Usher brought out Alicia Keys, Lil Jon, H.E.R. & Ludacris for the Super Bowl Halftime show

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Many Halftime performers prerecord their vocals and mostly lip sync through their Halftime performances. Not Usher – he was singing live, Alicia Keys was singing live, and it definitely felt like Ludacris and Lil Jon were doing it live. The one exception was probably H.E.R., who came out with her electric guitar for “Bad Girl” – that was prerecorded, I’m sure. In any case, we knew ahead of time that Alicia would come out with Usher, but Ludacris, H.E.R., Lil Jon, Will.i.am and Jermaine Dupri were surprises, or at least they were not announced ahead of time.

Usher was given more time than previous Halftime acts and he used it well, showcasing his decades-long catalog and putting on a real show – colorful, full of dancing, roller skating, stripper poles, costume changes and so much energy. Here’s the video:

Random, but I loved Usher’s first outfit, the white and silver ensemble which he gradually removed. The black-and-blue ensemble was really cool too, especially since he got Luda and Lil Jon to coordinate. Honestly, this whole thing was Usher reminding everyone that he’s a Beyonce-level entertainer – the live vocals, the dancing, the catalog, the setpieces. It was all really well done and so much fun. My one complaint is that I wish we heard more of “My Boo” and “Bad Girl,” but seeing the whole show, I understand how he wanted to organize the flow. Also: the Alicia Keys tweets were so funny – her voice broke on the very first note!

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Photos courtesy of Getty, Avalon Red.

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50 Responses to “Usher brought out Alicia Keys, Lil Jon, H.E.R. & Ludacris for the Super Bowl Halftime show”

  1. Kate says:

    The sound quality didn’t seem great – a problem every Super Bowl – but he still put on a kick ass show. He has so many bangers!

  2. Meghan says:

    People were amused that I was singing along perfectly with Ludacris but look, I graduated high school in 05 and had my BFF buy us tickets to the Confessions tour, it was my time to be alive!!!!

    • terra says:

      Yes! My Way came out when I was ten, then 8701 and Confessions both when I was a teenager. Usher’s voice was a major component of my childhood. He was also one of my very first celebrity crushes. Now I don’t know much about him as a person, but on a purely aesthetic level no one can deny he’s held up.

      He’s a fantastic performer, with his dancing, voice, and stage presence.

      However, I do have many setlist quibbles. I wish he’d performed more than just a bit of so many songs, and perhaps have extended the inclusion of U Got it Bad. There was a single line of Nice and Slow – why not a verse and chorus of Make Me Wanna? That music video would lend itself to a pretty great center stage moment. U Remind Me? Confessions? And why not one of the singles of the new album he’s promoting? It was a case of having so much material from a thirty-year career and not enough editing.

      • Kimmy says:

        ITA!!! We’re about the same age and I was so bummed there was the teensiest amount of My way. Good lord, that album was amazing and one of my very first CD purchases.

      • Fabiola says:

        My favorite Usher song is you remind me. I wish he would have sung that song instead of HER coming out with the guitar solo.

    • Sunday says:

      lol, guess I wasn’t the only one yesteday rapping ‘they call me U S HER RA YM OND’ around my house nonstop.

      Usher is soo good, he’s having the second act that Justin Timberlake is desperate for and honestly I absolutely love that for both of them, it’s what they both deserve.

    • Rainbow Kitty says:

      Graduated in’99. I knew every song. No shame. 😁😂

      • Sass says:

        I grew up obsessed with Usher’s music – my brother and I both loved singing his stuff together. I was 12/13 when My Way came out – my favorite by him!

        We were all impressed with the show and I immediately pointed out that he was singing live. I still get Vogue magazine and last month’s issue had an interview with him. He has had a Vegas residency (two different venues now) for several years and he stated that they basically tell him whatever he wants, he gets it. Dream big etc. I think a huge reason his show was so fun and had so many entertaining elements is because he lives and works in Vegas and may have incorporated elements of his show into the halftime one. The marching band was awesome! Love a classic throwback to when that was a standard.

  3. OriginalLeigh says:

    Alicia recovered well. The whole show was awesome.

  4. Pinkosaurus says:

    I did not have roller disco on my half time bingo card! It was a great show and perfect for the Super Bowl. I didn’t care for the white suit but it was a good choice for the gradual undressing. I really loved the marching band whenever they were shown! I’m sure they were a highlight for those there in person.

