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

Joined by the likes of Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Lil Jon, will.i.am and H.E.R., Usher delivered a slick set that was a throwback to a hit-packed era of the mid-2000s.

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.

5 Essential Usher Songs

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    You Make Me Wanna… (1997)

    Usher

    The first single from his earliest collaboration with the producer Jermaine Dupri, “My Way” shows the hallmarks of their decades-long partnership: a mid-tempo, bouncing track about relationship woes that leaves room for a dance breakdown that defined the song’s video.Full track

  2. album art for Yeah! (2004)
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    Yeah! (2004)

    Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris

    Usher’s longest-charting No. 1 hit, “Yeah!”, which spent 12 weeks in the top spot, was a late add to “Confessions” after the Arista label boss L.A. Reid asked the artist and Dupri to craft a lead single for the album. The result was this eminently danceable Crunk-n-B track with fellow Atlanta artists Lil Jon and Ludacris.Full track

  3. album art for Confessions Part II (2004)
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    Confessions Part II (2004)

    Usher

    Usher wrote this magnus opus of cheating alongside Dupri and Bryan Michael-Cox, weaving a soap opera of infidelity over a sparse drum loop, programmed handclaps and a lilting guitar riff. The single became the third of four No. 1 hits from the album “Confessions.”Full track

  4. album art for Love in This Club (2008)
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    Love in This Club (2008)

    Usher featuring Young Jeezy

    This paean to the bottle service era sees Usher delivering silky R&B seduction over synth-driven production and 808 drums, presaging his later forays into electronic dance music. Jeezy’s cocksure cameo verse turns the smoothly libidinous invitation into a full-on dare. Full track

  5. album art for Climax (2012)
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    Climax (2012)

    Usher

    Though it wasn’t the first of Usher’s pop-leaning EDM collaborations – “OMG” featuring Will.i.am and “Without You” with David Guetta came before – “Climax” was his best marriage of the form, featuring a powerhouse vocal that swells and dives as he laments a love that’s “going nowhere fast.”Full track

Track previews and album art courtesy of

Spotify.

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