If success were defined by sheer arrogance, then pop/soul superstar Usher Raymond would be as famous as Michael Jackson, the artist he emulates. This boy must've come out the womb struttin' and swaggerin'.

And how could he not think he's the shit with the backup he's had over the years? When he hit sweet 16, the former Star Search contestant was scooped up by soul mogul Antonio "L.A." Reid. The resultant debut, overseen by Reid and future rap/pop nuisance Sean "Puffy" Combs, was a collection of ready-for-drive-time R&B that was distinctively held together by Usher's highly visible conceit. (Back in the old neighborhood, this would be described as "being chesty.") His first single, "Can U Get Wit It," an insatiably laid-back, talkbox- covered funk-for-all where he asked his dream lady (and, for that matter, everyone else), "Are you ready for me?" was a foreboding of the big head that was soon to block out the sun. Well, he's released two studio albums and a live album since then. And at last check, his head was still as swollen as Lisa Rinna's lips after getting popped with a Ping-Pong paddle.

But hell, his moves, singing and spunk are still popular. The ladies always get moist when Usher decides it's shirt- shedding time. (Chesty, indeed.) And in the pop music game, egotism is almost as vital as talent. So it looks like he may have the right formula in the overcrowded field of R&B young guns. Hey, you know what they say: You can't be the cock of the walk if you're not cocky.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey