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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Mariah Carey and Usher

Aired April 30, 2005 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(NEWS BREAK)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. If ever an artist owned the '90s it was Mariah Carey. "Billboard" named her the artist of the decade, but after slumping sales, a tumultuous relationship and personal lows, Mariah had a very public meltdown. Now, she's back on top. Her new album, "The Emancipation of Mimi" debuted at number one on the "Billboard" 200 chart, announcing the return of one of music's most overwhelming vocal talents. I recently sat down with Mariah for a rare and candid interview about her music, her marriage and her comeback.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Mariah, you once said that you had a desire to make music because it healed you and that you had a desire to become famous because it made you feel worthy and accepted.

MARIAH CAREY: Because I thought it would make me feel worthy and accepted and that was the big surprise.

ZAHN: She's the biggest selling female recording artist of all time.

RANDY JACKSON, CAREY'S LONGTIME PRODUCER: This woman has sold 150 million records. This will never happen again in our lifetime probably.

ZAHN: Right behind Elvis, just beyond the Beatles, there she sits, a super diva with pipes of steel. Oh what is that voice?

ANTONIO "L.A." REID, CHAIRMAN, ISLAND DEF JAM MUSIC GROUP: I don't know, man. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? I don't know.

ZAHN: (INAUDIBLE)

CAREY: I doubt that it's any -- I have no idea. I really don't. It depends on how much sleep I get that day.

ZAHN: Thirteen albums, 15 number one singles, an estimated $300 million in the bank, but with everything Grammy and with every gold record, there had been a few less than glittering moments. Mariah Carey's life, you see, has not been just a sweet, sweet fantasy. For a decade and a half, we've watched the story unfold, the fame, the fortune, the marriage to a music mogul. The meltdown right in front of our eyes.

PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: 2001 was probably one of the worst years of Mariah Carey's life.

JOHN NORRIS, SR. CORRESPONDENT, MTV NETWORK: You had this incredibly talented woman whose personal life had gone to hell. I think what we saw with that period was a combination of the media maybe overplaying it and Mariah, since then, has perhaps underplayed what happened a little bit.

ZAHN: Now, after a three-year absence, the voice returns. Mariah Carey is back.

JACKSON: She's back big time.

ZAHN: Her latest is called "The Emancipation of Mimi." Critics are calling the disc a powerhouse return to form. How emancipated is she?

JACKSON: I think she's pretty free on this record. I mean I think she's enjoying herself, having the best time and just enjoying doing music.

ZAHN: So who is Mimi? And just what brought Mimi to this state of emancipation?

CAREY: I think it took going through everything that I went through since that whole 2001 situation and it was just like me working myself into the ground to the point where I had to just collapse, because there was nothing else. I think that, when you really understand it's not you driving the ship, it's God, and he's going to take you where you need to be, where you're supposed to be, then that's truly the emancipating moment.

ZAHN: Mariah Carey was born in Huntington, New York, on March 27th, 1970. Her father, an engineer, was African-American and Venezuelan. Her Irish-American mother performed with the New York City Opera. Where would you be today if it hadn't been for your mother's support and her encouragement along the way?

CAREY: She named me Mariah Carey. I don't have a middle name because she was like, this is your stage name.

ZAHN: (INAUDIBLE) And the name of that song was? Mariah

CAREY: "They Call the Wind Mariah" and I heard that song over and over as a child. They call the wind Mariah

ZAHN: But music wasn't the only thing filling the Carey household. Heated arguments were becoming repetitive as well. In 1973, the final curtain on a troubled marriage fell.

CASTRO: Her parents struggled tremendously with prejudice. They would move into a neighborhood and discover that their dogs were poisoned. That created a lot of tension between the parents so that they split by the time Mariah was three years old. CAREY: My white mother and my black father. It was bizarre. It's more accepted now but it's still something where, if people can't put you in a box, they start to feel a little nervous, and I think that's been like a reoccurring theme, you know, in my life certainly and definitely in my career.

