From the opinions of his ex-wife, to the Trey Songz contrasts, to his recent wardrobe choice as the 2010 NBA All-Star Game’s lead performer, many have questioned if Usher’s sex appeal has started to wither. But music video director, TAJ Stansberry, believes the visuals he helmed for his client’s most salacious single yet, “Lil Freak,” will dispel any doubts.
“This probably has the potential to be [his sexiest video ever],” Stansberry says of the 17-hour Tuesday shoot. “As far as people talking about his sex appeal… there was a crowd on set of mostly women and when I looked at their eyes… let’s just say I think he’s going to be okay.”
The 29-year-old director—also responsible for Usher’s Raymond vs. Raymond promo video in December—revealed to VIBE how the music video’s concept will redefine the meaning of the song’s keyword: Freak. “My general idea was to take the word and show it’s many faceted sides, twisting and turning it to where there’s really no distinguishing between one freak and another. Usher went there," he says. “When you’re engaging in sexual activity, there are many transitions and this is not about what they look like literally, but what they look like metaphorically. It’s about luring people into a situation. Because you have your thoughts on a ménage à trois, but then we’re doing it in a non-obvious way.”
As far as the song’s female feature, Young Money front woman, Nicki Minaj—who can be heard rapping about her pursuit of a belle with “a real big ol’ ghetto booty”—Stansberry says the femcee’s lyrics mirror her role on set. “[Nicki] had a few looks that I really liked. She played the part, but still was her. If you really listen to her words in the song, you can kinda visualize her outfit.”
The produer, who also worked with Minaj on Ludacris’ recent video for “My Chick Bad,” continued about Nicki’s rapport with her male collaborator. “Usher’s one of the best entertainers in the world, then you have Nicki Minaj who’s fresh on the scene. Put them together and there’s just sparks, it was real good.”
But Usher and Nicki won’t be the video’s only stars. “Ciara and Jamie Foxx are in the video. I’ll give you that,” Stansberry spilled. “There might be some other people as well, who knows.”
For those waiting to see if Usher can recharge his sex symbol status, Stansberry assures that video’s debut is in the near future. “I know [Usher] also shot the music video for “Oh My God” with will.i.am, so I’m not sure if this video is coming out first. If mine is first, I assume [it will premiere] sometime in March.”
Usher’s sixth album, Raymond vs. Raymond is slated for release, March 30. “Lil Freak” is currently #42 on iTunes Top Songs. —Tracy Garraud