I was a little nervous at the beginning of Usher’s performance. The field at Super Bowl LVII had been criticized, and this year’s game saw Dre Greenlaw tackled in the first half when he tried to run onto the field. Fortunately, Usher’s lower extremities held up as he glided across the turf, paint, and entire stage during his halftime performance.
The roller-skating sequence was by far the highlight of his show, but there wasn’t a single misstep during his entire set. Usher warmed the hearts of millennials across the country, taking us on a musical journey from „Confessions“ to „Raymond v. Raymond.“ While „Yeah“ might not have blasted from the speakers of a rented DJ at your high school homecoming, Usher’s performance was a delight for all generations.
In case people were wondering why tickets to his Las Vegas residency were so expensive, the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show was the answer. At 45, Usher performs with the same energy as the kid whose stage was the Lenox Mall in Atlanta in the early 1990s. It was a well-planned and executed performance, showcasing great stamina and enthusiasm that engaged multiple generations. It was a great idea to include Generation Z as part of the show.
As great as the show was, it’s a little humbling for me to realize that my generation is now the target audience for a Super Bowl halftime show. Since „Think of You,“ I’ve been following and listening to Usher’s career. I still remember the episode of „Parenthood“ when he performed at Zaria’s snowed-in birthday party.
There was a time when a halftime show targeting my generation was risky. The Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show would probably have gone smoothly if Janet Jackson’s bustier had stayed in place. But after that disruption, there were no more spinning rim golf carts ferrying rappers onto the stage. Halftime performances 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 pop music targeting Generation X and millennials is a safe bet. The artists are over 40, and a large portion of the NFL audience grew up with MTV in the 1990s and 2000s. An ideal target audience includes people like me, working on a computer on Super Bowl Sunday.
I can tolerate being reminded of my age if it means I get to enjoy a fun mini-concert during the Super Bowl. As Tracy Chapman showed at the Grammys last week, old-school showmanship still sells. Genuine stage presence is lacking in many current music acts. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Adele are arguably the three biggest draws in the music industry, with Swift being the youngest at 34.
Viral clips of Usher’s residency have proven that his performance level is just as strong as anyone still performing for money. Those who scrolled past Keke Palmer and Taraji P. Henson enjoying his show got a taste of what it was like for a year in Las Vegas.
One of his generation’s greatest artists was spectacular on the Super Bowl stage, setting an example for young artists on how to put on a live show. He brought out Ludacris, Lil‘ Jon, and Jermaine Dupri on skates, and took a Super Bowl audience „to the top.“ Thank goodness the turf didn’t take him down.