Usher Super Bowl Halftime Review: A Vegas Party With Alicia Keys, Lil Jon and More

In a jam-packed halftime spectacle, Usher darted through 13 of his hits in a set that cribbed liberally from his recent Las Vegas residency, which itself was a retrospective of his 30-year career.

At Super Bowl LVIII, held in Las Vegas’s Allegiant Stadium, a regal theme was evident from the start as Usher first appeared atop a small stage, seated on a throne, dressed in all white with a white fur cloak wrapped around his shoulders.

Descending a short platform as he sang the opening verse of “Caught Up,” an upbeat single from his landmark “Confessions” album, Usher got right to the kind of kinetic and dance-heavy performance he is known for. He hit the turf to dance amid a phalanx of showgirls and showmen who were outfitted in plumage and sequins before reaching a stage at midfield.

He glided through “U Don’t Have to Call,” a buoyant breakup jam from 2001, hit the infectious high notes that open the R&B serenade “Superstar,” and grooved to a few bars of “Love in This Club” as a marching band blared out the core of the synth-driven song.

Usher then threw the spotlight to Alicia Keys, who played the opening of her hit “If I Ain’t Got You” before he joined her at a red piano for a slower, less physically demanding portion of the performance. As they duetted their 2004 collaboration, “My Boo,” their chemistry was evident when the pair vamped, cooed and, finally, embraced.

The producer Jermaine Dupri has been Usher’s most prolific musical partner and mentor since the duo first worked together on 1997’s “My Way,” Usher’s second studio album. The Atlanta-based Dupri ramped up the energy introducing the bouncing, mid-tempo “Confessions Part II,” the single at the heart of their diamond-selling album of a similar title.

Stationary at a mic stand, Usher wove through “Nice & Slow” — with a nod to the viral social media quiz which asks “It’s 7 o’clock. Where is Usher?” — “Burn” and “U Got It Bad.” Performing in front of a backing band, Usher disrobed, discarding his sequined sleeveless shirt first for a simple tank top, and then going shirtless for the jittering, ticking choreography from the song’s video and which he has employed during his residency.

The artist H.E.R. took the stage to strum the chorus of “Bad Girl” as Usher receded from the spotlight for a costume change. Dancers on roller skates took over and Usher re-emerged for “OMG,” performing his roller dance with will.i.am, who was featured on the single. The two previously shared the Super Bowl halftime stage in 2011, when Usher joined the Black Eyed Peas to perform the same song, which he memorably punctuated by jumping over will.i.am and landing in a full split.

The halftime performance, which spanned 13 minutes, seemed a feat of transitions that deftly wove together such a loaded set list. Its finale was perhaps the least surprising of all. The crunk rapper Lil Jon shouted a few measures of his 2013 megahit “Turn Down for What” before the music segued into “Yeah!” (2004), Usher’s longest-charting No. 1 hit, which spent 12 weeks in the top spot, and the duo was joined by Ludacris for an energetic, Atlanta-referencing culmination.

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