ZAHN: At the age of four, a startling discovery, the voice had begun to emerge.

CAREY: My mom, you know, tells the story of when she was singing Carmen in Italian over and over and the one time she did something wrong and I was like four, and I said no, it goes like this, and she was like "what?"

CASTRO: That was when her mother discovered she was pitch perfect and could imitate any sound she heard. She was like a human parrot only with an incredible voice for a child.

ZAHN: What is so interesting to me is that your love of music was nurtured.

CAREY: Um-hum.

ZAHN: During a period of your life where you moved about a dozen times in a 13-year period. Things were pretty rough at home. What did you go without at home?

CAREY: We went without a lot. Sometimes we had to live with friends. We had to live in situations that most people wouldn't think of as comfortable.

ZAHN: Like what?

CAREY: Like one day -- OK, we got to go, so we just pack up and leave, and it motivated me in a lot of ways. It made me say, OK, I have to succeed, because I don't want to live like this when I grow up.

ZAHN: In 1987, with a high school diploma and 17 years of opera, gospel, and R&B tutoring, Mariah Carey packed a bag and headed to New York City. She wanted to be a superstar from a very young age. When did you hear her tell you for the first time, Shawn, I'm going to get out of here. I'm going to make it big?

SHAWN MCDONALD, NEPHEW: As long as I knew her, I knew that she was going to make it big. She didn't have any other choice.

ZAHN: Coming up, a Cinderella story. The emotions behind the making of Mariah.

CAREY: I love you!

JACKSON: You heard something that was unbelievable, and said, oh, my God, I got to sign this person. I got to find her. This could be the future.

ZAHN: And later, the fairytale marriage with a not-so-happy ending.

CAREY: It was very much about, don't do this, don't say that, look like this, look like that. Don't sing this way, sing that way, and anything else you do is wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: In 1987, 17-year-old Mariah Carey left Long Island and headed to New York. Her dream was stardom. The wait wouldn't be long.

BRENDA K. STARR, RECORDING ARTIST: I think the audition was like about 4:30, 5:00 in the afternoon. Mariah showed up about 1:32.

ZAHN: Just months after arriving, a want ad caught the teen's attention. '80s dance queen, Brenda K. Starr was looking for backup singers.

STARR: And I asked her, why would you want to sing background for me? She says, well, honestly I've taken my demo to several record companies and they say that I have too much of a Whitney sound and they won't give me a deal, and I was like, well, their loss and my gain.

CAREY: She was really cool to me. She really treated me like a little sister. She knew like I didn't have a winter coat.

STARR: I bought her sneakers. I bought her boots. I bought her food and I always trying to give her extra money. She was like no, that's all right. I was like take it.

ZAHN: In the coming year, Mariah survived on those handouts but all would change on a Friday night in November, 1988.

I said listen, I'm going to this party tonight. Do you want to come with me, because there's going to be a lot of people in the industry. Just bring your demo and I'll pass it on.

CAREY: So I said OK. I borrowed a dress from her. I borrowed everything. The only thing that didn't fit were the shoes.

ZAHN: It was a typical music biz get-together and as Mariah eyed the free food, Sony music's new president eyed the crowd. His name was Tommy Mattola.

CASTRO: Tommy Mattola was a 43-year-old record executive with incredible credentials, tremendous amount of respect. This is the guy that was famous in the mid '70s already as an up and coming wunderkind. He was a big, big deal.

STARR: He was like who is your friend? I was like that's Mariah Carey. She's my background singer. I'm looking for a deal. She's talented and he said that she's also beautiful.

CASTRO: So he gets into his limo, pops the tape in, starts driving back home and realizes he's hearing something incredibly special, turns around, goes back to the party.

CAREY: But we were gone. It's very Cinderella.

ZAHN: The mogul launched a massive search and 48 hours later Mariah Carey was seated in her office. Next to her, her mother, in front of her, a contract. The glass slipper was a perfect fit.

NORRIS: I think it's rare that an artist's first single is one of their still best loved after 15 years.

