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Alicia Keys

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2020 GRAMMY Awards Viewer's Guide: Where To Watch Music's Biggest Night

Don't miss a beat at the 62nd GRAMMYs—here's your complete guide on how to Un-Expect Everything on Jan. 26

GRAMMYs/Jan 15, 2020 - 07:25 am

The 2020 GRAMMY Awards are mere days away—are you ready?

This year, Music's Biggest Night airs live on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS. Hosted for the second straight year by 15-time GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys, excitement has been mounting as more and more performers are announced, including  AerosmithBillie EilishAriana GrandeLizzoDemi LovatoBlake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.

To gear up for all the action, here are a few more ways to catch your favorite performers, presenters, nominees and winners at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards.

Stream The Premiere Ceremony

Start your GRAMMY Sunday, Jan. 26 the right way, by streaming the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony right here on GRAMMY.com. You'll find out who wins the first GRAMMY Awards of the evening and catch amazing performances from a wide variety of nominees. What better way is there to gear up for the main event?

Walk Down The Red Carpet

Catch a glimpse of music's biggest stars in real-time as we stream all the red carpet arrivals and exclusive interviews live from Los Angeles right here on GRAMMY.com at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT. 

Go Backstage

Don't miss your exclusive second-screen experience by visiting GRAMMY.com during the show for all the highlights from on-the-ground, show-stopping performances, exclusive backstage access, and more. You can also keep find out who takes home GRAMMY Gold in real-time with our leaderboard and hear from the winners themselves in interviews, acceptance speeches and more.

Get Insights From Watson

Want more from your GRAMMY coverage? This year IBM is enhancing the fan expereince with the all-new GRAMMY Insights with Watson, which will analize red carpet video and audio in real-time using artificial intelligence to generate artist insights that will be overlaid during the livestream. Together with this inventive use of AI, IBM and the Recording Academy will surface new information to give die-hard music fans a better, more engaging experience.

Socialize It

Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube for up-to-the-minute info and insight on all things 2020 GRAMMYs. Like, comment and share to your heart's content on GRAMMY Sunday, and don't forget to use #GRAMMYs.  

And The GRAMMY Goes To... Your Inbox

What better way to relive the highlights than the exclusive GRAMMY Newsletter? You'll receive a special email blast with the best-of-the-best from Music's Biggest Night. Sign up below and don't miss a beat at this year's GRAMMYs!

Demi Lovato To Perform At 2020 GRAMMY Awards On Jan. 26

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys perform  at the 77th annual Tony Awards in New York City, Sunday, June 16.
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys perform "Empire State Of Mind" at the 77th annual Tony Awards on June 16.

Photo: Mary Kouw

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2024 Tony Awards Recap: Musical Theater Wins And Exciting Performances

From the big wins for "Merrily We Roll Along" to "The Outsiders" taking home Best Musical and "Suffs" unexpected win, musicals made a splash at the 2024 Tonys.

GRAMMYs/Jun 17, 2024 - 05:36 pm

Broadway had a jam-packed slate of musicals this year, with everything from originals to adaptations and highly anticipated revivals. It would only follow, then, that it would be a busy race toward the 77th Tony Awards

Fifteen musicals were eligible for nomination this year, up from nine in 2023. Fittingly, the June 16 telecast from Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater in New York City had some dramatic surprises — especially in the music-related categories. 

One race that was anyone’s game was Best Musical. While many thought Alicia Keys' "Hell’s Kitchen" would take the big win, the award went to "The Outsiders." Featuring music by folk duo Jamestown Revival, the book/film adaptation won a handful of awards, including Direction Of A Musical for Dayna Taymor. It was a landmark year, in which four of the five nominees for direction were women.  

Broadway is perhaps trying to capitalize on pop music fans more due to post-pandemic struggles and the reputation of Broadway being for the elderly elite. The uptick in pop stars gracing the Great White Way led the New York Times’ Michael Paulson to declare that Broadway was entering its pop era; fittingly half of the eligible new musicals had scores composed by people who primarily work as recording artists. 

Broadway is rife with recording artist-helmed scores and jukebox musicals, including Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Fatboy Slim, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, the Who, and Jamestown Revival. Recording artist-driven musicals were also among some of the notable snubs at the Tonys. Shows that failed to secure Best Musical or Original Score nominations included Ingrid Michaelson for "The Notebook," Barry Manilow for "Harmony," Huey Lewis for "The Heart of Rock and Roll," and Britney Spears for "Once Upon a One More Time."

