- By Steven McIntosh
- entertainment reporter
R&B star Usher delivered a hit-filled halftime show at Sunday’s Super Bowl, with help from will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Ludacris… and a pair of skates.
A disclaimer displayed before the performance jokingly warned viewers that it could cause “singing, dancing, sweating, spinning, and potential relationship problems.” She would continue to deliver on all fronts.
Dressed all in white and surrounded by a swarm of energetic dancers, Usher took the stage at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and launched right into one of his best-known songs, Caught Up.
It kicked off a dynamic performance that took advantage of the 45-year-old’s dance skills and considerable catalogue.
Before his halftime show, Usher admitted that it had been “a challenge to squeeze 30 years into 13 minutes.” But the singer did an admirable job of including as many of his most recognizable songs as possible.
The set features acrobats and a marching band so large that there were enough members to spell “USHER” on the stadium grounds while they performed.
The singer effortlessly alternated between the two vertices of his music: club anthems and sex jams.
Some songs lasted a full verse and chorus, others lasted only a few seconds. A short clip from Superstar appropriately saw him sing just the lyrics: “Spotlight / big stage / 50,000 fans screaming in rage”, as if to emphasize the magnitude of his Super Bowl spectacle.
The dancers surrounding him (many of whom had only traveled a short distance from his Las Vegas residency) wore colorful, even extravagant costumes, which perfectly complemented their central performance and added to the sense of spectacle.
Once Usher had listened to a few songs deep and into their rhythm, he took a backseat as his first guest, Alicia Keys, appeared behind a bright red piano in a matching bright red suit, launching into one of his biggest hits If I Ain. I do not have you.
The pair then joined forces to perform their duet My Boo, providing one of the sweetest moments in a reunion-filled performance as the pair joyfully recreated their 2004 hit.
After the song came to an end and Keys left, the other guest stars began arriving thick and fast.
Producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri joined Usher for a quick blast of Confessions Part II, and sparked one of the night’s viral trends when some viewers mocked the way his suit She exposed her bare legs.
The fact that the ballads blended so perfectly with the club anthems gave Usher moments to catch his breath, as well as show off his vocal prowess and, most importantly, take off his shirt.
But even when he performed two of his most famous slow jams, Burn and U Got It Bad, Usher couldn’t sit still: he shook his body to the beat and attracted the attention of an entire stadium.
During Burn, flames were projected onto the huge circular platform he was performing on, one of the most visually striking moments of the night.
Usher’s other guests included HER. – who played a soulful guitar solo during U Got It Bad before launching into the recognizable Bad Girl riff as Usher disappeared to change costumes.
The singer re-emerged wearing a bright black and blue suit with roller skates as he introduced will.i.am for their collaboration OMG, a song title that reflected the crowd’s reaction.
Usher recreated the skating sequence that had become a viral highlight of his recent Las Vegas residency and impressively managed not to fall.
The only downside to a flawless halftime show was that the number of cameos in the second half almost started to work against the singer.
While rumors of a collaboration with Justin Bieber failed to materialize, Usher was nearly displaced as dancers and guest stars filled the stage.
Lil Jon appeared for a slightly random but completely welcome detour into his own anthem Turn Down For What. But his arrival on stage made it clear to fans what would come next.
When a charismatic Ludacris appeared, anticipation was at a fever pitch. The trio launched into a pulsating rendition of Usher’s career-defining hit, Yeah!
Number one worldwide in the mid-nineties and an undeniable hit, the song provided the perfect climax to a halftime show packed with highlights.
Watching Usher’s set were American megastar Taylor Swift, rapper Jay-Z, Hollywood actor Paul Rudd and former basketball players LeBron and James Shaquille O’Neal.
What songs did Usher perform?
- Caught up
- You don’t have to call
- Love in this club
- If I don’t have you – duet with Alicia Keys
- My Boo – duet with Alicia Keys
- Confessions Part II – feat. Jermaine Dupri
- You’ve got it wrong – feat. HIS
- Bad Girl (interlude) – performed by SHE
- OMG – duet with will.iam
- Reject why – performed by Lil Jon
- Yeah! – achievement. Lil Jon and Ludacris
Sunday’s performance wasn’t Usher’s first Super Bowl appearance: the singer previously appeared as a special guest with the Black Eyed Peas in 2011.
His return to the NFL helpfully coincides with the release of his latest album Coming Home over the weekend.
Taylor Swift looks
Fans had speculated whether Swift would make it: the singer was in Tokyo the night before to play a concert as part of her Eras Tour.
But he finally arrived in Las Vegas with enough time to watch the Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers.
The American megastar wore an all-black suit and watched the game alongside actress Blake Lively, rapper Ice Spice and her mother Andrea Swift.