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Usher Got Into a ‘Bidding War’ With Justin Timberlake Over a Then-Unknown Justin Bieber

How different would the music landscape be if Justin Timberlake had mentored Justin Bieber instead of Usher?

via People:

In this week’s PEOPLE cover story, the musician, 45, opens up about how he and Timberlake, 43, got into what he described as a “bidding war” to sign a then-unknown Bieber, 29, to his and Scooter Braun‘s joint record label, Raymond Braun Media Group, in 2008.

“When you are at the top of your game, some of the greatest things will be presented to you, and it was, I think, right after [my album] Confessions that I was introduced to Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun,” Usher says.

Detailing that he and Braun, 42, previously worked together back when the star was a local promoter and worked under Jermaine Dupri, the recent Super Bowl halftime show performer continues, “I presented Scooter an offer that I felt like he couldn’t resist.”

“We built a friendship, but this would obviously create a partnership that would span us forever, and it was a bit of a bidding war between me and Justin Timberlake,” Usher adds. “… I was like, I’m not certain that I could understand each and every producer that this artist could benefit from, but what I can tell you is I’m going to give you my passion, and I’m going to give you every bit of what I have to offer.”

Usher says another reason he was so keen to sign Bieber along with Braun was because “there can only be one Justin.”

“So if you want to go with Justin, that’s Justin and Justin. Me, it’s only one Justin,” he continues. “So that obviously created a relationship and [there was] that support of him as an entrepreneur, because I think that he was trying to find himself as well.”

Highlighting, however, that he didn’t know if Braun “saw himself as a full-service manager at the moment,” Usher eventually persuaded him, telling Braun, “I think that you can do this.”

“I believe in you, and if we can have a partnership, I’ll give you every bit of wisdom that I have and grow you and support you in whatever you’re trying to accomplish as a businessman,” he continues of what held told Braun. “You are a manager. You’re not just a guy who can discover artists. You are someone who just needs someone to believe in, and I believe in, and I’ll support you.”

Speaking about his own career and that of Timberlake’s, Usher tells PEOPLE, “We are all unique artists and have our creativity. I love the producers that he works with, so much so that I worked with them, and I think he loves the producers that I worked with, so much so that he’s worked with them.”

“I’ve always wanted to do a record with Justin, and I have reached out many times, but we’ve never managed to make it happen,” he continues.

Still, Usher is aware of comparisons made between the two artists, though he notes, “I’m in competition with no one other than myself.”

“I’ve always tried to beat my own record, beat my own expectations, and try and better myself,” the “Caught Up” artist adds. “And if anything, I am motivated by people like Justin. I think that he is an amazing performer, and I think that he has a legacy that should be respected and not compared to anybody else. He should be recognized for who he is and what his contribution has been.”

Earlier this week, Usher spoke with The Breakfast Club about Bieber not joining him on stage for the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show.

“I honor and recognize that my brother, you know, he — I think that it might’ve been the fact that he’s just wanting to tell a different story right now, and I understand that,” the Grammy-winning artist told the radio show. “But we did have a brief conversation, and we’re gonna do something else in the future. No love lost or anything like that.”

Usher then explained that a “lot of pressure” comes along with performing on a stage as big as the Super Bowl, and explained that he “reached out to everybody” to join him.

“Justin wasn’t the only person that I actually spoke to about doing the Super Bowl, but the moment was maybe for later,” he said. “He’s gonna play the Super Bowl. I’ll go ahead and give you that — in the future.”

Added Usher: “I profess that over his life. It’s time, because he has a career that deserves it. But it just didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to.”

The Biebs and Scooter made the right choice by going with Usher. If Justin Bieber would have been mentored by JT, people would have looked at him as a JT knock-off instead of being his own individual pop star.

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