Viewers of this upcoming Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show might notice a little something extra: time.
Usher, the velvety-voiced King of R&B and all-around ageless hottie, tells EW that he and his team were very “strategic” while creating his supersized Las Vegas performance.
While most performers are tasked with condensing their entire music catalog into an incredibly tight show that runs around 13 minutes, Usher reveals that he managed to get 15.
“I can’t explain why, but it’s a funny thing that I was able to do and craft,” Usher explains ahead of the big game. “That was a huge strategic thing that happened between me and my agency.“
The 45-year-old says he’s not nervous about performing on the biggest stage in the world (“Anxiety, but no, not nerves”), which he sees as a culmination of his Vegas residency that ran for two years and 100 shows. The Super Bowl will be his 101st show and thus, he says, a time for him to “finally celebrate” what he accomplished.
“I went to Las Vegas with only the belief that people would come because nobody was going anywhere,” he recalls of his shows, which started in 2021. “You have to understand how much of an unwavering belief a person had to have to put together a show after a year of nobody going anywhere and everybody being afraid to be outside for fear of catching COVID or endangering themselves and their families. So the fact that I did that was just truly a matter of belief, and that belief was all positive.“
He continues, “So that moment, that night, I get to finally celebrate in the belief that I could come to Las Vegas and do something that was magical.“
He’s hoping to create some more magic in Vegas, something that leaves a lasting impression on fans like past shows by Prince, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and Beyoncé, among others, did on him. But he says he’s especially inspired by last year’s headliner.
“Rihanna’s was fire because of the choreography and the way they did something that felt like a concert,” he explains. “It actually was a great deal of inspiration [for] how I began to think of my show. If you ever came to my residency, it was all about being immersed — being immersed in an experience that is all of these things that wouldn’t necessarily go together,” citing culture from Atlanta, where he was discovered, as well as L.A., and Broadway’s theatricality.
While condensing all of that into a 15-minute show has proven difficult, Usher considers it “one of the greatest celebrations ever.” And, ultimately, he can’t wait for people for fans old and new to see something that he has called “30 years in the making.“
“I would hope that people would feel excited — whether they knew my music or they just got to meet me for the first time — and that I’m all passion, man,” he adds. “And that this 8-year-old, who now is a 45-year-old, feels just as free as the first time that I thought any of this could be possible.”
Super Bowl LVIII — with the San Francisco 49ers facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs — gets underway Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.