Published6 minutes ago
Usher delivered a hit-heavy half-time show at Sunday’s Super Bowl – with help from special guests including will.i.am, Alicia Keys and Ludacris.
A disclaimer shown before the performance jokingly warned viewers it would feature “singing, dancing, sweating, gyrating, and possible relationship issues”. It would go on to deliver on all fronts.
Dressed in all-white and surrounded by a swarm of energetic dancers, Usher emerged on the stage at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and launched straight into one of his best-known songs, Caught Up.
It kicked off a dynamic performance which took advantage of Usher’s dancing skills as much as his sizeable back catalogue.
Before his half-time show, Usher admitted it had been “a challenge to squeeze 30 years in to 13 minutes”. But the R&B star did an admirable job of cramming in as many of his most recognisable songs as possible.
He switched effortlessly between the two apexes of his music: club anthems and sex jams.
Some songs ran for a full verse and a chorus, others for just a few seconds. A tiny snippet of Superstar appropriately saw him sing only the lyrics: “Spotlight / Big stage” – as if to hammer home the magnitude of his Super Bowl show.
Once he was a few songs deep and well into his groove, Usher took a back seat as Alicia Keys appeared behind a bright red piano wearing an equally bright red outfit, launching into one of her own biggest hits If I Ain’t Got You.
The pair then joined forces to perform their duet My Boo – providing one of the sweetest moments in a performance full of reunions, as the pair joyously recreated their 2004 smash.
Producer-rapper Jermaine Dupri was whisked on stage almost as quickly as Keys was whisked off, joining Usher for a quick blast of Confessions Part II.
The combination of ballads and club anthems gave the singer moments to catch his breath, as well as show off his vocal prowess.
But even when performing two of his most famous slow jams, Burn and U Got It Bad, Usher couldn’t stand still – jerking his body to the rhythm as he performed on a circular platform which displayed the projection of a clock face.
Usher’s other guests included H.E.R. – who played a rousing guitar solo (the recognisable riff of Bad Girl) as Usher disappeared for his first costume change.
The singer re-emerged wearing a sparkly black-and-blue outfit complete with roller skates as he introduced will.i.am for their collaboration OMG – a song title which reflected the crowd’s reaction.
Lil Jon appeared for a slightly random but entirely welcome detour into his own anthemic Turn Down For What. But Lil Jon’s arrival on stage made obvious to fans what was coming next.
Ludacris appeared on stage as he, Usher and Lil Jon launched into a pulsing rendition of the R&B star’s career-defining hit Yeah!
There wasn’t much in Usher’s set which could be faulted – but arguably the number of star guests in the second half meant the singer got slightly crowded out.
Usher somehow also found time to recreate a skating sequence which had become a viral highlight of his recent Vegas residency.
Watching his set was US megastar Taylor Swift, actress Blake Lively, rapper Ice Spice, rapper Jay-Z, actor Paul Rudd and former basketball players LeBron and James Shaquille O’Neal.
Which songs did Usher perform?
- Caught Up
- U Don’t Have To Call
- Love in this Club
- If I Ain’t Got You – duet with Alicia Keys
- My Boo – duet with Alicia Keys
- Confessions Part II – feat. Jermaine Dupri
- U Got It Bad – feat. H.E.R.
- Bad Girl (interlude) – performed by H.E.R.
- OMG – duet with will.iam
- Turn Down For What – performed by Lil Jon
- Yeah! – feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris
Sunday’s performance was not Usher’s first appearance at the Super Bowl – 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 watches on
Throughout the game, cameras regularly cut to Taylor Swift, who was there to support her Kansas City Chiefs boyfriend Travis Kelce.
Fans had speculated about whether Swift would make it at all- the singer was in Tokyo the night before playing a concert as part of her Eras Tour.
But in the event, she made it to Las Vegas in plenty of time to see the Chiefs face off against the San Francisco 49ers.
The US megastar wore an all-black outfit and watched the game alongside actress Blake Lively, rapper Ice Spice, and her mother Andrea Swift.