Usher delivers strong Halftime Show finale, rest of performance falls short

HALFTIME. Usher brought his 2000s R&B hits to the stage for this years Halftime Show at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Fair Use Image: Screen capture from Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show recording)
HALFTIME. Usher brought his 2000s R&B hits to the stage for this year’s Halftime Show at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Fair Use Image: Screen capture from Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show recording)

On Sunday night, at Super Bowl LVIII, contemporary R&B singer Usher delivered a Halftime Show performance that began as a lackluster disappointment, but ended with an upbeat and engaging finale. Usher brought in several big-name artists to sing alongside him, but still, overall, the performance did not compare to the past Halftime Show triumphs of singers like Rihanna and Shakira.

Between quarters two and three of a back-and-forth battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, Usher took to the stage in front of thousands of fans. He opened his set with the 2004 hit, “Caught Up,” appearing in front of the audience in an all-white outfit encrusted in sparkling gemstones. All around him, dancers and acrobats jumped and twirled across the field. Although it was visually exciting, all the action lacked cohesion and was distracting from Usher himself, which wasn’t helped by the fact that his microphone seemed to malfunction, causing his voice to come across as too quiet.


Following “Caught Up,” Usher sang “U Don’t Have to Call,” “Superstar” and “Love in this Club.” The first few tracks didn’t garner a ton of enthusiasm from the audience because these songs are not necessarily well-known to a younger crowd. However, following this, Usher brought out his first guest of the night, Alicia Keys, refreshing the performance with a new face. Decked out in a red costume reminiscent of Rihanna’s from last year’s Halftime Show, Keys began with “Ain’t Got You.” Her voice unfortunately cracked on the opening note, but she recovered and brought her beautiful vocals to an intimate duet with Usher on “My Boo.”

HALFTIME HISTORY. Over the past 10 years, halftime show performers have included artists from R&B, pop, rap and other genres. This year, Usher performed. (© Yadira Inza via (Eliana Mann)

As the show progressed, Usher brought more guests onto the stage, including R&B artist H.E.R., who served primarily as an accompanist on the electric guitar. Additionally, the dancers who had previously overwhelmed the field were transformed into faux fans, surrounding the edge of the stage and cheering. This touch made the show a bit more exciting, but did not contribute much to the actual musical performance.

The final segment of the show was by far the best. Beginning with an epic entrance on roller skates, Usher and joined forces on stage to sing their 2010 crowd-pleaser “OMG.” Then came a brief interlude as Lil John sang the chorus of “Turn Down for What,” and finally, all three singers came together on stage, with the addition of rapper Ludacris, to perform “Yeah!” For once, the performance had real cohesion, as the singers were decked out in black and blue outfits, and the backup dancers moved synchronously. The marching band brought a lively energy to the final song, and laser beams of light moved all around the stadium as the crowd got louder. “Yeah!” was an excellent choice for a final song because of its karaoke-worthy lyrics and dancey feeling.

It would be a mistake to discredit Usher’s successful finale of the Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show, but his shortcomings cannot be overlooked either. For most of the performance, it was difficult to sing along without being a serious Usher fan, but perhaps that is a failure of the people in charge of selecting the headliner, as most of Usher’s popular hits date back to the early 2000s. The visuals on stage did not stand out as very unique or eye-catching, either. However, Usher’s vocals remained steady and pleasing to listen to for most of the performance, and if the rousing spirit of the finale had been carried throughout the entire show, it surely would have been a fantastic crowd-pleaser fit for all kinds of music enthusiasts.

Rating: ★★★

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