The music categories did offer up some big name winners. Best Original Score was set to be an interesting category this year because a play, "Stereophonic," with music by Arcade Fire’s Will Butler was in the running. However, the suffragette musical "Suffs" written and starring Shaina Taub took home the award. She also scored Best Book of a Musical, which was predicted by several experts. "Stereophonic" did win five awards total including Best Play and Sound Design Of A Play. 

Orchestrator and musical director Jonathan Tunick expectedly won Best Orchestrations for "Merrily We Roll Along." While the orchestrations aren’t terribly different from the original production, the Sondheim show flopped when it first opened in 1981. Yet the "Merrily" revival has found huge success due to the strength of the music and its three famous leads — perhaps the biggest name on the show's Playbill,  Daniel Radcliffe, won  Best Performance By A Featured Actor In A Musical.

Radcliffe was joined in the winners’ circle by costar "Merrily" Jonathan Groff, who took home Best Performance By An Actor in a Leading Role In A Musical. Costar Lindsay Mendez lost out on Best Actress in a Featured Role of a Musical to "Hell’s Kitchen’s" Kecia Lewis, whose performance in the Alicia Keys bio-musical was very well reviewed. Considered a front runner for Best Musical, "Hell’s Kitchen" only ended up taking home two awards: Lewis’ actress award and Best Performance by a Leading Actress In A Musical, which went to Maleah Joi Moon, who was the frontrunner in predictions.  

Beyond wins and upsets, performances were the highlight of the Tonys. "The Outsiders" has been garnering praise for its rumble scene, a segment of which made up the show’s Tonys performance, complete with rain. Meanwhile, "Merrily" featured its three stars with a sweet rendition of "Old Friends." Other notable performances showcased the "wow-factors" from many of the nominated shows, including a number from the passionate dance-focused show, "Illinoise," and circus tricks in the number from "Water for Elephants." Jay-Z and Alicia Keys brought the audience to their feet with their performance of "Empire State Of Mind" from "Hell’s Kitchen." Meanwhile, "Suffs" leaned into the history lessons of the show.  

Non-nominee performances that stood out include a Fosse-fueled tribute to Chita Rivera, which also included a dance from "West Side Story" performed by host Ariana DeBose (who won an Oscar for the 2021 re-make for the role of Anita, which Chita Rivera originated on Broadway). Nicole Scherzinger, who will appear in "Sunset Boulevard" next season, sang the "In Memoriam." Speaking of West End, the London-transfer production of "Cabaret" included an immersive rendition of "Willkommen," led by Eddie Redmayne, who got dragged on social media and in the press for the clown-like performance many found "terrifying." 

Next year we will be getting even more pop-artist driven musicals, including Elton John leading the charge with two musicals in the works, "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Tammy Faye." Other notable upcoming shows will have music by John Legend, Elvis Costello, Nas, Neko Case, and Mitski. Plus, a production of "Romeo and Juliet" will feature music by frequent Taylor Swift collaborator (as well as 2024 Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical) Jack Antonoff

50 Years In, "The Wiz" Remains An Inspiration: How A New Recording Repaves The Yellow Brick Road 

 

“The Outsiders” Broadway cast.
“The Outsiders” Broadway cast.

Photo: Miller Mobley

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New Broadway Musicals To See This Spring: "Hell's Kitchen," "The Wiz" & More

Broadway’s newest musicals have something for everyone, from works by GRAMMY-winning artists, to highly-anticipated revivals. Read on for everything you need to know about the new musicals appearing on Broadway.

GRAMMYs/Apr 3, 2024 - 01:27 pm

It’s a busy spring season on Broadway, with 11 musicals opening by April 25 — the cutoff for this year’s Tony Award eligibility.

Spring 2024 musicals span a wide range of styles and genres, from adaptations of literary classics and histories, to timeless revivals and jukebox musicals from GRAMMY winners Huey Lewis and Alicia Keys. The season also features some recognizable singers including Deborah Cox, Jeremy Jordan, Shoshana Bean, and Brandon Victor Dixon.

Here’s a breakdown (in alphabetical order) of what’s playing; unless listed, all of the following musicals have open run dates.

