Usher will take the field for the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 11, marking the first time the R&B superstar will headline one of the world’s biggest stages.
Anticipation for the event has been building ever since the eight-time Grammy winner was announced in September — with good reason. The 45-year-old singer, who self-released his first album in almost eight years, Coming Home, on Feb. 9, has hinted at major (A-list) surprises, a longer-than-usual performance and a set list representing 30 years of career-spanning hits. He might even roller skate.
The entertainer will also be the first independent artist to lead the halftime show after he left his longtime record label, RCA.
“I’m so ready for it to happen,” Usher told Billboard in January. “I just want to sing louder than I’ve ever sang; dance harder than I’ve ever danced. I want to celebrate the 30 years of this career where I’m very fortunate to have made songs and moments with people that they will remember forever.”
Landing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is not lost on Usher.
“To have R&B have the main stage at the Super Bowl is a major thing for me,” the “Confessions” crooner told Good Morning America on Feb. 2. “I think about what our country has represented for a Black artist having to, at some point, go through kitchens to even be able to perform for an audience. They had to leave back through that same door [and] fear for their lives as they went to the next state to do the same thing.
“So, I’m coming through the front door with this one,” Usher said. “I think about all of the R&B performers who I carry in this moment.”
His set is expected to be 15 minutes long, instead of the usual 13 minutes. Securing additional time was “a huge strategic thing that happened between me and my agency,” Usher told Entertainment Weekly.
He’s also approaching the performance like an extension of his successful Vegas residency, Usher: My Way, which ended in December after 100 shows. “I get to finally celebrate in the belief that I could come to Las Vegas and do something that was magical,” he told the outlet.
His well-received residency marked a turning point for Usher, who at one point considered leaving music and transitioning into acting full time.
“[I] had the hope that I could arouse people enough to come to Las Vegas and celebrate with me. And [My Way] turned into, not only the most successful moments of Las Vegas history, but one of the most successful moments of in my life,” he shared with the Hollywood Reporter.
Like previous halftime performers, Usher won’t get paid for the high-profile gig, though the performer’s production and travel expenses are covered by the NFL, a league spokesperson confirmed to Forbes in 2016.
Has Usher performed at the Super Bowl before?
When the Black Eyed Peas headlined the Super Bowl XLV halftime show in 2011, Usher appeared onstage as a special guest with will.i.am. His entrance midway through the set was nothing short of epic.
Dressed head-to-toe in all white, Usher descended from the rooftop of Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, joining will.i.am for a futuristic performance of “OMG,” their 2010 chart-topping hit. Usher’s two-minute cameo showcased his tightly choreographed dance moves, smooth vocals and a scene-stealing moment where he leapt over the Black Eyed Peas frontman and landed in a split.
The halftime show that year was widely panned, but the Associated Press praised Usher’s portion of the performance, suggesting he “should have been the headliner.”
At a Super Bowl press conference in Las Vegas on Feb. 8, the “U Got It Bad” singer admitted there was a snag to his entrance.
“Oddly enough, there was a moment that only I think I remember,” he said. “My hand got caught in the wire that was holding me 30 feet in the air and I almost missed my first mark.”
Still, he credited his brief but memorable experience in 2011 as the stepping stone toward realizing his headlining dream.
“It made me really passionate about eventually getting this moment that I’m getting ready to have,” he explained.
Set list, guest list
Predicting what songs will make it into the spectacle remains a guessing game. It’s hard to imagine a set without some combination of Usher’s past hits like “Yeah!,” “Confessions Part II,” “U Remind Me,” “U Got It Bad,” “Burn,” “Caught Up,” “My Way,” “My Boo” and “You Make Me Wanna….”
Usher acknowledged the difficulty he had encapsulating his three-decade-long career into a tightly packed Super Bowl halftime set, all but confirming he won’t be onstage alone.
“I think I made it easy for myself when I decided to have featured artists on songs that became hit records. … I have definitely gone through a lot of ideas of who I could have go through this moment with me,” he teased at the press conference.
A seven-minute Hangover-inspired short film Apple released on Feb. 8 features Usher’s “Yeah!” collaborators Ludacris and Lil Jon, along with Taraji P. Henson, Anderson .Paak, Blue Man Group, J Balvin, Wesley Snipes, Criss Angel and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Soundtracked by 14 of Usher’s hit songs, the short may offer the only official setlist clues.
Songs old and new
There’s a solid chance a new song could slip in. Usher alluded to a set list that celebrates his past, present and “where we’re heading in the future,” he said at the press conference.
With his latest album, Coming Home, released two days before his halftime show performance, it could work in his favor to include something new — such as “Ruin,” his current single featuring Nigerian singer-producer Pheelz, or “Good Good” with 21 Savage and Summer Walker.
The singer posted the 20-song album track list in January, revealing additional collaborations with H.E.R., Burna Boy, Latto, The-Dream and his duet remix of BTS member Jungkook’s single, “Standing Next to You.” (Jungkook is out of the question as a potential in-person guest at the big game; he’s currently fulfilling mandatory military service.)
After the big game
On May 4, Usher will headline the Lovers & Friends Festival in Las Vegas, where he’s poised to perform his career-defining album, Confessions, in celebration of its 20th anniversary.
Then, from Aug. 20 through Oct. 31, he will hit the road on a 41-night North American arena tour, “Past Present Future,” which opens in Washington, D.C., and will hit 17 major cities before wrapping up in Chicago.
It will mark his first proper concert tour since “The UR Experience,” which traveled to 50 cities in North America and Europe over a five-month span in 2014 and 2015.
Super Bowl LVII kicks off Sunday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS and will stream on Paramount+.
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