In the Super Bowl's latest halftime showdown, R&B superstar Usher delivered a performance that was big on hits but fell short of Rolling Stone's all-time ranking, coming in at number 18. The 13-minute spectacle, which crammed in 14 tracks, failed to crack the coveted top 10 list where musical legends like Prince and U2 sit comfortably. Usher's set played it safe, devoid of the high-octane surprises often expected at such a high-stakes gig, as Rolling Stone reported, somewhat underwhelmed by the lack of "big thrills."
Despite being stuffed with a nostalgic serving from Usher's storied catalogue, the spectacle still managed to leave room for an emotional nod. Paying homage to late drummer Aaron Spears, the stage featured a golden drum set, left touchingly unoccupied. Spears', who passed away last October and was a fixture in Usher's band, contributing to the award-nominated album "Confessions," was honored subtly but significantly during the show, according to Rolling Stone.
In their critique, Rolling Stone did extend some kudos, applauding Lil Jon for infusing the performance with his characteristic energy, but it appears the bar is set high when nostalgia acts like Aerosmith and the youthful exuberance of Britney Spears back in 2001 continue to dominate their rankings. Interestingly, despite the palpable absence of Justin Bieber from Usher's stage, even though he was in attendance at the game, Rolling Stone couldn't help but name-drop stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Lana Del Ray, who weren't even part of the lineup.
The Athletic had a slightly more forgiving angle, praising the latter half of Usher's show as "excellent." Describing the beginning as shaky, they predicted that the performance would potentially fade into oblivion in the annals of halftime memory, as reported by Fox 5 Atlanta. Yet, Usher's homage to his drummer was a resonant moment. The late Aaron Spears, celebrated by the likes of Ariana Grande to Lady Gaga, left a legacy that was fittingly acknowledged during the high-profile show.
Viewership numbers for the Super Bowl are still under wraps, leaving many to wonder if Usher's performance will make a splash in the ratings. Regardless, DigitalTrends.com holds that performances by Rihanna and Katy Perry continue to lead the pack in audience numbers. Whether Usher's respectful tribute and hit-laden set resonated with audiences enough to break into these ranks remains to be seen.