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Usher, Usher, Usher: The new 'King of Pop'?

By Rosemary Jean-Louis
CNN Headline News

Usher accepts the Artist of the Year award at the 2004 Radio Music Awards in Las Vegas.
HLN Critical Mass
Michael Jackson

ATLANTA (CNN) -- With Michael Jackson entangled in a child molestation case and currently in a spat with rapper Eminem over an unflattering music video, the time may be ripe to anoint a new pop music king.

R&B singer Usher Raymond IV seems to be the heir apparent. The baby-faced crooner's star has gone supernova this year. Witness the monster success of his album "Confessions," which sold 1 million copies in its first week in stores. The release is the biggest-ever debut for a male R&B act.

The album remains a force to be reckoned with on the music charts. When the artist re-released an expanded version of "Confessions" that featured a DVD, new tracks and artwork, it claimed the No. 2 spot on Billboard's album charts. To date it has sold 6 million copies.

Not one to rest on those laurels, Usher appears to be positioning himself to be a music mogul. In addition to starting his own label, he has issued an Usher debit card that features his face.

All of this work is paying off with new fans. It used to be the typical Usher fan was a hot and bothered, frenzied teenage girl. Plenty of them are found during the meet and greet session during the Atlanta stop of his "Truth" tour. They are in diverse company nowadays.

"I had a few truckers," he muses in a five-minute breather before preparing for the show. "I was really shocked to know they were fans of mine. David Copperfield's mother is a really good fan of mine. I didn't know. He told me."

Mothers and fathers of teenage girls, single thirtysomething men and couples appear to be admirers, too. They cram the seats at the virtually sold-out Atlanta show. There is extra excitement in the air this night. The concert is being filmed for a DVD, and it's a homecoming for the artist. Atlanta is where he launched his career at LaFace records. He also still has a residence here.

Usher bills himself as Mr. Entertainment. In concert, he lives up to the moniker. From the moment he is lifted onto his make-believe stage through an eruption of flames, he doesn't slow down or disappoint. There is a band, a DJ, eight dancers, and multiple costume changes and video screens. But it's Usher who captivates, pouring through his greatest hits of the past and present with the stamina of an Energizer Bunny. Even during a music break for his song "You Remind Me" he is doing handstands and popping and locking.

Some of his costumes are reminiscent of vintage Michael Jackson, the signature fedora and the jacket that resembles the one from Jackson's "Thriller" video. Perhaps it's just a rehearsal for when Usher assumes the King of Pop's throne.

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