ZAHN: On May 15th, 1990, a debut album dropped and a superstar was born as the world got its first glimpse of Mariah Carey and her vision of love.

ZAHN: Four number one singles, two Grammy awards.

CAREY: Um-hum.

ZAHN: What kind of a whirlwind was that?

CAREY: I had no idea about charts. I had no idea about Grammys. I didn't even know what that was. I just wanted to hear my songs on the radio. To me, that would be success, when I was at the Grammys, then I was like whoa! I'm accepting this award but it doesn't seem real.

I'd just like to thank god for the blessings that have brought me hear, thank Tommy Mattola for believing in me from the beginning and helping me so incredibly much.

CASTRO: It's the typical kind of ingenue Svengali dynamic where he immediately falls madly in love with her. Only problem with that is that he was in a 20-year marriage at that point with kids. So he promptly left his wife of 20 years essentially to be with Mariah.

ZAHN: Mattola's divorce was finalized in 1990. One year later, album number two.

NORRIS: Once Mattola discovered her, I mean, the machine took over.

CASTRO: The '90s were her decade and 1993 was the year where it all started for her. She went on an incredible tear after that.

ZAHN: On September 17th, 1993, Mariah's fourth album in just three years arrived in stores. With the help of two number one singles, music box would sell 10 million copies. What is Mariah Carey's magic?

JACKSON: It's in the tone, that buttery tone she has with her voice that is unbelievably amazing and unbelievably identifiable. You can hear two or four bars on the radio and you go, that's got to be Mariah Carey.

ZAHN: 1993 was not only a watershed year professionally, but personally as well. Three months before the record's release, pop's reigning princess married her musical mentor.

CASTRO: Mariah was in love. She met this man that was not only like a father figure and a rescuer, but you know, someone who paid a lot of attention to her. I mean, he was very romantic and very attentive. But she told "People" magazine a few months after she got married, we're in love, this is great, but we do fight a lot.

CAREY: The problems kind of started happening as I started making videos, then started being seen by people in a way that I guess was threatening to him. I was in it and then it turned into something else. So it was just a gradual process of, let me make this work, let me make this work, maybe if I get married it will work, because then he won't feel threatened.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Coming up, an emancipated Mariah talks candidly about the fractured fairytale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAREY: I'm trying to think of the right word to express exactly what it -- it was stifling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Mariah Carey dominated the '90s. Hit followed hit. She was the all-American girl leading a very charmed life. But as the '90s went on, Mariah's glittering world began to lose its luster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: The definition of emancipation is freeing someone from the control of another.

CAREY: It's one of the definitions. I actually list the definitions on the album packaging on the inside. So it's funny that you should say that.

ZAHN: But the subtext of that of course takes you straight to tommy Mattola.

CAREY: Right.

ZAHN: How trapped did you feel by that relationship?

CAREY: We don't have enough time in this interview.

ZAHN: I'll give you all the time you want, Mariah. On June 5, 1993, pop's most bankable superstar, Mariah Carey, married Sony music president Thomas D. Mattola. She was 23. He was 45. It seemed like one sweet day.

STARR: There were so many stars. I mean, I sat at a table with Barbra Streisand.

CASTRO: The wedding itself was modeled after Charles and Diana. Mariah had this ridiculously over the top flowing wedding gown that you could fit five of her into this thing.

CAREY: That day itself, that half an hour of wearing the dress was not bleak.

ZAHN: And things went downhill from there.

CAREY: Ah, well.

ZAHN: Ah, well. To the public, Mariah Carey Mattola was living the fairytale but to some, there was already speculation.

NORRIS: There was a perception of her one she might take issue with, she was this little porcelain doll. She was Tommy's kept doll to be brought out, to stand there, you know, to be the good girl, and to sing her ballads, to sing her heart out and to wow us all as she can with her voice.

ZAHN: By the fall of 1993 it became apparent once upon a time was not headed toward happily ever after.

