The Super Bowl LVIII may have witnessed a fierce showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, but the highlight of the night was Usher‘s exhilarating halftime show. His performance made it crystal clear that after three decades in the business, the singer is still the undisputed King of R&B. He has earned his crown as an ambassador of near-peerless showmanship, luscious escapism and a good time.
Before his half-time show, Usher admitted it had been “a challenge to squeeze 30 years into 13 minutes“. Dressed in all-white and surrounded by a swarm of energetic dancers, Usher emerged on the Allegiant Stadium‘s stage in Las Vegas and launched straight into one of his best-known songs, Caught Up. The singer did an admirable job of belting out as many of his hit bangers as possible in his act.
The singer switched effortlessly between the two apexes of his music: club anthems and sex jams. His extravagant and chaotic Super Bowl act included a number of surprises. From dancing on roller skates to a marching band that spells out his name, to surprise appearances from collaborators like Jermaine Dupri, Lil Jon, Ludacris, Alicia Keys, will.i.am, and H.E.R.
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The 45-year-old artist released his ninth studio album, Coming Home, just days before the performance. Usher just wrapped up a 100-show Las Vegas residency that got so popular, it was sold out twice. Sunday’s performance was not Usher’s first appearance at the Super Bowl – the singer previously appeared as a special guest with the Black Eyed Peas in 2011.
The Nostalgic Performance
Talking about packing his life’s work in a 13-minute act Usher said, “I was very mindful of my past, celebrating my present, which is here in Las Vegas, and thinking about where we are headed in the future.” He explained in an Apple Music press conference leading up to the Super Bowl performance, “What songs do people know me for? What songs have been a celebration of [my career]? That was the idea.”
The dancers surrounding him wore colourful, outlandish outfits, perfectly complementing his central performance and adding to the sense of spectacle. Once Usher was a few songs deep and well into his groove, he took a back seat as his first guest, Alicia Keys, appeared behind a bright red piano. Wearing a matching sparkly red outfit, she launched into one of her own biggest hits If I Ain’t Got You.
The pair then joined forces to perform their duet My Boo, joyously recreating their 2004 smash. This made for one of the sweetest moments in a performance full of reunions. After Keys was whisked away, the other guest stars started coming thick and fast. Producer-rapper Jermaine Dupri joined Usher for a quick blast of Confessions Part II. His exposed bare legs prompted one of the night’s viral trends.
Can't believe I live in a timeline that features Jermaine Dupri as one of the members of the lollipop guild. pic.twitter.com/4HbgTmYQoO— Brick Brickley 🧱 (@arielleaty) February 12, 2024
The ballads were blended so seamlessly with club anthems that it gave Usher moments to catch his breath as well as show off his vocal prowess and, crucially, take his shirt off. The singer was an ocean of energy last night. Even when performing two of his most famous slow jams, Burn and U Got It Bad, Usher couldn’t stand still – jerking his body to the rhythm and commanding the attention of an entire stadium.
During Burn, flames were projected onto the huge circular platform he was performing on – making it one of the most visually striking moments of the night. Usher’s other guests included H.E.R. – who played a rousing guitar solo during U Got It Bad before launching into the unmissable riff of Bad Girl as Usher disappeared for a costume change.
The singer re-emerged wearing a glittery black-and-blue outfit complete with roller skates as he introduced will.i.am for their collaboration OMG. Usher impressively recreated the skating sequence which had become a viral highlight of his recent Vegas residency.
Lil Jon appeared for a welcome detour into his own anthemic hit Turn Down For What. By the time a charismatic Ludacris appeared, anticipation was at its peak. The trio launched into a pulsing rendition of Usher’s career-defining hit Yeah! A number one around the world and an undeniable banger, the song provided the perfect climax in a half-time show full of highlights.
Online, fans watching Usher’s performance were enthralled by the show. Writer Hunter Harris, who profiled Usher, aptly summed up what many were feeling, tweeting that “we are all Keke Palmer tonight“. This was in reference to the viral moment that took place this summer when Palmer was filmed enjoying herself at Usher’s Las Vegas residency.
USHER !!!!— Danny DeVito (@DannyDeVito) February 12, 2024
Music critic Lindsay Zoladz applauded the performance on Twitter, with the sentiment: “That’s entertainment!” However, the best review of the night may have come from actor Danny DeVito, who took to Twitter to give Usher his flowers.
Watching Usher’s set were US megastar Taylor Swift, rapper Jay-Z, Hollywood actor Paul Rudd and former basketball players LeBron and James Shaquille O’Neal. A legend for a reason!