Usher will headline the halftime show at next year’s Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, organizers announced Sunday, bringing one of the Strip’s most talked-about live acts to the biggest stage in pop music.
The singer and dancer with a deep catalog of R&B and pop hits — among them “U Remind Me,” “Yeah!,” “Burn,” “Love in This Club,” “OMG” and “Climax” — is set to perform during the NFL’s televised championship game on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium.
“It’s an honor of a lifetime to finally check a Super Bowl performance off my bucket list,” Usher, 44, said in a statement. “I can’t wait to bring the world a show unlike anything else they’ve seen from me before.”
Jay-Z, whose entertainment company Roc Nation struck a deal in 2019 to produce the NFL’s high-profile musical offerings, called Usher “the ultimate artist and showman” and hailed “his flawless singing and exceptional choreography.”
Raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., and in Atlanta, Usher (whose last name is Raymond) released his debut album at age 15 and broke out with 1997’s “My Way,” which drew comparisons to Michael Jackson and which spun off the first of his nine Hot 100-topping singles in the heavy-breathing “Nice & Slow.” His 2004 LP “Confessions” sold more than 1 million copies in its first week and went on to be certified diamond for sales of 10 million. Usher has scored 28 top 10 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart and won eight Grammy Awards; his 2022 concert for NPR’s Tiny Desk series has been viewed more than 18 million times on YouTube and generated a popular meme.
Last year, the singer, whose most recent studio album came out in 2016, launched a residency at Las Vegas’ Park MGM that quickly went viral thanks to his interactions with famous fans including Taraji P. Henson, Issa Rae, Saweetie and Keke Palmer. The show is scheduled to run through early December.
Usher’s Super Bowl performance will be the fifth halftime show overseen by Roc Nation following February’s appearance by Rihanna, last year’s hip-hop extravaganza with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar and earlier performances by the Weeknd and the duo of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.
Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL raised eyebrows when it was announced given the rapper’s past pronouncements about the league in the wake of its treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who accused the NFL of blackballing him as a result of his kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence and racial injustice. The pact, which Jay-Z had framed as an opportunity to “inspire change,” attracted further attention last year after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and its 32 teams in federal court, alleging that he and other Black coaches had been blocked from high-level leadership positions due to discriminatory hiring practices.
Roc Nation’s CEO, Desiree Perez, told The Times last year that she understood the perception among some that the NFL’s recruiting her company was a “cynical move” meant to repair the league’s image. “OK,” she said. “As long as we can go in and do things they would not normally do — if we can reach people that we normally wouldn’t reach with a message — then that for us is success.”
Ratings for Rihanna’s halftime performance, which she used to reveal that she was pregnant with her second child, were the highest of all time, according to Nielsen, which said the telecast drew more than 121 million viewers. The show also introduced a deal with Apple Music as halftime’s sponsor following a long run by Pepsi in that role.