The playground of teen pop acts is littered with flash-in-the-pan stars who burst onto the music scene for a second and then were gone. But then there are those who started young and stuck around: enter the likes of Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Usher.
Usher had "Star Search" to launch him out of obscurity at age 13. His new protégé, Justin Bieber, had YouTube. At 12, Bieber was posting homemade videos of himself on YouTube and industry insiders starting taking notice.
"It had a hundred views, then a thousand views, then ten thousand views, so I just kept posting more videos and more videos," Justin, now 15, says in a soft voice. "Eventually, I got found by my manager who flew me to Atlanta to meet Usher."
But Usher, 31, had some competition to sign Bieber. Timberlake was also interested in the new boy-chick on the scene. There was a bidding war but Usher finally won out and had him signed to Island Def Jam Recordings.
"It was truly his talent, his ability to, on the spot, produce that magic," Usher says in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America Weekend."
"There was something really eager and something so poised to be something. I didn't know what he would be but I knew I wanted to be involved. And when I finally got the chance to hear him sing, I knew that this was a kid that was going to go very far. And I felt like I could offer him a lot. I took him to [Island Def Jam Music Group chairman and music producer Antonio] "L.A." Reid and I said, 'Man you are not going to believe the talent that I have come across. This kid is really like once in a lifetime glimpse at a prodigy or something incredible.'
"And when he met him, he knew exactly what I meant. And the story begun and very fast paced. Not much different than my story."
Justin is a small-framed 15 year old. He looks young for his age but his face is all flawless skin, long eyelashes and a mega-watt smile. At a recent listening session for his new album, he showed a mixture of unbounded energy and a polished poise. He's mature for his age and looks you straight in the eye with an uncanny directness reserved for those few teens who are mostly surrounded by adults.
He knows that confidence is key. But what does he have to be shy about? In less than two years, he has gone from awkward school talent shows to thousands of teen girls screaming for him and a Top 20 song on Billboard's Top 100 list.
Justin was raised with a pretty modest background by a single mother in Ontario, Canada. She encouraged him to bang on pots and pans and would play Boyz II Men constantly in the house, starting when he was a baby. The seeds for a musical prodigy were planted.
"I've always known he was talented," his mother Patricia Mallette says. "I just didn't know what he would do with it. He had a few drum lessons but he didn't have any guitar lessons, piano lessons or singing lessons. And, you know, we just sort of hung out and played music around the house."