Usher Got Into a ‘Bidding War’ With Justin Timberlake Over a Then-Unknown Justin Bieber

Usher Got Into a Bidding War With Justin Timberlake Over a Then Unknown Justin Bieber
Usher, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber. Getty Images(3)
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How different would the music landscape be if Justin Timberlake had mentored Justin Bieber instead of Usher?

Fresh off rocking the Super Bowl 2024 halftime show, Usher, 45, revealed that he and Timberlake, 43, had a bit of a Bieber bidding battle for the chance to sign the young singer. “It was, I think, right after [his 2004 album] Confessions that I was introduced to Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun,” reflected Usher in a People interview published Sunday, February 18.

The R&B singer said that while working under the tutelage of Jermaine Dupri as a local promoter, he struck up a friendship with Braun, 42. When the future mega-manager presented an undiscovered Bieber to Usher, the singer knew he couldn’t let this talent go.

“I presented Scooter an offer that I felt like he couldn't resist,” said Usher. “We built a friendship, but this would obviously create a partnership that would span us forever, and it was a bit of a bidding war between me and Justin Timberlake.”

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Usher explained that while he couldn’t match Timberlake’s knowledge about “each and every producer that this artist [Bieber] could benefit from,” he had a strong pitch: “I'm going to give you my passion, and I'm going to give you every bit of what I have to offer.” He also explained that Timberlake signing Bieber might cause confusion. “So if you want to go with Justin, that's Justin and Justin. Me, it's only one Justin,” he quipped.

Usher Got Into a Bidding War With Justin Timberlake Over a Then Unknown Justin Bieber
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Usher won and signed Bieber to the Raymond Braun Media Group, a joint venture between Usher and Braun. The move helped both Bieber and Braun, as Usher mentored the singer to his early success while also giving Braun a professional cosign.

He told Braun he was “a manager” and not “just a guy who can discover artists. You are someone who just needs someone to believe in, and I believe in, and I'll support you.”

In the interview, Usher also reflected on the multiple comparisons between him and Timberlake. “I’m in competition with no one other than myself,” he said, adding that if anything, he’s “motivated by people like [Timberlake]” and that the “Sexyback” singer is an “amazing performer” who deserves respect.

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Bieber was on hand for Super Bowl LVIII on February 11 to witness Usher’s halftime show. Days after the performance, Usher said that he and the show’s producers “had the idea of doing a version of the show with Justin in it,” but it didn’t work out.

Usher didn’t think Bieber was “really ready” to resume performing in front of a massive audience. The “Sorry” singer has been absent from the stage for two years after revealing in June 2022 that he’d been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which left half his face paralyzed. After recovering from the ailment, Bieber attempted to resume performing but decided to prioritize his health by canceling all his remaining dates. Since September 2022, Bieber has kept a low profile while recuperating.