CASTRO: So she moves into this big mansion and realizes that she's living now with this very controlling person. I mean, Tommy, she says, does not allow her to leave.

ZAHN: But is it true that you would head for a cheeseburger at McDonald's and you'd be getting phone calls on your cell phone, "where the heck are you going?"

CAREY: Basically, yeah.

ZAHN: How intimidating was that?

CAREY: It was stifling.

ZAHN: At one point, you and your friends refer to this Bedford mansion you lived in with Tommy Mattola as Sing, Sing, so I'm supposed to believe that you were almost imprisoned there and you were expected to sing and sing.

CAREY: To sing and sing. I'm a jokester, so of course, you know, Sing Sing, it kind of worked. It was a choice I made. I can't blame him, because it was a relationship that I got into. Nobody held a gun to my head, I think.

ZAHN: Whatever the circumstances, Mattola's methods worked. On September 19th, 1995, "Day Dream," Mariah's sixth album in just five years a debuted at number one.

NORRIS: "One Sweet Day" was this huge sort of pop anthem ballad with Boys II Men and it was just a monster. She also released a song called "Fantasy." The original single version, fun, up tempo, but somewhat unremarkable song. Its remix, however. That one remix is responsible for, I would argue, an entire wave of music that we've seen since, and that is the pop/hip-hop collaboration. You could argue that that "Fantasy" remix was the single most important recording that she ever made.

ZAHN: That remix was also important personally, signaling the start of Mariah Carey's return to her roots.

CASTRO: She was part African-American and she loved hip-hop, but they would never allow her to do it, because she was the ballad queen.

CAREY: It was very much about, don't do this, don't say that, look like this, look like that, don't sing this way, sing that way and anything else you do is wrong.

CAREY: They didn't want to tamper with the golden goose. If it wasn't broke, let's not fix it. And Mariah was all about taking chances and really diversifying.

ZAHN: And on a cold December day in 1996, 26-year-old Mariah Carey left her music mogul husband.

CAREY: Something inside me that's always been a fighter just said you're going to lose who you are if you don't hit the dirt.

ZAHN: Returning to the studio, this time on her own, she emerged with the album, "Butterfly."

NORRIS: She really was spreading her wings, and flying, flying away from a man that admittedly helped her in a huge way, career-wise, but you have to believe was pulling her back in many other respects.

ZAHN: Tommy Mattola declined CNN's request for an interview, but he did send us a comment. Quote, over the course of my entire career, I have never commented on my personal life but I would like to say that I continue to be Mariah's biggest fan. I have listened to the new CD and I think it's her best work yet. I wish her continued success and much happiness and I'm glad she got good use out of the wedding dress. Am I seeing things or are you wearing that same wedding gown that you wore when you married Tommy Mattola?

CAREY: It is that Vera Wang gown.

ZAHN: So how did it feel when you put it back on Mariah?

CAREY: That moment wearing the dress was a really nice moment. I can't say the same for the honeymoon.

ZAHN: Coming up, all that glitters is not gold. The tabloids, the talk, the truth behind the meltdown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: In 1997, a Mariah Carey like we've never seen before emerged. Just minutes from finalizing her divorce to Sony music president Tommy Mattola, the ring was gone, the hair was down, the butterfly was taking flight.

CAREY: You know, I think it was a moment in time that people saw such a transition between the girl that was always really covered up, to jumping into a pool in the "Honey" video in my Gucci stilettos and ripping off the dress and being in the James Bond bikini which I loved and I lived for.

ZAHN: With the new Mariah came a new reputation. In April 1998, she headlined VH1's diva's live. Mariah Carey, diva, deserved, undeserved?

ANTONIO "L.A." REID, CHAIRMAN, ISLAND DEF JAM MUSIC GROUP: I'm not sure what diva is. Is diva a negative thing? I don't know. She's far, far, far from diva.

ZAHN: So why do you think she's gotten tagged with that over the years?

REID: Because she's so big, she's so successful. You're so big, you're so successful, I love you?

