Usher is having an awesome week!
Following the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals win on Sunday, the R&B superstar flew out to the 73rd Annual Cannes Lions film festival in France. The singer is finally prepping for the release of his delayed, but anticipated eighth studio album Flawed, which is rumored to be due late summer.
The road to Flawed has been several years in the making, beginning with 2014’s “Good Kisser” and continuing with other singles like “I Don’t Mind,” “She Came To Give It To You” and “Chains,” the latter of which just won its first Cannes Lion Award this week for its video. A 2014 arena tour followed, as well as high-profile brand deals with Pepsi and Cheerios. Now, with the simultaneous release of Flawed‘s lead singles “Crash” and “No Limit” featuring Young Thug, Usher is still building a catalog that’s vying to add a few more trophies to his shelf.
But he’s also taken on the dual challenge of embodying the history of boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, for the biopic Hands of Stone, which is out Aug. 26 via The Weinstein Company. Talking with Ryan Seacrest at a festival panel, Usher spoke about that film’s own long journey to the big screen, from filming locations (“We were gonna shoot it in Puerto Rico, we eventually decided to create an industry in Panama and it was an amazing experience”) to physical training and capturing his unique mindset (“He was very confident, but very calculated as a pugilist – I lived in the idea of how he moved under the pressure of who he was.”)
A rep for Billboard was in attendance and got a chance to ask Usher some pressing questions about the new album, potential tour plans, the Cavs win, and more. Check out the Q&A below.
Billboard: Usher, you’ve had a very emotional 48 hours, having just come from Cleveland where your Cavaliers broke a 52-year losing streak. How are you feeling?
Usher: I’m still sobering up. [laughs] This is a win for us, man! LeBron [James] did it, you know, but you gotta 100 percent give it up to LeBron and all the Cavaliers and the entire administration. They really worked their asses off the entire year. If you believe in something, this is an American story. When you look at this man, he had humble beginnings, came to Cleveland, left, went to Miami, but he came back and he delivered on his promise.
You’ve been an investor in the Cavs since 2005, so that must have been a particularly cathartic pay-off for you.
U: It was fun to have our first champagne shower.
Speaking of moments that have been years in the works, you just confirmed the name and upcoming release of your next album, Flawed. Do you have a date in mind for that yet?
U: You know, I like to release music the way I feel it, as opposed to having a date. The idea of dates, boxes, categories are very scary for me.
Regardless of timing, what inspired you to call it Flawed?
U: I find the inspiration every time I find a word: what is ‘flawed?’ It’s something that is not perfect. It’s a future relic of some sorts, to grow and blossom and gain texture. But it is those things, those tumultuous occurrences and things that happen in your life that define what it is, and in our country and us as people. All of these things are standards, and I became the inspiration. Now I cant tell you yet at the end what it’s gonna be, and but right now it’s Flawed.
You’ve got Hands of Stone coming in August. Is touring again a priority as well?
U: Touring is definitely on the horizon. I mean, obviously: single, video, album and tour. But this time around, I’m doing things a little bit different. I don’t know if you’ve seen the picture of a piece of art from a collaboration between myself and this artist Daniel Arsham. An interest in art and artist affiliation in something I’m very interested in and is very new to me. I’ll be doing pop-ups, something that represents an immersive experience so you can get really into the idea and what music is saying and the art is really dictating.
When you say pop-ups, does that mean we don’t know where you might show up from a touring perspective?
U: An immersive experience, we’ll leave it at that. [laughs] I want y’all to feel it!