  5. Jais says:

    Respect the live vocals. I just wanted more of the roller skating😂.

    • DeeSea says:

      I loved the roller skating! And damnnnnnn, H.E.R. on the guitar. WOW.

    • koko says:

      My favorite part as well, the roller skating. I grew up skating every Friday and Saturday night and they were so good. Overall I liked the show, the only part of the whole game that I watched.

  6. North of Boston says:

    I’m usually underwhelmed by SB halftime shows as a lot of noise and spectacle.

    But this was SO good- the music, the talent, the choreography, the costuming, the elements included (marching bands, cirque du solie level acrobatics and costumes, roller skating, etc etc). And Usher’s talent was on full display.

    But most of all, the joy, all the featured performers looked like they were having so much fun performing.

  7. Becks1 says:

    I LOVED IT. my boys saw a whole different side of me when Luda came out, LOL. He did a fantastic job.

  8. Fancyhat says:

    I loved the performance of Yeah which it turns out is the only song of Usher’s I know. He did kept it entertaining though.

  9. Harper says:

    My eyes never left the screen — a first for a Super Bowl halftime show. I would even watch it again. Congrats to Usher for achieving the impossible.

  10. K says:

    Yall the roller skating ❤️

  11. Chantal1 says:

    Alicia Keys and Lil Jon appearing had leaked a few days ago. For some bizarre reason, TMZ was really trying to get Justin Bieber to appear with Usher.

    Usher put on a great half time show, despite him not singing more of My Way and You Don’t Have to Call. I’ve been a fan since he first burst on the music scene as a teen. Still, he sang most of my favorites and I had heard how phenomenal his Vegas residency was.
    Alicia Keys looked gorgeous but her voiced cracked on more than one note but she still sounded pretty good. My Boo is one of my favorites and I’ve always loved their video and live performances of this song.
    Loved seeing what little was shown of the Sonic Boom of the South – the Jackson State University marching band. Seeing the roller skating definitely took me back and it was fun to see. I knew yet was still happy that he closed with Yeah. He wore a white glove like Michael Jackson wore and danced like MJ and I thought H.E.R’s guitar solo was a homage to Prince, both artists that influenced Usher.

  12. heygingersnaps says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Usher’s performance! Such nostalgia. Can’t believe he’s 45 years old!
    Bravo Usher 👏🏼

  13. Melody Calder says:

    It was great I only wish it hadn’t been such a small sampling of his hits. As soon as I was excited about which song he was singing, it was over. It felt like it was 1 line, big band music, a new song 1 line, band music… I wanted a tad bit more time on the songs

  14. Jilliebean says:

    OMG it was one of the worst halftime shows in years. That and the weekend. It was painful and yet boring as hell. He was given way too much time to perform.

  15. TIFFANY says:

    I got my tix for Usher’s show in October. If that was a taste of what the tour is gonna be like, I cannot wait.

  16. Rainbow Kitty says:

    People saying “It WaS ThE wOrSt EvEr.” What show were you watching?? The sound was going in and out a bit…. does that at nearly every performance. He was singing live, dancing and sweating his b@lls off. His guests were amazing. What exactly do people expect out of 14 minutes? The roller skating part was cool, marching band sounded amazing. It was a fun show. Just mho. <3

    • Korra says:

      I noticed a generational divide with those “worst” comments, with the majority coming from Gen Z. I feel sorry for them because the music industry is basically getting killed in this era and sans Taylor Swift and maybe a few other artists, they won’t see the same level of artistic domination that previous generations got to enjoy. But man, are they an especially pessimistic generation.

  17. Concern Fae says:

    On the live vocals: I have a friend who’s been done the vocal mixing for major tours, including Madonna. Especially for televised events, they always have a prerecorded track. The mixer and the vocalist decide how much live and how much prerecord will go into the mix, and where. They no longer use studio recordings which are too obviously fake. They’ll go through audio from rehearsals, going through it, so they have a start to finish high quality “live” vocal. Some moments might get sweetened with an overdub. And they usually leave in a “flub,” so people will assume it’s live.

    ETA realized I didn’t make my main point. “Live” vocals for a show like the Super Bowl are a mix of live and recorded, with a highly paid professional listening to the audio from the stage and deciding what the balance of live and rehearsal vocals should be.

    • Kate says:

      Very interesting! And that makes sense, especially for an event like the SB halftime show which is not primarily set up for a concert and so there may be more need for reliance on pre-recorded tracks to help make up for any dips in sound from it being live. Still, I thought he did a great job.

