Fresh off of a promotional whirlwind including a new album and tour announcement, Usher took the stage during the Super Bowl LVIII, lighting up Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas with a crew of famous friends including Alicia Keys, Ludacris and H.E.R. in tow.
It makes sense that Usher would be drafted to perform during the Super Bowl. Throughout his decades-long career, he’s proven time and again to be a showman and bona fide entertainer, whether it be during live shows and music videos or as an actor. And during his breathless performance, Usher gave the crowd exactly what they’ve come to expect from him: sweat, dance moves and more hits than you could count.
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It was a notably tight Super Bowl performance with essentially no error from Usher, who’s fresh off a busy few weeks in the lead-up to the gig. He recently closed out his 100-show “My Way” residency in Las Vegas, going right into album mode with the release of his ninth full-length “Coming Home” on Friday and announcing a North American tour. There was plenty of fan speculation on what exactly Usher would perform and which guests he’d bring out, with guesses ranging from Justin Bieber to Beyoncé.
And while those two were missing in action (even though they both watched from the stands), Usher came through with an action-packed performance for the record books. To kick things off, he anointed himself as something of a king—after all, he was on the biggest stage in the world—perched on a throne with a long furry cape trailing behind him. What followed was a medley of hits that traipsed by so quickly that some were easy to miss. A whisper of “My Way” echoed through the stadium as he danced through “Caught Up,” surrounded by a legion of dancers, before sliding into a portion of “U Don’t Have to Call.” He hopped onto a makeshift stage for a brief snippet of “Superstar” and was joined by two male backup dancers for “Love in This Club” as a marching band blared behind him.
The first guest of the performance, Alicia Keys, added a softer touch to the more uptempo pace of the show. Dressed in a sparkling red bodysuit complemented by a red piano, she gave a taste of her hit “If I Ain’t Got You” as an enormous red veil floated away behind her. She cuddled up to Usher for their 2004 single “My Boo,” playing off one another for one of the considerably downbeat moments of the set.
With an introduction from Jermaine Dupri, Usher teed up a string of smashes: “Confessions Pt. II,” “Burn” and “U Got It Bad,” where he took center stage and leaned into the drama, peeling off his shirt. For added effect, H.E.R. appeared with an electric guitar, shredding a solo as Usher vanished from sight for a costume change. He re-emerged, to the surprise of many, wearing rollerskates—some may be new to learn that Usher is a gifted skater—and turned the field into a rink for “OMG” with Will.I.Am playing hypeman.
It all culminated in the final moment of the performance, which, to the surprise of no one, was “Yeah!,” his 2004 chart-topping smash featuring Lil’ Jon and Ludacris. The former started off among the fans on the field, rapping along to his DJ Snake collaboration “Turn Down for What,” and joined Usher on stage as the “Yeah!” cued up. Ludacris brought some Atlanta flair as he delivered his verse flanked by women dancing on poles, and the three united on stage in a spectacular to finish it off. “I turned the world to the A,” Usher chanted at the end, sweat glistening under the stadium lights.
Prior to the performance, fans weren’t quite sure what to expect from Usher. His discography is rich and diverse in genre and style, yet he managed to thread it all together with ease. At 45, he’s shown no sign of slowing down, and with the Super Bowl added to his resume, he only extended his hot streak as one of the world’s most reliable pop stars.
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