One of the best-selling artists of all time, Usher has all the key ingredients for a hit-packed mega-medley up his sleeve, from swooning slow-burners and cranked up euro-pop excellence to some huge dollops of R&B nostalgia.
“It’s an honour of a lifetime to finally check a Super Bowl performance off my bucket list. I can’t wait to bring the world a show unlike anything else they’ve seen from me before,” said Usher. “Thank you to the fans and everyone who made this opportunity happen. I’ll see you real soon.”
Ahead of Usher’s big booking, at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024, here are just a few of his staple bangers that should make the cut.
A steamy, quiet storm slow jam written in the tradition of smooth, loved-up R&B, you might expect Climax to go straight for a sexy, and slightly obvious, pun, but instead Usher – with flawless, sultry falsetto – uses it as a metaphor for a relationship where sheer chemistry is no longer enough. Now, things are stalling and rapidly crumbling instead. “Going nowhere fast, we’ve reached the climax,” he croons, “we’re together, now we’re undone.”
Though its Noughties production differentiates it from the more futuristic Climax, 2004’s Burn is another classic Usher slow-jam, with the singer lyrically umming and ahhing about whether he’s done the right thing by calling off a cooling partnership. “Really wanna work this out, but I don’t think you’re gonna change,” he sings, before changing his mind and revising. “I do, but you don’t, think it’s best we go our separate ways.”
After finishing up work on his mega-hit record Confessions, Usher felt that something was still missing; notably, a punchy single to draw a wider audience to slower standouts like Burn. Reluctantly, he headed back to the studio for a series of extra collaborations, resulting in the Southern crunk-influenced dance banger Yeah!. From Lil Jon’s brilliantly ridiculous hypeman contributions – “OKAY!!!! USHER!!!!!” – to silly, uncomplicated lyrics about going out on the pull, it’s no wonder Yeah! was an immediate club favourite.
Released following Usher’s break-up with TLC’s Chili, the candid storytelling of Confessions II prompted a whirlwind of speculation. Written from the perspective of a cheating boyfriend who’s owning up to his “chick on the side” revealing that she’s pregnant, listeners immediately wondered if it was about Usher’s own infidelity. But it turned out the song was narrated by a character, and inspired by the experiences of producer Jermaine Dupri instead. “Cheating is not what caused the relationship to collide and crash,” Usher later told MTV News, setting the record straight. “That ain’t what broke it up.”
U Remind Me
With his third album 8701, Usher fused early-Noughties pop production with some more classic influences, including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway. Produced by Edmund Clement, and the influential R&B producer duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, U Remind Me is just one of that record’s more confessional standouts: “You remind me of a girl, that I once knew,” he sings, putting the brakes on a potential new link-up, “See her face whenever I look at you.” The song bagged Usher his first Grammy.
U Got It Bad
Another 8701 stand-out, U Got It Bad is about that friend we’ve all watched get hopelessly distracted by a new romantic entanglement; overnight they become completely useless at answering the phone, daydream their way through conversations, and breeze through life high on lust alone. If you’re struggling to think of a person who fits this profile then – spoiler alert – it’s probably you.
You Make Me Wanna...
When 1997’s My Way came out, it transformed Usher overnight from the baby-faced crooner on his self-titled debut (in fairness, he was literally 15 years-old at the time) to a nuanced artist with serious sticking power. Rocketing straight to number one, You Make Me Wanna… is all about frog-hopping between early-doors relationships the moment the going gets tough. It’s such a bop that Destiny’s Child released the underrated With Me Part I as an answer song.
DJ Got Us Falling In Love
A decent chunk of 2010s dance-pop – with its thumping, robotic beats – is best forgotten, but Usher gets a free pass for the over-the-top europop genius of his Pitbull collaboration DJ Got Us Falling In Love. The distilled essence of a very specific era, it just about makes the cut over the equally gaudy will.i.am collaboration OMG, another autotune-riddled student union staple.
Another Grammy-winner, My Boo saw Usher linking up for a duet with R&B icon Alicia Keys, and shows a sentimental side to his notoriously sultry oeuvre. Structured as a conversation between two teenage sweethearts who have since risen to respective fame and grown miles apart, both sides long after the simple, straightforward connection they used to have. “I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, but you will always be my boo” Usher sings. Awh.
Love in This Club
As well as referring to himself as “daddy” – a bold move – this brassy slow jam centres on a lofty claim: “I wanna make love in this club”. One imagines Usher probably isn’t singing about the sticky and profoundly unsanitary student unions where Love in This Club became a constantly-repeated staple, and frankly that feels like it’s for the best.