The Uncooked Expertise in Usher’s Halftime Present

Curler skates and all, the R&B veteran’s efficiency underscored the worth of showmanship.

Usher dancing on stage at the Super Bowl half time show
Kevin Mazur / Getty

Designing a Tremendous Bowl halftime efficiency is, in some ways, an train in sacrificial concision: Artists should whittle many years of songs right into a crowd-friendly, roughly 13-minute reprieve from athletics and multimillion-dollar commercials. It’s no marvel that many units find yourself feeling like lackluster interruptions of the primary occasions.

However throughout tonight’s Tremendous Bowl LVIII halftime present, the veteran R&B singer Usher breathed life into the annual musical diversion. Only a mile away from the Park MGM Las Vegas, the place he spent a lot of the previous two years commanding his second massively profitable residency, Usher took over Allegiant Stadium with all of the panache of each Sin Metropolis and his beloved Atlanta. He kicked off the present from a mirrored throne—lest there be any questions in regards to the 45-year-old’s standing in R&B and pop—decked out in a stunning monochromatic white and silver outfit. But regardless of the theatricality, Usher’s efficiency underscored the worth of his uncooked artistry. It was a rollicking, sequin-studded, sexed-up celebration of a singular showman.

The opener set the tone for the night time. “Caught Up,” the fifth and last single from his 2004 album, Confessions, is the energetic lament of a newly reformed lothario and the form of Usher observe that speaks to his core fan base: longtime R&B obsessives, who’ve adopted him since earlier than his mid-2010s flirtations with EDM. Together with 8701’s playboy anthem “U Don’t Need to Name,” and the Confessions ballad “Famous person,” Usher signaled a transparent strategic alternative. This halftime present wasn’t going to be a soulless tasting menu for the plenty. As an alternative, Usher made his Tremendous Bowl efficiency really feel devoted to his loyal followers—which is to say, the predominantly Black listeners who’ve adopted his profession no less than since 1997’s “Good & Sluggish.”

The present did incorporate just a few hits which have appealed to followers throughout many various demographics, together with the Auto-Tune bop “OMG.” However general, Usher’s present was notably gentle on his high-octane collaborations with the likes of Pitbull, Skrillex, and David Guetta. Nor did he sneak in any tracks from his new album, Coming Dwelling, which was simply launched on Friday. Dishing out with sure crowd-pleasers and avoiding new materials freed Usher as much as do what he does greatest: carry out, with the form of zeal and precision that audiences hardly ever see on such an enormous stage. All through the present, he proved repeatedly that his vocals are in outstanding type—although he did a lot of his singing whereas dancing, roller-skating, or each. Whether or not backed by a full marching band or surrounded by a feather-clad, Cirque du Soleil–esque sea of dancers, he held his personal.

One of many thrills of Usher’s halftime present was the house he carved out for his fellow musicians—one more reminder of his strenuous consideration to his craft. Within the house of quarter-hour, he introduced out a number of artists who helped create a few of his biggest 2000s and Nineteen Nineties hits: Alicia Keys eased into their saccharine duet, “My Boo,” by enjoying the piano and singing a part of her personal track, “If I Ain’t Acquired You,” which Usher briefly joined with a large smile throughout his face. Jermaine Dupri, the super-producer who was one of many essential Confessions architects, made a quick cameo too. Later, an invigorating guitar riff from H.E.R. gave method to the crunk symphony of “Yeah!,” Usher’s indelible collaboration with Lil Jon and Ludacris. Flanked by skaters and pole dancers, the rappers channeled the power of their decades-younger selves—and of Atlanta, town that every one 4 males name dwelling.

And in an period when many male musicians appear averse to invoking the unabashed romance and sensuality of their soul forerunners, there was additionally one thing pleasant about watching Usher lean into the apparent: He takes being a intercourse image very critically. The moments-long gyrations and temporary six-pack reveal included in a typically tasteful efficiency nodded to his consciousness that showmanship doesn’t start and finish with vocals. Typically, artists will be enthralling athletes in their very own proper.

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