R&B crooner Usher dazzled fans who tuned in to watch the Super Bowl halftime show – bringing out surprise guests including Alicia Keys and rappers Ludacris and Lil Jon – at a historic and unforgettable event.
Celebrities including Sir Paul McCartney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Taylor Swift watched the R&B star perform a string of his greatest hits, from “Caught Up” to “Love in This Club”, at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It might have been Usher’s show, but all eyes were on Swift during the game as she cheered on her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, as his team triumphed in a historic win against the San Francisco 49ers.
At the pre-game, viewers were treated to an acoustic, country-fied rendition of “America the Beautiful” by hip-hop artist Post Malone, while Queen of Country Reba McEntire sang the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
At the halftime show, Usher, 45, was joined by surprise guests including Alica Keys, his duet partner for 2004 single “My Boo”, and rappers Lil Jon and Ludacris for his club bop “Yeah!”. He had previously admitted he would be a “fool” not to perform “Yeah!” during a press conference ahead of his performance.
Other guest stars included Grammy Award-winning R&B artist HER, who delivered a Prince-influenced guitar solo before singing “U Got It Bad”, Usher’s 2001 single that topped the Billboard 200 upon its release.
Usher also impressed his audience with a number of speedy costume changes, whipping out of a white jacket and trousers into a sparkling mesh top, then stripping off before another change into a glittering blue get-up.
But fans were disappointed by the absence of one Justin Bieber, who failed to materialise onstage despite being spotted in a box with his wife, model Hailey Baldwin. Previously mentored by the older pop singer, Bieber collaborated with Usher on his 2011 single “Somebody to Love”, one of his biggest hits.
In his review for The Independent, critic Mark Beaumont described Usher’s halftime show as “a fun, half-memorable mess”, praising the spectacle of roller-skating dancers but suggesting it failed to meet its potential.
“Despite the soft-centred smoothness of his opening R&B segment (‘Caught Up’, ‘U Don’t Have to Call’, a snippet of ‘Superstar’), he’s left a bit breathless by a bout of gentle grooving with his cane-twirling sidekicks,” the review said.
“None of his tunes land anything like a touchdown and, for something so monstrous of budget, the whole thing starts to feel underwhelmingly cabaret.”
Usher’s gig took place after pop queen Rihanna headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in 2023, famously pulling off one of the most dramatic celebrity pregnancy reveals of all time, when she unveiled her pregnant belly in a blood-red boiler suit.
This year, Swift provided much of the entertainment from her private box, where she was joined by A-listers including Hollywood actor Blake Lively, rapper Ice Spice, and pop artist Lana Del Rey, along with the Chiefs’ family and friends.
During the game, she could be seen chugging beer and slamming her empty cup down on the table, in between cheering enthusiastically for Kelce – or else biting her nails whenever the 49ers pulled ahead.
Beyoncé also managed to cause a stir, despite not even being at the game, as she announced the forthcoming release of her new album, Renaissance Part II, on 29 March.
The pop superstar made the announcement in a series of teaser videos during the Super Bowl while her husband, rapper and music mogul Jay-Z, and their daughter Blue Ivy, watched the game from a private box.
The record, a sequel to 2022’s Renaissance, was teased by the Grammy-winning artist, 42, as a country album. Beyoncé also released two singles exclusively on streaming service Tidal – for which she and Jay-Z are shareholders – titled “16 Carriages” and “Texas Hold ‘Em”.
On the pitch, Kelce was heavily involved as his team triumphed over the San Francisco 49ers in a tense game where tempers frayed and more than one scuffle broke out between players.
At one point in the second quarter, Kelce raised eyebrows when he was seen losing his temper and yelling furiously at head coach Andy Reid, bumping into him and causing Reid to lose his footing. After Kelce appeared to grab at Reid’s arms, his teammate Jerick McKinnon de-escalated the row and pulled Kelce away.
There was a nail-biting finish for Swift and her friends as the match ended 19-all, going into overtime for only the second time in Super Bowl history.
Their nerves were not in vain, as the Chiefs came through added time to win Super Bowl 58, prompting a storm of confetti to burst onto the pitch and jubilant scenes of celebration in the stands.