"Cabaret"

August Wilson Theatre

Set within the seedy Kit Kat Club in 1930s Berlin as the Nazi regime was beginning to take over,  "Cabaret" premiered on Broadway in 1966. The hit play starred Joel Grey as the Emcee and Jill Haworth. Sally Bowles, with music and lyrics by the legendary John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. In 1972, the musical was turned into a movie starring Gray and Liza Minnelli; it subsequently won eight Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Actress for Grey and Minnelli. 

The 2024 revival stars Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee, who will perform in the round on an  immersive set. While the stage may be different, fans can still expect unique renditions of iconic songs such as "Willkommen," "Cabaret" and "Don’t Tell Mama." 

"Hell's Kitchen"

Shubert Theater 

Sixteen-time GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys brings her artistry from the Super Bowl to the Broadway stage in the jukebox musical "Hell’s Kitchen." Loosely based on Keys' life growing up in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, the story centers around 17-year-old Ali, played by newcomer Maleah Joi Moon, as she navigates her teenage years through love and loss.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-finalist playwright Kristoffer Diaz, "Hell's Kitchen" features songs by Keys with new arrangements, as well as the recently debuted "Kaleidoscope."  Shoshana Bean and two-time GRAMMY nominee Brandon Victor Dixon co-star in the musical, all reprising their roles from its premiere at the Public Theatre last fall.

"Illinoise"

St. James Theatre 

April 24 - Aug. 10

This new, dance-centered musical was the last show to announce its arrival on Broadway this season, and is moving from the New York’s Upper East Side Park Avenue Armory after a sold out run in order to meet the Tony Award eligibility deadline.

"Illinoise" features music by GRAMMY-nominated musician Sufjan Stevens and is based on his beloved 2005 concept album Illinois. The album features stories, people and places from the state. The show is conceived and choreographed by Justin Peck, of the New York City Ballet, who also choreographed Maestro and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. "‘Illinoise’ is a coming-of-age story that takes the audience on a journey through the American heartland — from campfire storytelling to the edges of the cosmos — all told in through a unique blend of music, dance, and theater," Peck said in a statement.

Dancers featured in the show include Yesenia Ayala, Gaby Diaz, Jeanette Delgado and  Ben Cook, who also were in West Side Story.

"Lempicka"

Longacre Theatre

"Lempicka" is a brand new, original musical with a "pop infused sound" with a script and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer and book and music by Matt Gould.

The musical tells the tale of real Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, who was famous for her art deco portraits of aristocrats and highly stylized nude paintings. While Lempicka changed art and culture in the late 1800s, she struggled with decades of political and personal turmoil. Eden Espinosa stars in the title role, and previously played Elphaba in "Wicked." Amber Iman, the first woman to perform on Broadway after the Coronavirus shutdown and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel also star in the show.

"The Great Gatsby"

Broadway Theatre

First it was a book, turned into a movie, and now a Broadway musical. "The Great Gatsby" is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic, and has all the glitz and jazz-aged glam of the 1925 novel.

Starring Jeremy Jordan as Long Island millionaire Jay Gatsby and Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan, the Broadway adaptation features all new music with a modern jazz and pop score by Jason Howland with lyrics by Nathan Tysen. As in the book, "Gatsby" tells the story of how Gatsby is after his long lost love Daisy and all the stops to bring her back into his life.

"The Heart of Rock and Roll"

James Earl Jones Theatre

Songs by GRAMMY winners Huey Lewis & the News appear in two new musicals this season. "The Power of Love" is featured in "Back to the Future" (which opened last summer) and the new jukebox musical, "The Heart of Rock and Roll." 

Set in 1987 and featuring many hits from the time, the story centers on the young couple, played by Cory Cottand McKenzie Kurtz, who work at the same company and eventually fall in love. Bobby, a rock and roller, trades his guitar for the corporate ladder and his boss Cassandra is always putting the family business first. The musical is jam packed with Huey Lewis megahits like "Do You Believe in Love", "Hip to Be Square," and "If This Is It." 

"The Notebook"

Schoenfeld Theatre

Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelon wrote the music and lyrics for this tear-jerker musical adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling novel and the classic romantic movie starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. Michaelson admits she’s best at the "weepy and romantic" songs.

The musical tells the story of how leads Allie and Noah shared a lifetime of love despite growing up in opposite socioeconomic classes. And if you’re wondering: yes, the famous rain scene from the movie makes a big splash with audiences on Broadway. 