ZAHN: Officially Mariah was now a diva in training. It was during this time buzz began to build about her shortstop in spring training. His name, Derek Jeter, but the connection didn't last long. Six months later the romance turned to friendship, which was hardly the case of Mariah, her ex-husband and the label she called home.

CAREY: It was completely horrible to be there after the divorce and it was a constant battle, a constant, I've got to survive. I've got to get out of here. I've got to succeed on my own.

ZAHN: Album number nine arrived in November, 1999. Two number ones and one world tour later, a blockbuster announcement. Virgin Records was offering five years, five albums, $80 million.

JOHN NORRIS, SR. CORRESPONDENT, MTV NETWORK: It was astounding. It really was. Even given Mariah's status as the biggest selling female artist of the '90s, that kind of deal you do not see.

PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: That Virgin deal was huge. They felt that they had a money-making machine and then it all unraveled. It was a terrible, terrible sequence of events.

ZAHN: In the summer of 2001, Mariah Carey was everywhere. Her first album with Virgin was soon to be released. Her first motion picture was in the can. 2001 was supposed to be a glittering year.

NORRIS: I think she was just pushing herself so, so hard that this single Loverboy and then the soundtrack and then the movie, all had to be right and everyone points to that TRL appearance as the moment where it just seemed like she was on the verge of some sort of breakdown.

What are you doing? What are you doing? Mariah Carey is stripping on TRL right now.

ZAHN: And then on July 25th, an outburst at her mother's home prompted a phone call to 911. And as the headlines blared, the superstar was hospitalized under psychiatric care. So what went wrong in 2001 for you?

CAREY: I was working, working, working. I took it on my shoulders and said I'm going to work. I'm going to work every single minute of the day. I don't care. I'm going to make this happen and then basically, I didn't sleep for like six days in a row and I just collapsed and it was a physical thing, where nobody could have done that.

ZAHN: But as you were trying to regain your strength, you had to deal with the hysteria.

CAREY: Um-hum.

ZAHN: Of this outside world trying to characterize what had happened to you, whatever way they wanted to.

CAREY: Yes.

ZAHN: Was that hurtful to you?

CAREY: It was so astounding, you have no idea. They were making these headlines that were so over the top. It was like I was at my mother's house in my pajamas and somebody was literally in the bushes taking a picture and of course, it looked ridiculous and crazy in your pajamas on the front page of a newspaper. Why is she in her pajamas?

ZAHN: In the fall of 2001 both "Glitter" the film and album flopped. And as tabloids chronicled every move Mariah made, Virgin Records counted every penny they lost. In April, 2002, just one year after signing one of the biggest contracts in music history, Virgin paid Mariah $28 million and terminated their five-year deal.

CAREY: I think that it was a blessing, because I had to take a break. There had been no break since the demo tape, since the beginning, there had been no break, and when I was in my married life, my breaks were worse than working. I liked working more than I liked being at home. So it was just like, OK, let me have a moment to just regain who I am.

ZAHN: And on April 12th, 2005, a 35-year-old diva walked through the door, and reentered the party. Her latest is called "The Emancipation of Mimi." Its title honors her childhood nickname and alludes to newfound freedom.

RANDY JACKSON, FRIEND: She's now leading control of her own life and here own music and guiding herself the right way.

ZAHN: From seven octave highs to bittersweet lows, from beautiful ballads to restless R&B, the superstar of the '90s has returned.

NORRIS: Whatever the drama, whatever the diva image, deserved or not deserved, there's that voice. No one can take that away from her.

