A year after releasing the Grammy-winning album "Confessions," Usher is still 'fessing up.
Though he plays the perfect mate in "In the Mix," a hip-hop-meets-the mob love story that opens tomorrow, the heartthrob admits he struggles with love.
"It can get confusing, especially for someone who has the type of schedule I do," says the 27-year-old with the acclaimed abs. "I have kind of messed up in relationships, simply not being considerate to call. But it's so hard. I need someone who understands that I ain't forgot about you. And if you be there for me, I'll be good to you when I get home."
Last year, he split from TLC siren Rozonda (Chilli) Thompson after more than two years and talk of marriage. The fact that he cheated was dramatized by the fact that "Confessions" spun tales of infidelity- though Usher insists life imitated art, and not the other way around.
"It's very hard to let go of, mentally," says Usher, who still speaks with his ex. "You can't let go of it because everyone is involved in it - it was such a publicized relationship. There are a million and one opinions, but you got to get away from that."
After a pause, he adds, "And I really wish we could be better friends."
Usher, who plays a deejay-turned-bodyguard in "Mix," had recently been linked to model and former Xzibit fiancÚ Eishia Brightwell. But a slow shake of his head and a simple "no" reveals they are no longer dating.
"I am not necessarily looking for 'wifey' right now - a No. 1 lady," says the star. "I am looking for a companion. A friend with benefits, to have a good time with, to go places with, to enjoy life and get to know each other."
And the man dubbed Mr. Entertainment has a lot to share.
Beyond "Mix," which co-stars Chazz Palminteri and Emmanuelle Chriqui, Usher has other film projects in the works. He's set to appear in the George C. Wolfe-directed "The Ballad of Walter Holmes," about an R&B singer's life. And the part-owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers says he has also met with Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington about possible projects.
"There is a real quality of openness, where you really feel you see inside of him onscreen," says "Mix" director Ron Underwood of Usher's acting chops. "You look into his eyes and you see straight into his soul."
The crooner promises to have three movies in theaters before he returns to the studio "in late 2006, early 2007" to record another album. (Usher's own label, Us Records, did the soundtrack for "Mix," and will roll out its artists - among them rapper Rico Love and R&B group One Chance - next year.)
Between films, he hopes to travel to Asia, Africa and Europe with his writers and producers to "find new forms of music and passion." Of his songs, he says, "The undertone of 'Confessions' is that there is an entertainer who is struggling to just be a regular guy, but he can't, which is unfortunate. When I come back, I will have a new story to tell."
Doing just that has been at the heart of Usher Raymond's success, which began with his first record deal, at age 14. The adolescent crooner, who grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., was signed by music mogul L.A. Reid. Now Usher lives in Reid's former Atlanta mansion, which he bought for $2.8 million.
"He is the real thing, he is not just a fairy tale," says Mikki Taylor, cover editor at Essence magazine. "There is painful stuff there, some hiccups, some cut-my-losses. He is not afraid to be honest and vulnerable. With Usher, all the cards are on the table."
While that may be true, Usher has learned that, above all else, especially in business, it isn't the case with the rest of the world.
"You are as strong as the team you have around you," he says. "It's trial and error. You have to face obstacles, a person's likeliness to compromise their opinion. And people compromise for everything."