"The Outsiders"

Bernard B. Jacobs Theater

"The Outsiders" transforms S.E. Hinton's novel — perhaps most famous for the 1983 movie starring Matt Damon, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise — into a Broadway musical. One of its co-producers is Angelina Jolie, who saw the show with her family when it debuted out-of-town in California. 

"The Outsiders" features a book by Adam Rapp with Justin Levine, along with music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and Justin Levine. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1967, Ponyboy Curtis and Johnny Cade along with their fellow Outsiders  battle their rivals, the Socs.

"The Who’s Tommy"

Nederlander Theatre

Perhaps the most famous song from 1975 rock opera The Who’s Tommy is "Pinball Wizard" written by guitarist Pete Townshend. The musician won a GRAMMY for Best Musical Show Album in 1993 for the musical’s original cast recording. 

Des McAnuff — who co-wrote the musical's script with Townshend and also directed the original musical 30 years ago — is back in the director’s chair for this revival. The musical, about a boy who finds a knack for playing pinball, is based on the Who’s 1969 album, Tommy. It was also turned into a 1975 film called Tommy, which starred Elton John, Tina Turner, Ann Margaret and Roger Daltry as Tommy. On Broadway, Ali Louis Bourzgui stars in the title role. 

"The Wiz"

Marquis Theatre

Ease on down the road to the Marquis Theatre! "The Wiz" returns to Broadway for the first time since it premiered back in 1974 for a limited run followed by subsequent shows around the country. The show is based on The Wizard of Oz and, in 1978, was turned into a film starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Tinman. 

The revival features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, and book by William F. Brown with script updates by Amber Ruffin (whose Some Like It Hot won Best Musical Theater Album at the 2024 GRAMMYs). JaQuel Knight, who choreographed Beyoncé’s "Single Ladies," choreographed "The Wiz."

Newcomer Nichelle Lewis plays Dorothy along with Wayne Brady as The Wiz and Deborah Cox as Glinda. Look out for Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow; the R&B singer appeared on "The Voice" and their single "Kiss The Sky" cracked the Top 20 on Billboard’s R&B chart. 

"Suffs"

Music Box Theatre

On the heels of "Hamilton" is a historic musical called "Suffs." It’s 1913 and the women’s suffrage movement is heating up in America. The suffragists, or "Suffs," are relentless in their pursuit of the right to vote. 

Shaina Taub stars as Alice Paul, one of the leaders of the National Women’s Party. Taub also wrote the book, music and lyrics (She’s also collabing with five-time GRAMMY winner Elton John on the "Devil Wears Prada" musical). "Suffs" is produced by Hillary Clinton, tying the suffrage movement to contemporary politics in a tangible way.

"Water for Elephants"   

Imperial Theatre

Sara Gruen’s novel and 2011 film adaptation has now turned into a musical with music/lyrics by PigPen Theatre Co. 

Rick Elice (known for writing the book for "Jersey Boys") puts his stamp on this show about Jacob Jankowski, who jumps on a train finding a new home with a traveling circus. 

Like "The Notebook," this "memory musical" is told from his point of view as an old man and goes back and forth between the present and the past when he worked for the circus. Audiences will love the aerial tricks and impressive elephant puppetry. "

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Usher performs in 2023
Usher at iHeartRadio’s Living Black 2023 Block Party.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

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9 Reasons Why Usher's 'Confessions' Is R&B's Definitive Blockbuster Album

Just before Usher kicks off his extensive world tour, the R&B superstar celebrates the 20th anniversary of his magnum opus, 'Confessions.' Here's a look at the ways the album changed the genre — and cemented Usher as an icon.

GRAMMYs/Mar 22, 2024 - 02:29 pm

"All of us have our Pandora's boxes or skeletons in our closets," Usher told MTV News while promoting his 2004 album, Confessions. "I've got a lot of things and stuff built in me that I just want to let go of."

He sure wasn't kidding. The concept album, and loosely based around his relationship with TLC's Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas — essentially played out like a prime-time soap opera set to music. But its brutally honest narrative and earworm hooks connected like no other contemporary R&B record before or since, solidifying Usher as one of music's modern greats.

In fact, Confessions was the second-best selling album of the 2000s (only behind *NSYNC's 2000 juggernaut, No Strings Attached), thanks in part to four consecutive Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers and a string of attention-grabbing videos that allowed Usher to showcase his skills as a singer, dancer, actor, and all-round loverman.

