I was a little nervous at the start of the Usher performance. The field at Super Bowl LVII had been criticized, and the one at this year’s game took out Dre Greenlaw in the first half while he was simply trying to run out onto the field. Fortunately, Usher’s lower extremities held up as he glided across the grass, paint, and all over the stage during his halftime performance.
Will Aaron Rodgers turn the Jets into instant contenders?
The roller skating sequence was by far the best part of his show, but there was nothing close to a dud during his entire set. Usher warmed millennial hearts throughout the country taking us on a musical journey from My Way to Raymond vs. Raymond. But even if “Yeah,” was not blowing through a DJ for hire’s speakers during your high school homecoming, Usher’s showmanship was enjoyable for all ages.
In case people were puzzled as to why tickets for his Las Vegas residency were so expensive, the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show is the reason. At 45, Usher performs with the same energy as the kid whose stage was Lenox Mall in Atlanta during the early 1990s. He is not just pop-locking in circles. It was an excellently planned and executed performance with great endurance and enthusiasm that included multiple generations. Bringing Gen Z in with H.E.R. as a part of the show was a great touch.
As great as the show was, for me, it is a bit humbling to realize that my generation is now the safe, target audience for a Super Bowl halftime show. I have been watching and listening to Usher’s career since, “Think of You.” I still remember the episode of The Parent ‘Hood when Zaria’s birthday party got snowed in and he performed at her house.
There was a time when a halftime show directed at my generation was dangerous. The Super Bowl XXVIII halftime show probably would have gone off without a hitch if Janet Jackson’s bustier had stayed in place. However, after that malfunction, there were no more golf carts with spinning rims driving rappers to the stage. Halftime acts in the years following that fiasco included Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Since Jay-Z decided to get involved in planning the festivities, the NFL has realized that Gen X and Millenial pop music is safe. The artists are 40-plus, and a large swath of the NFL audience is made up of people who grew up with the MTV of the 1990s and 2000s. A good target audience is people like me who are working in front of a computer on Super Bowl Sunday.
I can deal with being reminded of my age if it means that I can be treated to a mini-concert during the Super Bowl that is fun to watch. As Tracy Chapman showed during The Grammys last week, old-school showmanship still sells. True stage presence is lacking in a lot of current music. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Adele are arguably the three biggest draws in music. Swift is the youngest of the three at 34.
Viral clips from Usher’s residency have proved that his performance level is as good as anyone still performing for money. Those who have scrolled past Keke Palmer and Taraji P. Henson thoroughly enjoying his show got a small taste of what it was like in Las Vegas for a year.
One of the best performers of his generation was spectacular on the Super Bowl stage and gave the young artists an example of how to put on a live show. In the process, he broke out the skates, Ludacris, Lil’ Jon, and Jermaine Dupri, and took a Super Bowl audience “to the A” in the process. Thank goodness the grass didn’t take him out.