- By Mark Savage
- BBC music correspondent
R&B singer Usher promised to skate during his Super Bowl halftime show in Las Vegas on Sunday.
He would recreate a skating sequence that had become a viral highlight of his recent Las Vegas residency, he said.
And the show would be a “crescendo” that would mark a “new beginning” in his 30-year career.
Previous Super Bowl halftime show performers include Katy Perry, Prince and Beyoncé.
But Usher will be the first independent artist to take the stage, having left his previous record label, RCA, to self-release his album, Coming Home, this weekend.
Interviewed by Apple Music’s Nadeska Alexis, he dodged several questions about his track list.
“It’s definitely been a challenge to squeeze 30 years into 13 minutes,” Usher said, his eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
She had been “very aware of my past” and the “songs that I feel like people know me by,” as well as the iconic dance routines of her career.
When asked about possible guest artists, Usher hinted that he would be joined by singers who appeared “on songs that became hit records.”
“That gave me the biggest reference point,” said the singer, whose collaborators include Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Lil’ Jon.
Usher will play at Allegiant Stadium when the Kansas City Chiefs face the San Francisco 49ers.
It follows Rihanna, who performed at the 2023 halftime show while pregnant, and the 2022 all-star team of Dr Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent.
Usher himself previously appeared on the Super Bowl stage. As a special guest of the Black Eyed Peas, in 2011, he performed an impressive jump over will.i.am, landing in the divisions.
Country singer Reba McEntire will perform the United States national anthem. Post Malone will sing America the Beautiful. And Andra Day will conclude the pregame concert with Lift Every Voice and Sing, often called the black national anthem. While dance musician Tiesto will be the first DJ of the Super Bowl game.
Who is Usher?
Usher Raymond IV began singing in a Tennessee church at the age of nine. He joined a group called NuBeginning a year later and they recorded an album in 1991, which only came out after Usher hit the big time.
After the family moved to Atlanta, Usher was spotted at a talent show and hired by LA Reid, the executive who also discovered TLC, Toni Braxton and OutKast.
Her first song, Call Me A Mack, appeared on the soundtrack of the Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson film Poetic Justice when she was just 15, but her debut album, produced by P Diddy, flopped.
He tried again with producer Jermaine Dupri, who made a name for himself working with Da Brat and Mariah Carey.
Together, they came up with a sound for Usher’s second album, My Way, that combined his buttery smooth tenor with stuttering hip-hop beats that allowed him to show off his skills as a dancer.
The first single, You Make Me Wanna, was only kept off the US number one spot by Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana, Candle in the Wind, in 1997. The follow-up, Nice & Slow, reached the top and Usher never looked back.
Over the next decade, he sold 80 million records worldwide, won eight Grammy Awards, and scored four consecutive US number one hits: Yeah, Burn, Confessions Pt II, and My Boo, which are all but guaranteed to appear in his performance on the Super Bowl.
The 2010s were less kind (the title of his eighth album Hard II Love was unintentionally prophetic), but his reputation as a dazzling live performer endured.
After a stint as a judge on The Voice, he launched a Las Vegas residency in 2022, culminating in 100 sold-out shows and ultimately the Super Bowl.
Where can I see the show?
Usher will take the stage midway through the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The match will begin at 11:30 p.m. UK time (3:30 p.m. in Las Vegas). Depending on how the game progresses, the break will last about an hour and a half to two hours of action. That puts Usher’s performance at around 01:00-01:30 UK time (17:00-17:30 in Las Vegas).
In the US, the match will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+. UK viewers can catch it on ITV1 and ITVX from 10:45pm.
If you don’t want to stay up and watch the concert live, the NFL typically puts the entire show on YouTube immediately after it airs.
Why is the Super Bowl halftime show so important?
The Super Bowl is always the most-watched program on American television, and the halftime show usually attracts more viewers than the game itself.
Rihanna gained her largest audience ever in 2022, with 121 million people tuning in. Even when bookings aren’t as stellar, like Maroon 5 in 2019, viewership has been close to 100 million.
The platform is so big that many artists, including Rihanna, play without paying anything.
Usher is definitely aware of the opportunity: He has announced a new album and a US tour that will coincide with his performance. Fans are already clamoring for UK dates.
Will Taylor Swift be watching?
It may have escaped your notice because the media has barely mentioned it, but Taylor Swift is currently dating Kansas City player Travis Kelce.
She has attended more than 10 of their games throughout the season, but her attendance at the Super Bowl is in doubt, because the night before she will give a concert in Tokyo.
When asked about her plans, Kelce said Swift was “focused on entertaining the crowd” in Japan and “making sure they’re ready for her performances.”
“But the Super Bowl? We’ll just worry about whether she can make it.”
The Japanese embassy in Washington weighed in on the issue, saying that because of the time difference between the United States and Japan, Swift could make the 12-hour flight and “conveniently arrive in Las Vegas before the Super Bowl begins.”
Meanwhile, right-wing conspiracy theorists have claimed that the Super Bowl has been “rigged” to help Swift (who has endorsed Democratic politicians) and Kelce (who appeared in ads for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine) achieve Joe Biden’s victory in the elections. upcoming US presidential election.
The claims have been rejected by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who said: “The idea that this is scripted, this is pre-planned, is just nonsense.”