Just after delivering a career-defining Super Bowl halftime show performance, Usher celebrates  20 years of Confessions on March 23. To commemorate the anniversary, here's a look at why Confessions remains the R&B scene's definitive blockbuster.

It Saved The Record Industry 

Thanks to the rise in illegal downloads and decline of "Total Request Live"-friendly blockbusters, the music industry began 2004 staring down a fourth consecutive year of declining sales. Step forward their savior, Usher Raymond IV.

Confessions shifted a colossal 1.1. million copies in its first week, the highest number since Eminem's The Eminem Show in 2002, and didn't stop selling. By the end of December, its total had ballooned to nearly eight million — double its closest competitor, Norah Jones' Feels Like Home, to become the year's biggest commercial smash.

Usher's magnum opus was widely credited with getting the American public back into record stores again, resulting in a 1.6 percent increase in overall album sales. But Confessions' journey wasn't done there. In 2012, it was awarded diamond status, joining TLC's CrazySexyCool and Boyz II Men's II as the only R&B representatives in the exclusive club, with its current tally now reportedly standing at 18 million!

It Invented Crunk&B 

Crunk, an energetic form of southern hip-hop defined by its 808 basslines, kick drums, and general party-starting vibes, originated in the mid-1990s. But it took nearly a decade for the sound to crossover from the Miami underground to the top of the charts. And then the lead single from Confessions took the scene to another level.

With its high-pitched synth hook, emphatic beats, and hype man chants from the subgenre's self-proclaimed king Lil Jon, "Yeah!" had all the hallmarks of a crunk classic. But Usher's smooth, soulful tones and Ludacris' playful rhymes gave the dance floor anthem a much stronger melodic edge, prompting critics to coin a new term, Crunk&B.

Several artists took note of the crunk and contemporary R&B crossover, with both Ciara's "Goodies" and Chris Brown's "Run It" also topping the Hot 100. But "Yeah!" remains the sound's crowning glory, as proven by the diamond status it achieved right before Usher's Super Bowl halftime show (Usher is also now only the third ever Black artist to have a diamond-certified single and album, alongside Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston).

It Further Bridged The Gap Between R&B And Hip-Hop 

While previous albums Usher, My Way, and 8701 had all been grounded in slick, soulful R&B, Confessions was a concerted attempt to bridge the gap between his signature sound and the grittier world of hip-hop. The man himself admits that he took just as much inspiration from Eminem and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony as his usual suspects, like Michael Jackson and James Brown, to create an album that was aimed equally at the bedroom and the clubs.

Alongside the famous guest appearances from Lil Jon and Ludacris, the LP also drew upon the production talents of Roc-A-Fella regular Just Blaze. Meanwhile, on the special edition, Jadakiss laid down some bars on "Throwback," while the remix of "Confessions Part II" boasted rhymes from Shyne, Twista, and Kanye West.

That's not to say thatNot that Usher forgot his roots, though., Has proven by his collab with Keys ("My Boo"), recruitment of legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and contributions from long-time collaborators Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox all helped remind of his R&B prowess. "I feel like it is the base of everything," Usherhe said about his love of R&B at the time. "I want to make it more prominent."

It Was A GRAMMY Favorite 

Although Ray Charles posthumously won the most awards of the night, the 2005 GRAMMYs undoubtedly still belonged to Usher. The R&B star not only took home three golden gramophones, but he also brought the house down thanks to a spellbinding duet with the Godfather of Soul.

A sharp-suited Usher first took to the stage for an epically choreographed performance of Confessions' fifth single "Caught Up," before James Brown — who even at the age of 71 still had several moves of his own — popped up for a joint rendition of his classic, "Sex Machine."

Usher was no doubt in a celebratory mood. By this point, he'd picked up three of the eight categories he'd been nominated in: Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Yeah!," and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal alongsideAlicia Keys for "My Boo." (As of press time, Usher has won eight GRAMMYs and received 23 GRAMMY nominations.)

It Brought A Confessional Side Back To R&B 

From Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear to D'Angelo's Brown Sugar, some of the greatest R&B records of the 20th century resulted from artists baring their souls as if their lives depended on it. This was an approach that had largely fallen by the wayside as time went on, with some suggesting that the genre gradually became more emotionally stunted.

