Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

The Super Bowl is pop culture’s biggest stage, and Usher brings precise details.

By Jennifer Feb 12, 2024
Usher took center stage at the Super Bowl halftime show in Las Vegas on Sunday night, performing with a phalanx of dancers and a handful of guests.Credit...Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

A rare and somewhat shocking moment of stillness occurred a few minutes into Usher’s clever and energetic performance during Sunday night’s Super Bowl LVIII halftime show at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Just before her appearance, Alicia Keys, wearing a similar encrusted gown and a red jumpsuit covered in sequins, made an embarrassing mistake on the first note of her popular piano ballad, “If I Ain’t Got You.”

After she recovered, the camera turned back and focused on the two of them at opposite sides of Keys’s piano. As she got closer to the conclusion of the chorus, you could hear Usher singing in a low harmony. Before Keys came back to share the last note, Usher took up the chorus’s last phrase, which was smooth, confident, and almost whispered.

A man in white and a woman in red stand close, singing to each other onstage.
Usher was joined by Alicia Keys on Sunday.Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Though Allegiant Stadium can accommodate up to 65,000 spectators, there were just two present at the moment. It was one of the most subdued halftime shows ever, a magnificent example of Usher’s talents as a meticulous detail-oriented artist best appreciated with rapt attention.

The majority of the remaining portion of the show, which included over a dozen songs, was larger in scope and meant to occupy a football field: A granular-gestured, small-bore display gave way to a wild celebration. However, this set effectively demonstrated how Usher’s attention to detail and his sense of grandeur come from the same pot. When the stage is full, he can handle it by himself and maintain control.

A shirtless man in white pants holds a microphone stand, his back to a guitarist in a black vinyl jumpsuit.
H.E.R. played guitar during his halftime set.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

After thirty years in the business, 45-year-old Usher is a showman not just with his voice but also, and maybe even more so, with his body and feet. The camera rested on him while he performed deft dancing and body-bending exercises in the opening moments of the program, making sure not to squander any of his motions. Especially in the first part, “Caught Up,” and “U Don’t Have to Call,” it was astonishing that he was doing several of these maneuvers on grass.

His first songs were dance-oriented favorites with memorable opening lines. He then acknowledged God and his mother in a short spoken break. Next, he sprinkled in the ballad “Superstar” before a marching band noisily joined him on “Love in This Club.” The two singers sang “My Boo” as they delicately sashayed to cap off Keys’s next performance piece.

And that’s when party mode started. One of the most positive songs about adultery in musical history, “Confessions Part II,” was performed by Usher after some crowd-warming work by Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri. He went through “Nice & Slow” (with a quick nod to the song’s current resurgence as a meme) and the sensually intense “Burn” before arriving at “U Got It Bad,” when he performed a lengthy dance routine with a lovable microphone stand.

A shiftless man in white pants stands at a microphone stand, bending backward, as a camera man and another producer worker stand in front of him.
Usher steadily disrobed during his performance, ultimately stripping off a sequined top to reveal nothing but his signature pendant. Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Until now, Usher had been a constant parade of dishabille, switching from a cropped white jacket to a massively sequined sleeveless T-shirt to a white mink coat. Here, he finished the voyage by taking off everything save his distinctive U diamond necklace and a tank top. To be fair, the humorous preshow alert did mention that there may be “possible relationship issues” as a result of the performance.

At this point in the performance, he was singing the best and dancing the most intricately. Holding down an impossible-to-miss spectacular presentation was a small-stage Usher, somewhat unlike the one who performed a residency at the Park MGM Hotel and Casino ten minutes up the road for the most of the last year.

After then, it was all free-form, carefree fun. H.E.R. began with some pushing guitar work before transitioning into “Bad Girl’s” smooth groove. Dancers on skates soon crowded the platform, celebrating the Black roller rink culture of Atlanta. Usher, clad in a shimmering black-and-blue motorcycle outfit, was also skating, and very well at that.

A packed stage featuring Usher, Ludacris, Lil Jon and many others on a stage at the Super Bowl halftime show.
He’s in there somewhere: Usher (stage center), flanked by Ludacris on his right and Lil Jon on his left, ended his flashy halftime spectacle with a rousing finale.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A celebration has begun in Atlanta. He briefly appeared on the Will.i.am song “OMG,” which was primarily meant to highlight the similarities between pop-EDM and the almost ten-year-old Atlanta crunk music that came before it. After giving some inspirational yelling, Lil Jon entered and started saying “Yeah!” Some of the sharpest textures in hip-hop were transformed into unavoidable pop by that 2004 partnership. Additionally there was Ludacris, who managed to get in a couple of his sexiest lines on this most sterile of platforms.

This halftime performance conclusion was an absolute blast: a 20-year-old song that still seems futuristic, a wild celebration attended by hundreds of people, and a bridge connecting Black college marching bands to the R&B and hip-hop that they often interpret on the field. Every performer on stage executed the rockaway, thunderclap, muscle, and A-town stomp. Usher yelled, “I took the world to the A,” reminding everyone that, in his hands, the local and the global are one.

original news : THE NEW YORK TIMES

By Jennifer


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