    • North of Boston says:

      Thanks for the insight!

      That makes perfect sense, it not only gives you backup in case something happens to the live sound feed from the field, stage … since dead silence broadcasting worldwide would be bad, it gives the sound engineer the chance to do their thing to give viewers the best experience possible, using the artists actual performances (live that day or recorded live during rehearsal). The skill, judgment, reflexes, composure required of the sound professionals to do that in real time is next level!

  18. Nicole says:

    Big night for Atlanta. Great show!

  19. Grant says:

    IDK, I’m going to be a bit contrarian and say that I thought the dodgy live vocals were kind of a distraction, at least in the beginning. I appreciate the commitment to artistry but I think the acoustics in a massive stadium throw way too many variables into the mix and I could hear it last night, especially with Alicia’s performance. Still enjoyed the half-time show though!

    My favorites of all time are still Beyonce’s, J.Lo’s/Shakira’s, and Gaga’s!

  20. Melissa says:

    I may not be in the best position to judge as a Mexican who doesn’t like (American) football and didn’t see the show and much less the game, but from the instant I read Usher would be the halftime show performer I was completely underwhelmed. Other than Yeah, he doesn’t have any other hits worldwide so I had no expectations whatsoever. And going by the comments and memes from Mexicans on social media, the underwhelming feeling was shared by many of us. *shrug* So I get it if Americans thought it was a great show, and not to sound like an old man yelling at clouds, but the Super Bowl halftime show should go back to headlining rock bands like in the 2000s. That’s when the shows were worth watching.

    • North of Boston says:

      I’m thinking, yeah, if you didn’t see the show that probably would make it hard for you to judge how good it was or wasn’t.

      A show can be good without being to someone particular’s preferred musical genre or even if I contains music not everyone knows or thinks of as “hits”. I only recognized 2 songs and thought it was really good and incredibly entertaining.

    • DaniB says:

      Sooooo rock is the only genre that you feel is worth having a platform at the Super Bowl? I’m trying really hard to be open minded to your comments, but I have noticed from a particular subset of other minorities that whenever black people or artists are given any sort of shine or opportunity, they are judged be try harshly and their performances are condemned. It’s reading as very anti-black.

      • Sass says:

        I agree. I hear almost every year by almost every white guy I know that they wish they’d do rock again. They’re tired of pop/nobody cares about r&b/most football fans are rock fans etc. I’m like, most of the rock groups you want have done it and/or are too old/missing longtime members/are disbanded because they’re dead.

        As we get older, songs and artists from our youth become standard for Super Bowl halftime AND Vegas residencies. Every now and then someone fresh from the zeitgeist like Gaga will be the halftime performance. But like who y’all wanna see up there?

        I do think it’s a bit of a dog whistle and I can’t understand why people can’t just enjoy the artistry, creativity, effort and nostalgia. Just because it’s not your thing doesn’t make it worthless. Plenty of people found value and joy in it.

      • Sass says:

        Sorry, adding for clarification that I agree with DaniB

    • Linda says:

      @Melisa
      Maybe Mexicans do not know Usher but trust and believe the rest of the world knows him. I am Nigerian and Usher is huge here and on the continent. His music has been a constant for more than a decade.

    • Fabiola says:

      Usher has a ton of hits. I’d rather listen to him than a rock band. I love how the halftime shows have given my generation their performers like Usher, Shakira, Rihanna, lady Gaga, Dt. Dre, Snoop

  21. Sass says:

    Tried to edit but the site crashed. Kids who were in high school during Y2K are in their late 30s and 40s now, that era was dominated by pop, r&b, hip hop, those are the musicians from that generation that were ubiquitous so that is now being reflected again in Vegas shows, halftime shows, and supermarket aisles 🤣 alt rock and pop punk were big too but many of those bands already have dead original members or the bands are no longer together. Two examples include Foo Fighters and Blink-182.

  22. Bobbi says:

    I didn’t think it was a bad show but it was just … bland. Once you’ve seen Beyonce or Prince … you just want that quality. You know what’s possible and you want it again.
    Like a man who’s lays it down well and sets a standard. 🙂
    Last night’s show will not go into the greatest hits reel in one’s mind. 🙂

  23. TP says:

    Part of me REALLY wanted Keke Palmer to show up for a bit! I loved the half-time show!

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