Usher photograph by Martin Schoeller
Neil Drumming
January 20, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Usher made our 2004 Entertainers of the Year list

Watching R&B star Usher glide effortlessly across the floor during one of his sold-out shows or heavily rotated videos, you might be tempted to say he was dancing on air. But for him, success is nothing so vaporous. It’s tangible, the result of hard work, patience, and determination. ”You put a record together. You release it. It becomes successful or you go back in the studio and work on another album,” he says simply, as if he were reading the wash-rinse-repeat instructions off a shampoo bottle.

Usher Raymond, 26, faithfully followed that formula for three albums, until early last year when he went from urban icon to pop idol with ”Yeah!” The single, which melded gritty Southern hip-hop with Usher’s smooth sound, became the most undeniable dance-floor anthem since Nelly’s ”Hot in Herre.” The subsequent album, Confessions, has since sold 7 million copies. Usher, with his boyish grin and eight Grammy nominations, has become the new face (and body, given his propensity to shed his shirt) of pop, all while anxiously angling to plant his feet elsewhere.

”It’s a natural progression to move from one [form of] entertainment to another,” says the singer-actor, who is rehearsing for a role in the Mafia romance Dying for Dolly with Chazz Palminteri. Also in the pipeline — surprise! — a clothing line.

Of course, topping the charts has less tasteful by-products as well. ”Before you know it, there’s a million stories about you,” says Usher, who kicked off this past year’s flurry of press explaining his ugly breakup with TLC’s Rozonda ”Chilli” Thomas, and has since been linked to everyone from Alicia Keys to Naomi Campbell. ”I just laugh because that’s totally not my character.”

Ambition is, though. ”More tours, more sales, more publishing checks, more movies,” he predicts for the coming year. ”More is the word.”

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