CAREY: Any time in my childhood, anything negative I was going through, I would sing, any difficult situation, I would write poetry, I would write lyrics, I would write songs and that's what got me through a lot of those really difficult years. Making music is the thing that keeps me going. It's the greatest gift that I've really ever gotten.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Mariah Carey, perhaps taking a nod from Madonna says she intends to produce a series of children's books, the series which is currently called "Automatic Princess" follows the life of an orphaned girl who is biracial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. He's one of the biggest R&B stars in the world. Singer, producer, actor and businessman, Usher is more than a triple threat. He's a mogul in the making and he's taking aim at almost every aspect of entertainment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: For Usher, 2004 was the year of conquest. His album, "Confessions" sold more than 11 million copies worldwide. He had four number one singles in America. And scooped up awards wherever he went. From humble beginnings in Tennessee, to multi-platinum album sales worldwide, Usher, has lived life in the fast lane. At just 26, he's singer, celebrity, CEO.

USHER: Yeah, man, that's the brand Usher. Keep it moving.

ZAHN: Now he's on a quest for world domination.

REID: Here's a guy who completely prepares for everything that he does, and he's great at it. That's why I call him the ultimate entertainer.

ZAHN: Now, without pausing for a breath, Usher wants to be Hollywood's leading man, build his own brand of merchandise and become the richest man in entertainment. For Usher Raymond IV, life has always been about recognition and achievement. Growing up in Chattanooga, he was always trying to impress.

USHER: I've always had the ability to entertain everybody, you know be the suave young guy. ZAHN: With no father at home, his mother Jonetta harnessed the young Usher's flair for performance at the Mt. Bethel Baptist church in Chattanooga, where she led the choir.

JONETTA PATTON, MOTHER: At the age of nine, Usher was in my choir. I directed the choir, and I knew that he had talent but he was always such an outgoing kid that always reached for the stars.

ZAHN: As a kid, his musical influences were the icons of R&B.

USHER: The greats taught me man, from listening to Prince, listening to Stevie Wonder, listening to Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, Parliament, Michael Jackson.

ZAHN: Jackson would become the template for Usher's elaborate stage performances, but musically it was Marvin Gaye.

USHER: Marvin Gaye was the man at the time. My grandparents listened to him. My mother, she listened to it.

ZAHN: When he was just 12, his mother moved Usher to Atlanta. He was soon sweeping the talent contests, including the famous "Star Search." Atlanta was home one of the hottest labels of the day, LaFace Records, run by L.A. Reid.

PATTON: When I walked through the doors of LaFace, I told L.A., I said, this is your next biggest star.

REID: I thought he was amazing. I brought in several people from the office and he sang for them and mesmerized all the girls and that day, I offered him a recording contract.

ZAHN: Just past his 13th birthday, Usher was sent to work on his debut album with rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs in New York. And the teenager grew up fast among Puffy's hard-partying crowd.

PATTON: It taught him a lot. At the beginning, they wanted Usher to be this bad boy, but that side of it, I'm really thankful, because he will continue to run into the bad, the good, and he will know how to distinguish because he's not perfect. No one is perfect in this business, no one.

ZAHN: As mother and son were about to discover. His debut album and bad boy image did not sell well. Then Usher's voice broke and the fickle industry turned its back.

PATTON: When the voice change came, people just felt like, bad investment bad investment, and I can remember the times that I would walk in, and just see him just sitting there, just hurt.

ZAHN: But the determination that's a family trademark won through. Voice coaches were hired, and Usher hooked up with producer Jermaine Dupri for the make or break second album.

JERMAINE DUPRI, PRODUCER: I noticed that he had the hunger and the want to be a star. He was looking for a lot of direction and somebody to help him get to places that he wanted to go.

ZAHN: The result was "My Way," which sold 7 million copies, and spawned Usher's first number one, "Nice and Slow." "My Way" was a personal statement. Usher was taking control of his image and his future. Not yet 20, Usher has sold millions of albums, but he wanted more, much more.

LUDACRIS, RECORDING ARTIST: I think he's brought the excitement back to R&B.

ZAHN: Usher's cultivated the good guy/bad guy image with meticulous care, romancing women plucked from the audience but never sure which girlfriend to take home. Seductive but hardly groundbreaking R&B ballads. Cameo roles in movies like "She's All That." Usher was doing well but he need an edge.

MIMI VALDEZ, EDITOR IN CHIEF, VIBE MAGAZINE: He didn't really have a story. There wasn't really anything interesting about him.

