Justin Timberlake Nearly Signed Justin Bieber In 2008, And Usher Just Spilled The Inside Story

“I presented Scooter an offer that I felt like he couldn't resist,” Usher recalled.

More than 15 years after they first crossed paths, Usher is reflecting on how Justin Bieber’s early career nearly looked very different.

Usher and Justin Bieber sitting courtside at a basketball game. Usher wears a checkered jacket; Bieber is in a hoodie

For a bit of context, it’s widely known that Usher played a very important role in making JB the superstar he is today. After he was discovered online by Scooter Braun, a then-unknown Bieber had a chance meeting with Usher in 2008 and took it upon himself to sing for him.

justin standing in between usher and Scooter Braun at an event

As has been documented, Biebs impressed the R&B legend with a rendition of his hit song, “U Got It Bad,” and later that year he was signed to Usher and Scooter’s joint record label, Raymond Braun Media Group.

Justin Bieber singing wearing a sports-themed jacket and cap

By 2009, he dropped his first single, “One Time,” and as they say, the rest is history.

Justin Bieber performing on stage, wearing a casual jacket and headset microphone, gesturing with one hand

However, looking back on JB’s meteoric rise to fame today, Usher recalled that his master plan was nearly thwarted by another big name in the music industry.

Usher and Justin Bieber posing together at the American Music Awards, both wearing leather jackets

Speaking to People for a new cover story, Usher said that Justin Timberlake was also very keen to sign the then-13-year-old Bieber, resulting in an all-out "bidding war."

A closeup of Justin timberlake wearing sunglasses

“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 recalled, noting that he had a previous link to Scooter through Jermaine Dupri.

justin standing between scooter and usher in what looks to be a  public bathroom

“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,” he said.

Justin Timberlake wearing a plaid jacket and sunglasses at a sporting event

Remembering exactly how he convinced Scooter to choose him to mentor Bieber, Usher said he pointed out an obvious flaw in siding with Timberlake: “There can only be one Justin.”

Justin in a fluffy red and white striped jacket and Balenciaga cap, sitting, hands clasped near face, looking forward

"If you want to go with Justin, that's Justin and Justin. Me, it's only one Justin," he recalled telling Scooter.

Justin Bieber and Usher smiling, standing back-to-back on stage

What’s more, Usher said that at the time, Scooter wasn’t fully confident that he “saw himself as a full-service manager” and entrepreneur, meaning he needed convincing to take on the challenge together.

scooter and usher posing together at an event

"I think that you can do this," Usher remembered telling Scooter. "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."

Justin Bieber in a holiday sweater poses with Usher, his arms around him

He continued: “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.”

Scooter Braun and Justin Bieber smiling, Bieber in casual attire with a chain necklace

Of course, Scooter ended up striking a winning deal with Usher, who went on to serve as a close friend and mentor to Bieber for years and years to come.

Justin Bieber  seated next to Usher sharing a conversation at an event

“I presented Scooter an offer that I felt like he couldn't resist,” Usher said, looking back on the pivotal moment. “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 and Justin Bieber shaking hands excitingly in the middle of a crowd backstage

All these years later, it’s easy to wonder how differently Bieber’s career might have turned out if he’d been mentored by Timberlake instead. And while Usher didn’t directly speculate about this, he did share some words of praise for his fellow artist.

justin timberlake and usher smiling and standing up at a sports event

“We are all unique artists and have our creativity,” he said of Timberlake, noting that they’ve had similar careers in some ways.

closeup of justin in a suit

“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,” he continued. “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.”

justin timberlake and usher in suits in the pats

You can read Usher’s full cover interview with People here.

Skip to footer