The singer, 45, stunned in an all-white ensemble as he made his debut on the Allegiant Stadium stage on Sunday, February 11. After opening with a few of his most notable hits, including “Love in this Club” and “Caught Up,” Usher’s first surprise guest, Alicia Keys, appeared on stage for a rendition of her hit “If I Ain’t Got You” before the twosome launched into their famous duet, “My Boo.”
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Usher was then joined by Jermaine Dupri before H.E.R. stepped out with her guitar for a shortened version of their song “Risk It All” before delivering a few fan favorites like “Let It Burn” and “Confessions.” When he disappeared for a quick change, Lil Jon popped up on the field to perform “Turn Down for What.”
Back in a new black and shimmering blue getup moments later, roller skaters circled the R&B singer as he was joined by will.i.am for “OMG” and then by Ludacris and Lil Jon to close down his show with his 2004 hit single, “Yeah.”
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Prior to the halftime show, Usher confirmed that his performance would include special guests, telling Vogue that his set was “specifically curated in my mind to have R&B take the main stage” and his collaborators would represent the R&B genre. “Not just R&B music,” he added, “but R&B performance, R&B connection, R&B spirit.”
The show typically lasts 13 minutes, but Usher revealed earlier this week that his vision required 15 minutes of the audience’s time. “I can’t explain why, but it’s a funny thing that I was able to do and craft,” he told Entertainment Weekly on Wednesday, February 7. “That was a huge strategic thing that happened between me and my agency.”
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While the performance was longer than usual, Usher had high expectations for viewers’ reactions. “[It is] one of the greatest celebrations ever,” he said. “I would hope that people would feel excited — whether they knew my music or they just got to meet me for the first time — and that I’m all passion, man. And that this 8-year-old, who now is a 45-year-old, feels just as free as the first time that I thought any of this could be possible.”
In another pre-Super Bowl interview, Usher teased how his set would honor the Black musicians who came before him.
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“I think about what our country has kind of represented for Black artists, you know, having to at some point go through kitchens to even be able to perform for an audience, but they had to leave back through that same door, fear for their lives as they went to the next state to do the same thing,” he told Good Morning America on February 2. “So I’m coming through the front door with this one.”
Usher went on to explain that he wanted to pay tribute to the individuals who helped him along his musical journey.
“I didn’t start where I am now, and I didn’t get there by myself,” he noted. “So, everybody that has been a part of it, I’m carrying them with me. All of my fans, my loved ones, the people who may have felt like they have been forgotten, they haven’t. I’m carrying you right with me when I walk on that stage that night.”
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