Usher delivered a Las Vegas-appropriate set heavy on glitz, choreography and nostalgia as he headlined Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show, but it was new music from Beyonce and the Taylor Swift cam that grabbed the most attention.
Swift was the night’s most-watched fan as she cheered on her boyfriend Travis Kelce, the tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, from a luxury box with a coterie of famous friends.
Swift’s relationship with the charismatic Chiefs star has been a boon to television ratings, her every move offering headline fodder.
At one point she delighted the internet by chugging a beer – she clocked in at 6.6 seconds – as the jumbotron documented the party trick.
Beyonce was also in attendance with her hip hop mogul husband Jay-Z – and announced a new album during a commercial she did with Verizon, in which she repeatedly tries to “break the internet.”
The ad closes with the line: “Drop the music.”
Moments later on Instagram, Beyonce announced with another clip that her eighth studio album is due March 29. The post didn’t give a title but simply said “Act II”; her blockbuster album “Renaissance” had been branded “Act I.”
Shortly thereafter the Beyhive had two brand new songs to listen to: the twangy “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” implied Beyonce’s new volume of work might be country-heavy, in a nod to her Texas roots.
The announcement came one week after Swift used the Grammy awards to promote her forthcoming studio album “The Tortured Poets Department,” out April 19.
America’s megastars Beyonce and Swift both had major summer tours last year, boosting local economies at every turn.
But while it was Bey and Tay who overshadowed the night, it was Usher who helmed the stage.
The slow jam king held his own as he captured the magic of his late-1990s, early-aughts fame with a 13-minute, career-spanning medley including hits like “Love In This Club” and “OMG.”
It wasn’t his first time at the Super Bowl – Usher appeared as a guest of the Black Eyed Peas in 2011 – but it was the first that he headlined.
His show paied homage to Michael Jackson, who with his 1993 set transformed the halftime gig into one of music’s most-watched – and most-coveted. At one point Usher donned a single glove, a clear nod to the groundbreaking pop artist.
From gyrating among dancers clad in feathers, velvet and gemstones to roller-skating as a marching band took the field, the 45-year-old Usher gave an electric performance that was also an ode to Black culture and music.
The roller skating bit was a recreation of the viral highlight in his Las Vegas concert residency, and saw will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas join him onstage.
“Hey mama, we made it, and now this is for you,” he told the camera before launching into the sultry smash “Love In This Club.”
Alicia Keys appeared midway through at a futuristic red piano, playing a few bars of her own hit “If I Ain’t Got You” before removing a cape to reveal her sparkling red catsuit.
Keys and Usher then performed their duet “My Boo” to the delight of fans and social media.
It wouldn’t be an Usher show if he didn’t eventually lose his shirt, which he dropped for “U Got It Bad.”
That song featured a surprise guest in the form of H.E.R., the enigmatic artist whose sizzling guitar solo was among the show’s highlights.
Usher slayed in perhaps the most predictable song of the night, his banger “Yeah!” which featured appearances from Lil Jon and Ludacris.
It was all-in-all a crowning achievement for Usher, who just released a new album, “Coming Home,” and had talked about his halftime show as marking the transition to the second half of his career.