Usher, the iconic R&B legend, set the “Super Bowl LVIII stage ablaze” on Sunday night with a performance that was as electrifying as an Atlanta nightclub. Fresh from a successful 100-show Las Vegas residency and the recent release of his album “Coming Home,” Usher’s long-awaited halftime show was a celebration of hits, hometown pride, and special guests.
Having promised that R&B would take the main stage, Usher left fans eagerly anticipating which songs he would perform and which collaborators would join him. Speculations ran high about surprise appearances, including potential reunions with Lil Jon, Ludacris, and even his protégé, Justin Bieber.
Despite the absence of Bieber, Usher delivered a night to remember, staying true to his word with a lineup that included H.E.R. for “Bad Girl,” Alicia Keys for “My Boo,” and powerhouse performances with “Lil Jon, Ludacris, and will.i.am.” Jermaine Dupri, Usher’s mentor and legendary producer, also had a spotlight moment during the 13-minute extravaganza.
Usher’s performance was more than just a star-studded spectacle; it paid homage to the vibrant Black Atlantan scene of the early 2000s. The show featured nods to Black collegiate life, with dancers showcasing movements inspired by popular shoulder-shimmying dances, reminiscent of Black fraternities like Kappa Alpha Psi. Marching bands spelling out Usher’s name added a touch of the extravagant performances synonymous with historically Black colleges and universities.
The Atlanta nightclub vibes were further intensified with references to the city’s cultural touchstones. Pole dancers paid homage to the historic Atlanta strip club scene, while a thrilling moment saw Usher rollerblading alongside skaters performing tricks—a nod to the significance of roller rinks in Atlantan culture, as depicted in the 2006 film “ATL.”
Usher seamlessly guided the audience through various realms, from the circus-themed spectacular opening to the energetic club scenes and even a futuristic, Tron-inspired finale. Clad in a sparkly, blue-and-black outfit reminiscent of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Usher not only showcased his abs but also paid a moving homage to his roots with the chant, “Take the world to the A.”
In a performance that encapsulated both the fantastical and down-to-earth elements of Atlanta’s culture, Usher delivered a Super Bowl halftime show that was a testament to his musical legacy and heartfelt connection to his hometown. The night was a perfect fusion of hits, entertainment, and a celebration of the rich cultural tapestry of Atlanta.