood, he managed to continue to be successful, but also to continue to push the limits and push everyone's expectations."

Ireland's expectations are certainly being pushed for Usher's two shows on February 26 and 27 at the 02.

Limited tickets available. See www.ticketmaster.ie

Sunday Independent