It was always a fool's errand to overlook Usher's talent and power before the R&B icon's Super Bowl LVIII halftime show. Of course, one could argue that the crooner's success peaked twenty years ago, despite his many successes in the years since. But after the exhilarating display of breathtaking showmanship and leggy sexual charisma he brought to the world's biggest stage, there's no denying that Usher has been – and always will be – a certified hitmaker .
If you've paid even a fraction of attention to current events over the past few weeks, you know that the Super Bowl has been replaced by celebrities. This is apparently no longer a sporting event, but a satellite stop on Taylor Swift's Eras tour. The presenters spent their air time, indicators in hand, showing viewers how Swift could move from her four shows in Japan to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in time to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce perform. (Mind you, Swift is just attending the game, not performing.) But Swift's successful journey across the world pales in comparison to Usher's journey to the Super Bowl stage; this performance was the true must-see spectacle of the evening. When Usher played, there was no one else in the stadium worth watching.
Well, that's partly true. Of course, a few special guests joined Usher on stage to celebrate the longevity of his career. But make no mistake: This was Usher's show, something of a triple threat (singer, dancer and swoon-worthy heartthrob-slash-underwear model ) intended to prove it from the jump.
A fake MPA red band warning was issued just before the set began, warning that it was rated “U” and that it could cause “singing, dancing, sweating, gyrating and possible trouble relational”. If there's anyone who can talk about and support a great game, it's Usher. After Rihanna's lackluster (but still very fun) halftime show last year, the bar was lower than it has been in recent years, which have seen J.Lo, Shakira and the Weeknd delivering thrilling medleys of their greatest hits. But Usher ordered the entire the scene with his singular presence doesn't seem to sweat, despite how much he was visibly sweating.
The show itself began with those unforgettable synths of “Yeah!” ”, enough to make any millennial in your neighborhood sit up straight in their seat. But we'll have to wait a little longer for what will inevitably be the breathtaking final number. First, he opened with “Caught Up,” a lesser-known but still very popular song from his biggest album, 2004's. Confessions. “Caught Up” set the tone for the show, which maintained the song's high-octane energy throughout, even in its softer moments when Usher the balladeer reminded us exactly what his voice can do.
The show was a massive spectacle from the start, starting with some Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. As many feathers, sequins and stilts as there were to look at, it was Usher's fluid choreography that grabbed the attention. He has lost none of the agility that made him such a star. Usher may be 45, but he oiled his joints, threw chunks of titanium into his knees and made him move. Using a vintage headset mic – the amplifier of choice for him and his 2000s contemporaries like Britney Spears and NSYNC – Usher was free to open, lock, drop, push and turn as much as he wanted. he wanted it.
And that's what he did! Usher breezed through “Love in this Club” before catching his breath during “My Boo,” when featured artist Alicia Keys gave him a much-needed break. Keys, unfortunately, had a little vocal crack at the beginning of the song. But once her voice warmed up, nothing could stop the nostalgia train from rolling into the station as they both sang the hit responsible for conceiving thousands of children across the world.
Producer Jermaine Dupri appeared to hype the audience up even further, as Usher treated the remaining singles to Confessions-“Confessions Pt. II” and “Burn” – for all they were worth. “U Got It Bad” followed, with all of us watching at home at the song title as Usher ripped off his jacket, revealing a white tank top that only stayed on for a moment before this too was removed to reveal the singer's ripped body. Usher has always used his appearance as part of his appeal; he understands that he is sexy and he uses it to his advantage. The music sounds even better because someone so stunning is singing it, and it's no surprise that he used this effect to hypnotize the millions of people who sing it. look.
But it wasn't just her appearance that made the whole thing so fascinating. After a quick change, during which HER – the music industry's biggest psychological operation, appearing at every awards show and venue under the sun – played a bit of guitar, Usher was back. Now he was on wheels. Usher and a team of roller dancers paraded on stage to “Bad Girl” and “OMG” with guest William. before performing some extremely impressive moves to a cover of Lil' Jon and DJ Snake's “Turn Down For What.” “My Boo” may have resulted in thousands of pregnancies over the past 20 years, but “Turn Down For What” caused hundreds of thousands of white people to be drunk in 2013.
The song was just a taste of the big finale: “Yeah! Although it dates from 2004, “Yeah!” is a song known to all generations, all over the world. It may be ubiquitous, but it's one of those songs that never gets old. But it was more than just a dose of nostalgic memories, as Usher, Lil Jon and Ludacris proved when they took the stage together. “Yeah!” is the kind of floor filler that musicians don't make anymore, and the energy that radiated throughout Allegiant Stadium was palpable, even through the television screen. As the song ended with the marching band from renowned HBCU Jackson State University playing an electrifying instrumental version of the song, it was clear that Usher's set was not just a career victory lap, but a loving thank you to black culture and the institutions that made his star shine for so long.
With the sway of his hips and that velvety smooth voice, Usher reminded us all why he deserved to perform on this stage. It was his moment, and he rose to the occasion. The craziest part of the whole performance? What we saw wasn't even close in Usher's total hits. He chose to avoid special appearances from his protégé Justin Bieber for “Somebody to Love (Remix)” or Pitbull for “DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love.” Instead, he immersed himself in the culture – and specific people – that raised him and made him a star. “We made it, Mom,” Usher said from the top of the set. It was a tender moment, a reminder that Usher's innate magnetism and endless gratitude made him as lovable as his talent. His set reflected this, an effective blend of pure and irrefutable nostalgia, talent and charisma. It was the kind of retrospective we haven't seen in years, and one that will be hard to top in 2025.