Clear Channel's Doc Wynter talks shop with Usher and manager Grace Miguel. (Photo: Kevin Ross)
"I haven't seen something like this in more than 10 years," said Radio Facts editor Kevin Ross about last evening's (May 19) RCA dinner celebrating the release of Usher's upcoming album, Looking 4 Myself. Hosted by RCA's urban promotion department, the intimate gathering of prominent urban radio programmers during Billboard Music Awards weekend was indeed reminiscent of what many might call the radio and record industries' good old days.
Inside a glass-enclosed dining area at the Palms Hotel's N9ne Steakhouse, a family reunion vibe was definitely in full effect. Welcoming the industry clan was RCA senior VP of urban promotions Geo Bivins along with members of his team: VP Brad Davidson and senior national director Samantha Selolwane. Guests included Clear Channel senior VP of urban programming Doc Wynter, Radio One Atlanta Operations Manager Hurricane Dave, CBS Radio Charlotte OM/PD Terri Avery, Warner Bros. senior VP of urban promotion Juliette Jones and Ross.
Billboard's Gail Mitchell with Radio Facts' Kevin Ross and RCA's Samantha Selolwane. (Photo: Kevin Ross)
Discussion ranged from the current state of urban radio and syndicated/local programming to periodic checks of the playoff game between the L.A. Lakers and the Oklahoma Thunder. About an hour into the evening, guest of honor Usher arrived. After thanking the gathering for their ongoing support over the years, he played several tracks from the new album (including "Dive," "Sins of the Father," and "Twisted"). Working this time around with a mix of new ( Diplo, Swedish House Mafia, Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele) and prior collaborators ( Rico Love, Pharrell Williams), Usher said the inspiration behind the album stemmed from wanting to stretch boundaries. "People say R&B isn't very strong," explained Usher. "I don't believe that. But it's also important to experiment."
Before heading to the MGM Grand to rehearse his performance for the Billboard Music Awards, Usher spent time taking individual photos with each of the guests.
RCA's Geo Bivins with KKDA (K-104) Dallas PD/brand manager George "Geo" Cook and Billboard's Mitchell. (Photo: Kevin Ross)