On a recent People Every Day podcast appearance, Usher scoffed at the idea of participating in Verzuz, claiming there’s not a discography out there that could genuinely compete with his. In his eyes, it’d have to be Raymond v. Raymond.
“It’s great to celebrate music,” he said. “But the appreciation of it starts with understanding what it is and how long has it taken to do this legacy. And if you choose to compare it, what are you comparing to? Are you comparing it to itself?”
While Usher’s confidence is appreciated, there is a perfect contender out there for him. Someone in his weight class in terms of applicable genre, star power, and hits. And of the same gender. That last classification is an important one, because there are quite a few women in the R&B space who’d put Ursh in a body bag. Organizing a Verzuz between Beyoncé and Usher is probably a felony in at least 14 states. Rihanna would catwalk to an easy victory as well. Mariah Carey going toe to toe with Usher is patently unfair.
So yes, another man. But first, let’s weed out those who don’t quite cut it. Putting Trey Songz or Ne-Yo up against Usher is like putting the JV squad up against varsity. And y’all really need to stop bringing up Chris Brown; this ain’t about backflips, teeth grinding, and rap sheets. (While we’re on the subject of rap sheets, yeah, Robert Kelly would technically rout Usher and almost every musician who could compete in one of these events across genres, but that sicko is rightfully locked up. As far as I know, you can’t call collect for these competitions.)
There is, however, one man who could stand as Usher’s virtual equal on that Verzus stage. That man happens to be a man of the woods. That man happens to be Justin Timberlake.
Controversial, I know. Black folks don’t love Justin like we used to, and he grows cornier by the day. You can’t deny his bevy of hits, though—”SexyBack,” “Like I Love You,” “My Love,” “Señorita,” “Rock Your Body,” “Cry Me a River,” “What Goes Around... Comes Around," “Until the End of Time,” “Mirrors,” “Love Never Felt So Good,” “Signs.” All of that is without even dipping a finger into the *NSYNC bag.
Justin Timberlake is Usher’s only real competition, a hypothetical faceoff that would easily be the biggest Verzuz sans Hov or Yonce. You could host it in Vegas—home to Mr. 8701’s residency—and bill it pay-per-view style, like a boxing title match.
Will this ever happen? Just like one with Jay-Z or Beyoncé, no, probably not. But we can all dream. And we can all be real about whether the man behind Confessions is truly untouchable. Let it burn.