Feb 9, 2024 - Music

Atlanta's Usher has his Super Bowl moment

Usher holding a microphone

Usher performs at State Farm Arena in May 2022 in Atlanta. Photo: Derek White/Getty Images for Strength Of A Woman Festival & Summit

For Usher, everything — the days driving on the talent show circuit with his mom, the nonstop tours, the Vegas residency — has led to this moment.

Why it matters: The King of R&B calls this weekend's Super Bowl halftime performance a culmination of a workhorse 30-year career that began as a teenager in Atlanta and has earned him a pop-star platinum card: being known by a mononym.

  • The performance — the announcement of which was just as much a celebration of Atlanta as a place, people and idea as of Usher — puts the city and its music scene on the world stage.

Catch up quick: Jay Z, Usher's regular spades partner, called him in Atlanta during Beyonce's 2023 tour and convinced him to perform at the sold-out event, the singer recently told Shannon Sharpe.

  • Every artist dreams of the opportunity, Usher said.
  • "This is [your] Michael moment," Jay Z told him, referring to the late King of Pop.

What's happening: Expect a few mystery special guests and a medley of hits.

  • According to Sportsbook Review, prop bets include the number of songs (at least 8.5) and likely special guests (Lil Jon wouldn't be a surprise, and Taylor Swift would net a big payday).

In the weeds: Atlanta's R&B and rap scenes are two different worlds, Bem Joiner, the co-founder of creative firm Atlanta Influences Everything, told Axios.

  • Usher, the Dallas-born, Tennessee-raised native, didn't spend nights finding hooks with Outkast in The Dungeon, for one.
  • But he's blended elements of the city's music culture — pulling dance influence from Fonzworth Bentley, for example — into his R&B style.

What we're watching: The singer will enjoy a luxury not shared by many other performers: time. Usher told EW his team managed to secure 15 minutes for the performance, up from the traditional 13 minutes.

  • The game kicks off Sunday at 6:30pm.

The intrigue: Usher told Good Morning America on Feb. 3 that his performance will pay homage to Black artists.

  • "I think about what our country has kind of represented for Black artists, you know, having to at some point go through kitchens to even be able to perform for an audience, but they had to leave back through that same door, fear for their lives as they went to the next state to do the same thing."
  • "So I'm coming through the front door with this one," he said.

What's next: "Coming Home," Usher's first studio album in eight years, drops today.

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