(February 12, 2024).  The verdict is in: Usher killed the Super Bowl Halftime Show on Sunday night (Feb. 11), with many saying it ranked among the greatest of all time, right up there with those by Prince, Michael Jackson, U2, and Beyoncé.

And while curmudgeons, fuddy-duddies, and people who simply don’t like his style of music (or him) will likely find fault with the show, the general consensus — by most objective measures — is that he straight-up nailed it.

The opinions will vary (and naysayers will say he didn’t belong, he wasn’t proven enough, it was too Black…) but here are five easy reasons that Usher’s show received mostly rave reviews and is considered by many an instant classic!

One. He sang the hits… literally.

Usher performs the No. 1 song “Burn” as images of fire surround the stadium and engulf the stage (Feb. 11, 2024).

First of all, Usher has (too) many hits to choose from in his 30-year catalogue, from 1994’s career-launching top-ten R&B single, “Think of You” (I still have the cassingle somewhere in my storage) to the songs from his latest album, Coming Home, which is slated to debut in the top three of next week’s Billboard 200 (dated Feb. 24).

Squeezing 30 years of hits — including 13 No. 1 songs on the R&B chart and nine Hot 100 toppers (from eight gold, platinum, multi-platinum or diamond-certified albums) — into a 14-minute performance is no easy task.

Not only did he pick the right ones — judging by the reactions online and in the room where I watched the performance — but he actually sang them.  There was no lip-syncing; his mic (and those of his collaborators) was hot the whole time.  Too many times we’ve seen high-profile performers, particularly those with energetic dance routines as an essential part of their stage shows, lip-sync their way through the hits while focusing more on their elaborate stage setups, dazzling light shows, and highly synchronized dance steps.

Usher not only excelled at all the technical stuff, but he clearly had the energy and the chops to nail the singing part as well.

Two. He bridges eras (generations and genres).

Usher is far older now (45) than I was (28) when I purchased his first big hit “Think of You,” which he released at age 15; but still young enough to be considered relevant by those who are in their 20s today.

Usher is that very likable living legend who, with 30 years of hit songs under his belt, can literally be placed among those other multi-generational icons (like, dare I say, Prince and, double-dare me to say, Michael).  Or at least this generation’s version of them. He was literally topping the charts when the “Rock and Roll Era” (1955-2000) gave way to the hip-hop era (2000-present) and is arguably the biggest male R&B artist today whose immense catalogue bridges both.

His halftime show brought something for those of my generation as well as the millennials and Gen-Z folks who grew up listening to him and who still appreciate some good ol’ R&B (and who, like it or not, believe he represents to them what MJ and Prince did for us decades ago). 

Three. The Collaborators.

Alicia Keys and Usher perform her “If I Ain’t Got You” before launching into their No. 1 duet, “My Boo” (Feb. 11, 2024).

A sure sign of respect for any artist — especially one who’s been in the game for as long as Usher has — is when his former collaborators join him onstage to deliver the hits.  Of course, there’s the “who’s gonna turn down the chance to play on the biggest stage ever?” aspect to this, but the fact that nearly every collaborator on Usher’s biggest hits — from Alicia Keys (“My Boo”) to Will.i.am (“OMG”) and from Jermaine Dupri (“Confessions Part 2”) to Lil Jon and Ludicris (“Yeah!”) — showed up for the “My Way” singer means he apparently hasn’t pissed off any of his former colleagues over the past 30 years, or they truly respect him and wanted this show to succeed… and it did.

The H.E.R.-assist on the song “Bad Girl” (with a badass guitar solo befitting the song’s title) was a nice nod to the current generation of entertainers.

Four. A-town, that stage, and those skates.

In about two years, Usher’s stage setup will seem dated as technology continues to evolve and allows even more elaborate visuals for artists to showcase their work.  But Sunday’s halftime stage and laser-light show was one for the (current) ages, especially in the middle of a football game where all that equipment and technology has to be erected and dismantled (and cleared) in the span of 30 minutes (with 15 of those devoted to the performance itself).

And while his dazzling dance moves (including Usher and his friends unapologetically doing the “A-Town stomp” at one point near the end) were sure to wow us (and they did), the roller skates were an ode to the culture in Usher’s Atlanta hometown and brought something totally new to the Super Bowl halftime stage.  

Five. The Nostalgia factor. 

There’s nothing like having a 30-year veteran perform on the grandest stage of all, with that artist still being sharp enough to bring the kind of energy, precision, and vocal command that Usher clearly did.  Yet the technical aspects of his performance were eclipsed by the fact that the songs were familiar to many as they represented a huge part of popular music’s past… an era where (latter-day) R&B still mattered and wasn’t overtaken by hip-hop in what is now a conjoined genre where R&B is the minor player.

Plus, it was clear that Usher was feeding off the energy of those around him — both on the stage and in the stands — as we got a chance to relive our long forgotten youths or younger adulthoods.

But the best reason that Usher’s show worked so well is that it was all Usher and his entourage!  There were no cutaways to all the other high-profile celebrities in attendance grooving to the A-town performer’s hits.  Just fifteen minutes of pure Usher enjoying himself and allowing all of us to do the same!

Usher, surrounded by Ludacris and others, performs his biggest hit, “Yeah!” (Feb. 11, 2024).

What’s hard to like?


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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By DJ Rob

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