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Usher Brings Precise Details to Pop's Biggest Stage: The Super Bowl

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Review

In a halftime set that touched on more than a dozen songs, the R&B star delivered a raucous Atlanta party and a lesson in intimate showmanship.

Usher took center stage at the Super Bowl halftime show in Las Vegas on Sunday night, performing with a phalanx of dancers and a handful of guests.Credit...Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Published Feb. 11, 2024Updated Feb. 12, 2024

A few minutes into Usher's dynamic and sly Super Bowl LVIII halftime show performance Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas came a moment of uncommon, almost startling calm.

Alicia Keys had just appeared, in a sequined red jumpsuit and matching encrusted gown, and rather gratuitously flubbed the opening note of her hit piano ballad "If I Ain't Got You."

She recovered, and as she approached the end of the chorus, you could hear Usher singing in quiet harmony as the camera panned back, settling on the two of them at opposite ends of Keys's piano. Usher picked up the final line of the chorus — alone, smooth and confident, almost whispered — before Keys returned to share the last note.

Allegiant Stadium holds approximately 65,000 people, but in that instant, there were only two. It was one of the quietest sequences in halftime history, a remarkable testament to the gifts of Usher, a performer of precise detail who is enjoyed best with rapt attention.

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Usher was joined by Alicia Keys on Sunday.Credit...Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

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And H.E.R. played guitar during his halftime set.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Most of the rest of the performance — which touched on more than a dozen songs — was grander in scale, designed to fill a football field: A small-bore, granular-gestured showcase gave way to an explosive party. But what this set did so well was make plain that Usher's commitment to minutiae and his capacity for grandeur are fired in the same cauldron. He can control the stage when it is packed to the gills, and he can do it alone.

  1. You Make Me Wanna... (1997)

    Usher

  2. Yeah! (2004)

    Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris

  3. Confessions Part II (2004)

    Usher

  4. Love in This Club (2008)

    Usher featuring Young Jeezy

Track previews and album art courtesy of

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