The Super Bowl, America’s annual excuse to eat greasy snack food, drink beer, watch a slew of advert premieres, and partake in the massive and ever-growing world of legalized sports betting, is approaching, and with it comes one of the most discussed entertainment events of the year: the Super Bowl halftime show. Operating as both an extravagant interlude in the game’s action and a tantalizing draw for those less interested in the concussive spectacle of the championship itself, the Super Bowl halftime show brings in popular and beloved musicians to put on a show perhaps more publicized and discussed than any other in the world. This year, the NFL announced R&B singer Usher as their star, continuing a trend of throwback shows following Super Bowl LVI’s performance by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem.
So, why Usher?
Usher Raymond IV got his start in the music industry in the mid-1990s, and rose to fame with his albums My Way (1997) and 8701 (2001), spawning such singles “Nice & Slow”, “U Remind Me”, and “U Got It Bad”. A few years later he clearly established himself as one of the most popular artists in the world with the Diamond-certified Confessions (2004), off of which he released a total of four #1 charting singles, including “Yeah!” and “My Boo.” Usher’s success continued into the late 2000s and early 2010s with hits like “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” and “OMG”. Usher has released five Platinum-certified albums and twenty-six Top 40 charting singles, and currently has over 35 million monthly listeners on Spotify, ranking as the eighty-seventh most popular artist on the platform. On February 9th he will release Coming Home, his ninth studio album and first in nearly six years.
The NFL’s selection of Usher for this year’s halftime show represents a trend of increasing representation of hip hop and R&B artists, following the aforementioned show headed by Dr. Dre at Super Bowl LVI, The Weeknd’s performance at Super Bowl Super Bowl LV, and Rihanna’s appearance last year at Super Bowl LVII. The NFL Super Bowl halftime show was long headed almost solely by rock and pop artists, with the late 2010s featuring artists such as Coldplay, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake. LVI’s halftime show received particular acclaim, later winning an Emmy.
The Super Bowl has experienced diminishing ratings throughout the past decade, with Super Bowl LVII pulling in a 40.0 Nielsen rating compared to Super Bowl XLVII’s 46.4. In an era beset by the decline of cable television and ongoing concerns about the short- and long-term effects of the sport of football on its players, the NFL and its broadcasting partners have put, if anything, even more emphasis on televisual spectacle and the sports-watching experience writ large. Usher himself has expressed his gratitude at being given the opportunity, describing it as “an honor of a lifetime”.
Super Bowl LVIII, featuring the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, is scheduled to begin at 3:30 PM on Sunday, February 11th, 2024 on CBS and its streaming platform, Paramount+.
Sophomore Gavin Myer is a Contributing Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.