They call him U-S-H-E-R R-A-Y-M-O-N-D for a reason and on Super Bowl LVIII Sunday night, audiences all over the country learned why Usher Raymond is the true king of R&B.
Kicking off his 11-minute set (not the 15-minute set that was initially reported he would have) with his ever-popular song “Caught Up,” the beloved singer lit the stage on fire with a Cirque Du Soleil inspired performance complete with a band, with choreography led by Sean Bankhead. What followed was a medley of his other hits such as “U Don’t Call,” “Superstar,” “Love In this Club,” “Nice & Slow,” “Confessions,” “Burn,” and “U Got It Bad.”
In addition to the Cirque Du Soleil, the performance also had HBCU and Greek fraternity influences—specifically Jackson State’s “Sonic Boom of the South” marching band and the Kappas— and was a complete ode to Atlanta, specifically their rollerskating (one day we’re going to talk about how hard it is to do choreography while on skates, but that day is not today) and strip club cultures.
The night also included surprise guest singers and performers such as Alicia Keys who joined Usher to sing “My Boo”and a little snippet of “If I Ain’t Got You.” Complete with a red, sparkly outfit and a red piano, the two sang and cozied up together like they just dropped the song yesterday and for that, we thank them.
One other surprise of the night came when H.E.R. came out to do the guitar solo for “U Got It Bad” and a snippet of “Bad Girl”—which got some folks excited for all of .2 seconds with the hope that Beyonce would pop up to recreate her and Usher’s iconic moment.
Naturally, the “Climax” singer closed the show with Will.I.Am by performing “O.M.G.” and then pulled the most highly anticipated move by bringing Lil Jon and Ludacris to perform “Yeah.” accompanied by a few strippers and stripper poles (with modestly-dressed dancers, don’t worry).
While the performance is definitely up there in the canon of great Super Bowl Performances, I’d be remiss not to share a few of my grievances—and I do mean a few. And those grievances include the fact that he didn’t perform “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home), “No Limit,” or “New Flame”, his set was four minutes shorter than expected, and he didn’t bring out Bey. I know the latter was a lofty ask but still! It could have been iconic!!
But disappointments aside—Usher’s performance gave what it needed to give. He should be proud because we damn sure are.