The Tumblrification of Jessica Hopper
Our musical artistes have always been les hommes d’affaires—but where yesteryear’s stars were discreet about their grubby marketplace machinations, Usher and company flaunt them. With the record industry in ruins, musicians can’t pretend to be above hucksterism, kicking back in their manor houses and watching the album royalties roll in. Usher maintains a ruthless focus on what’s next, while sprinkling his stardust across multiple platforms—offering peekaboo glimpses of his personal life to the tabloids, working his Twitter feed, hyping his cologne (“Usher VIP is a confident, charismatic, masculine scent … a signature woody fragrance warmed by spices of nutmeg and exotic saffron”). In his songs, Usher celebrates workaholism and its rewards. “What Happened to U,” on the new album, pretends to be a plaint about the emptiness of success; actually, it’s a boast. “Money, clothes, fancy cars / Big old cribs, platinum on the wall / Seven Grammys, sold-out concerts / Damn, I’ve been working hard,” goes the chorus.