ZAHN: When we return, rumors and true confessions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: At the beginning of 2004, Usher's market of teenage girls seemed to have defected to Justin Timberlake. Even his mentor said he was in danger of becoming bland.

REID: So my conversations with Usher were this album, this is the record that you have to really let the public know who you are. We need some press items. We need some conversation pieces.

ZAHN: So the album "Confessions" was planned like a battle campaign, and Usher bared more than his torso.

CASTRO: A record fan loves it when an artist is bearing his or her soul, and there's a connection there, and you feel like you really know that person and that was his genius.

ZAHN: The explosion of the first single "Yeah" launched the album and took even Usher by surprise.

USHER: We hadn't even conceptually finished the album. There were still songs we were working on.

ZAHN: Rappers Ludacris and Lil' Jon on an R&B track, gave it an edge. But events in Usher's personal life also helped create a buzz especially about the themes of fidelity and an unwanted pregnancy. Rumors swirled and weren't exactly discouraged by Usher's camp that it was about his cheating on girlfriend Rosando "Chili" Thomas of TLC.

JOE LEVY, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, ROLLING STONE: Now Usher did some cheating. There's some truth behind the story. The way he tells the story on the record, it's not exactly autobiographical, but it's autobiographical enough. The fans who know something about Usher caught on.

USHER: It has never been a publicity stunt for me, you know, to do anything like that. I hate it. I really do, but at the same time, you know, people need something to talk about.

ZAHN: "Confessions" swept the "Billboard" awards.

USHER: Oh, art is in the air, 11 awards, man, I'm on the top of the world, top of the night.

ZAHN: And garnered three Grammys, but far from basking in his success, Usher is still obsessed with succeeding.

LUDACRIS: Yeah, man, Usher is a workaholic.

LEVY: When "Rolling Stone" went to do a cover story on Usher, one of the things the writer found is that to keep busy while he's talking, he sorts M&M's by color with his hands. He's very close to obsessive compulsive.

ZAHN: That drive is now focused on Hollywood. His first movie of 2005 will be "Dying for Dollars" which he plays a Mafia don's bodyguard as he falls for his boss's daughter. As least two more movies are in the pipeline. The lure of Hollywood, the endless endorsements, is Usher's ambition smothering his talent?

VALDEZ: I believe he told Barbara Walters he wanted to be the richest man in the world. It's not really the thing that should be coming out of an artist's mouth who is focused on just creating great music.

USHER: When it comes to building the brand, the clothing line, the car, the watch, the perfume, the lingerie, whatever it may be, I have the time and the team with me to build it.

ZAHN: Unless the audience gets Ushered out.

VALDEZ: You're dating Naomi Campbell. You're not dating Naomi Campbell. You're buying flashy cars. You're buying lavish jewelry, like all that stuff can sometimes lead to a point where people just kind of get sick of you and they don't even want to hear your record anymore.

ZAHN: The Usher camp talks quite literally of ruling the entertainment world.

PATTON: He's building an empire, is exactly what he's doing, and by year 2007, I think he will accomplish that.

USHER: No empire was built overnight. That empire was not built off the back of someone who was lax or, you know, passive, which is, you know, just lazy. I plan on working, man. I got to go through it to get to it.

ZAHN: And where will music fit in?

USHER: I don't plan on being a 30 or 40-year-old artist who continues to tour. I'll do it at my leisure. I do not want to be 38 years old sweating, with my shirt off running around stage. No abs of steel, blab of steel.

ZAHN: But when it comes to a legacy, having millions in the bank, thanks to "Confessions" won't be enough.

PATTON: He wants to be an artist that is remembered.

USHER: Marvin Gaye at this time, I'll take that, man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Usher's new movie "Dying for Dolly" is set to be released on November 23rd. That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Please be sure to join me every weeknight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for more people profiles. Coming up this week, actor Samuel L. Jackson and embattled House leader Tom DeLay. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for being with us.

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