Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, there was one singer everyone was talking about, and it wasn’t Usher Raymond. But while people were obsessed with tracking Taylor Swift’s plane and when she’d arrive, Usher was busy cooking up one of the best halftime shows I’ve seen in a while. (Which can be streamed with a Paramount+ subscription.)
There were a few keys to what made Usher’s Super Bowl Halftime performance special, beyond Ludacris and Lil Jon showing up for “Yeah” and its surprisingly NSFW lyrics. Here’s what I clocked during the performance and what set a new standard for what makes an entertaining halftime show.
The Song Choices Were Perfect
Usher surprised me right out of the gate by kicking things off with “Caught Up,” which is one of his less notable hits, but still a personal fave. Rolling from that into “You Don’t Have To Call” was excellent, and it was easy to see the flow of this medley exciting the crowd before everyone was brought back down in time for the slower moments. As an artist with plenty of certified club anthems and R&B slow jams, it was a must for those frequent transitions not to be awkward, and he pulled it off masterfully.
What I was more impressed by was how his catalog bled into the guest performances by Alicia Keys, H.E.R., and, of course, Lil Jon and Ludacris. Usher has nothing to do with “Turn Down For What,” but whoever made the call to include one of the most awesome stadium anthems of the modern era in the show knew what they were doing. A+ for song choice, there wasn’t one choice that I disliked.
Usher Didn’t Go Overboard With Star Power
Ahead of this show, there were tons of rumors that Usher would welcome his young protege Justin Bieber onto the stage, given their relationship, or that he might gift some time to Taylor Swift, who inspired increased ads for women during the Super Bowl. CinemaBlend’s Nick Venable personally hoped for a Janet Jackson appearance, but alas, even the man who brought the “A” to Vegas wasn’t going to touch Nipplegate. He did bring in Alicia Keys for some tunes on a truly gorgeous piano.
Instead, he went the more predictable route, and it ended up being a great call. A guy with as many hits as Usher doesn’t need a ton of stars to remind the world who he is, and in the end, he proved all we really needed was Lil Jon and Ludacris on stage at the end so they could play “Yeah” and bring the house down. Good on him for not buckling to fan pressure and essentially doing what he thought was best.
Usher Is The Perfect Nostalgia Artist For Millenials
I’d thought this before the performance, but honestly, when it comes to the best artist for a 30-something millennial audience, Usher is the definitive choice. He had a steady streak of hits from my earliest years in grade school to the time I graduated college. He’s still pumping out hits to this day, and do I even have to point out the obvious fact that he can still sing all of his hits? No offense to previously rumored performer *NSYNC, but I don’t think we would’ve gotten the same timeless qualities from them or any other “reunion” act.
The public will ultimately judge where Usher’s halftime show performance ranks among Rihanna’s unplanned pregnancy announcement or Jennifer Lopez sharing the stage with Shakira. Personally, I think it was the best halftime show I’ve seen since The Weeknd took the stage, though I might rank it higher just for the mass appeal of who all enjoyed it. In any case, the general consensus online is that he did a wonderful job, and I certainly agree with at least that much.
Those who wish to rewatch Usher’s halftime performance can do so via Apple Music. Those who were stressing out during the game might want to do so, as I can completely understand if there were some Swifties stressed out about why the Chiefs weren’t dominating after that first half.