‘Tis the season of Usher.
After 30 years of irrefutable highs and subjective lows, the man—who is arguably the King of R&B—is at the top of his game yet again and is basking in the glow of it all.
After taking a bow and wrapping up three years (and 100 shows) of a Las Vegas residency, he’ll be staking claim in Sin City once more for Super Bowl LVIII’s Apple Music Halftime Show this Sunday. Ahead of the release of his long-awaited new album, COMING HOME, we caught up with the crooner about all that’s transpired since his August 2023 digital cover feature.
“Man, I’m really enjoying the work that comes with this. I’m finally going to get a chance to enjoy all of it,” the 45-year-old shared on our Zoom call. “Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the residency, but I’m saying I really get a chance to enjoy this moment.”
This time around, we didn’t unpack all of the layers behind what he’s been up to, but Usher did open up about the formation of his SKIMS campaign, God’s timing when it comes to his music, why he feels COMING HOME is both a debut and a love letter, and what happened to the “GLU” video—almost a year after it was first teased. Similar to his album title, this chat for us felt like home…or rather a warm, welcomed reunion.
VIBE: This is a big moment for you; I’m glad you get to enjoy it.
Usher: It is. It’s a huge celebration. I’m happy to celebrate it for all the people who believed in me. What can I tell you about the SKIMS campaign? Well, let me tell you this. As a result of developing a friendship with Kim Kardashian, I played my album for her when she was here in Las Vegas. We talked about doing activations around my album. And I shot the cover, obviously. What we came up with was the idea of shooting the reverse, which would then reveal the opposite side of the album. The first photo that you saw with the peach in my hand, it tied the album together. That was the first layer of it. The second is, as friends, we support each other. She supported me through this entire process of [doing] the Super Bowl and [came] to the residency. So [I’m] showing support to her as a result of our friendship.
It’s like every 10 years or so since your debut, you did something significant. In ’94, you made your debut. In 2004, you released Confessions. In 2014, we got hit singles: “Good Kisser,” “New Flame,” “I Don’t Mind.” And now in 2024, you’re coming home and headlining the Super Bowl. Do you ever look back and just think, “Wow, that’s kind of interesting?”
You know what it is? That’s God’s way of having a sense of humor because those things— Sometimes I’m mindful of, but for the most part, they just happen the way that they’re supposed to. And that is the treat for me to be able to see those and say, “Wow, I did do that. I didn’t realize that that happened.” Even just the actual dates of releases, how many records they had, and the reaction that people have to them— I think that’s God’s plan. For me, man, I try to offer my best. Every album that I’ve put out, I’ve given my all. What you need to know about this one is that it’s my first album. It’s my first album as a solo artist.
As an independent artist?
As an independent artist, yes. That first one is always the sendoff, right? It’s the one that is full of hope. It’s the one that’s full of belief. It’s the one that’s full of excitement. A lot of the people that I chose to share [this moment] with and worked on it with were people that I enjoyed working with my entire career, but it’s great that I could come home to the place that I started with, with them in this new sendoff. In this new beginning.
Thankfully it’s not like a sequel of Confessions, because don’t want to live in the past. You’ve done what you did and now we’re moving on. So when you were creating Coming Home, what was most important to you? Was it the storytelling, the sequencing of the album, the visuals, or something else?
All of it together and finding ways that people could connect to what I’m talking about. The world’s got their life and what they got going on. So, we have to be meaningful enough for them to stop what they’re experiencing and then join in where I am and maybe see some remedy to some of the things that they may be experiencing or feeling, or even celebrate because they realize, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not the only person who’s going through this. And here’s how I either deal with it, get through it, sing it, feel emotion from it, emote, and be able to get over it.’
With the album, it was a series of just things that people can relate to. And prior to that you teased other relatable singles like “Boyfriend,” “GLU,” and “I Ain’t Gon’ Hold U.” But those didn’t make the album. Was there a reason behind that?
No. It was just a very specific curation. Those songs are just as much a part of my catalog as these new songs. But this is a very specific love letter to my fans. I don’t get a chance to talk to them. It’s not like Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey [where I’m] sitting down and having long-term conversations about things that have happened in my life and how I failed to deal with certain things. This is how I kind of get it out. This is how I emote. So it is a bit of a love letter for those people who’ve been supportive, prayed for me, supported me throughout this and throughout the entire last six years of my life.
I love that, but last time we talked, though, you said that the “GLU” video was your directorial debut, and we have not seen it. Why? The teaser you dropped last Valentine’s Day was so good.
Well, sometimes you pivot based on what creativity comes. I was very excited and still am very excited about it. The thing that works in this time is to hold until you are ready to offer. So, there might be something that I do in the future. Who knows? I mean, it’s like, you have a record, a moment that people really enjoy. They could always have a second bite at it, but you never know what’s going to happen. That’s the part that makes it interesting. That’s the part that makes the storyteller the storyteller. But I felt like I gave people enough of it to get excited and enough of it to understand what it was about and what it felt like.
Definitely. I agree. So for my final question—you say that Coming Home is a love story, but there are like eight types of love. Familial love, platonic, universal, sexual, self-love. Is there a certain type that you lean into more? Or is it more like a universal, agape love letter to your fans, to yourself, to your discography?
There’s this universal love, the love that brings us all together as a result of the things that we go through. Maybe that’s it. And then the other is self-love and the work that we have to do internally—sometimes by ourselves. It is, as I said, a universal love story and love letter throughout my process of these last six years.
Coming Home is now available on streaming platforms. The bonus track, “Naked,” is up for purchase, exclusively through SKIMS.
More from VIBE.com
Best of VIBE.com