Usher, on the other hand, had no qualms whatsoever about laying it all on the line, namely the ups and downs of his relationship with Thomas. On the falsetto-voiced "Burn," he willingly displays devastation over his breakup ("I'm twisted 'cause one side of me's telling me that I need to move on/ On the other side I wanna break down and cry"). And even by the penultimate track, "Take Your Hand," he still seems to be in a state of torment ("In your loving, every time I feel your touch/ Second thoughts, more doubts started building up").

Usher's confessional approach continued in 2008 with Here I Stand's love letter to then-wife Tameka Foster and then again in 2010 with the divorce-themed Raymond vs. Raymond. And many other R&B artists, including Janelle Monae and Beyoncé, have since made career bests by delving similarly deep into their personal lives.

It Inspired A Generation Of R&B Lotharios 

Think of any R&B lothario who's emerged in the last 20 years and chances are they've been heavily inspired by Confessions. Jason Derulo has said as much, describing it as a "classic album" and "just start to finish awesome"; Ne-Yo echoed that sentiment to BBC Radio 1, calling it "flawless top to bottom." While Bryson Tiller explicitly told Fuse he wanted to make a record in the same vein. And you can hear its influence in everything from Drake's more romantic offerings to August Alsina's intimate revelations.

And 10 years after Robin Thicke co-penned and co-produced Confessions' sensuous bedroom jam, "Can U Handle It," he released his own breakup tale with 2014's Paula.  Though he hasn't ever explicitly cited Confessions as an influence, Paula is a concept album about Thicke's real-life marriage breakdown, which essentially doubled up as a begging letter to his estranged wife.

It's A Storytelling Masterclass 

In 2023, it was announced that an untitled drama series inspired by Usher's back catalog was in the works. No doubt that the project, said to be "about Black love in Atlanta and individuals looking to find a place to call home," will draw heavily upon the storytelling masterclass that is Confessions.

Take "Truth Hurts," for example, the relationship tale in which Usher initially presents himself as the wounded party before revealing that he was, in fact, the one being adulterous ("I've been blaming you when I'm the one that's doing wrong/ I'ma go on/ My guilty conscience is the real reason I wrote this song").

Usher also appeared to enjoy keeping audiences guessing about whether his confessions were truly autobiographical or borrowed from the album's male-centric production team. See the two title tracks, which suggested the lothario had himself become a father following a one-night stand, when in reality, the paternity drama was all Dupri's.

"We wanted the media to ask us questions," the latteradmitted to Vibe in 2014, citingMichael Jackson as a key attention-grabbing influence. "Nobody knows who the f— Billie Jean is. We're still looking for her."

It Helped Breathe New Life Into Several Soul Classics 

While much of Confessions was interested in pushing R&B forward, it wasn't entirely averse to getting a little nostalgic. The record is filled with cleverly chosen samples from the soul of yesteryear, from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Is There a Place for Me" on "Take Your Hand" to Willie Hutch's Mack's Stroll on "Superstar" and Preston Love's "Chili Mac" on "Whatever I Want."

And nearly 20 years before Doja Cat repurposed a Dionne Warwick classic to chart-topping effect on 2023's "Paint the Town Red," Usher brought the Motown legend into the contemporary R&B world by borrowing from "You're Gonna Need Me" on the aptly titled "Throwback."

It Broke Multiple Chart Records  

You know an artist has reached true greatness when they start being mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles. In 2004, Usher became the first act since the Fab Four to have both the biggest and second biggest-selling singles of Billboard's year-end chart with "Yeah!" and "Burn," respectively. And this was far from the only major milestone Confessions achieved. 

Until Taylor Swift's Fearless spent an additional fortnight in the top spot in 2009, the album's nine weeks atop the Billboard 200 was the longest run of the millennium. And with "Confessions Part II" also reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100 (ironically, replacing "Burn"), Usher not only became the first artist in  history to achieve three consecutive chart toppers, but also the first act to spend more than half a calendar year atop the Hot 100 at 28 combined weeks. 

Twenty years on, Confessions is still the highest-selling record by a Black artist this century. And further exemplifying his staying power and impact across the globe, Usher will soon embark on a lengthy world tour that has sold out from Brooklyn to Berlin — a momentous way to honor the album that changed the R&B game.

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Usher Super Bowl 2024
Usher performs with Ludacris, Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri and Will.i.am during the Apple Music halftime show at the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game

Photo: Michael Owens/Getty Images

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Usher's Super Bowl Halftime Show Was More Than A Performance, It Was A Celebration Of Black Excellence

From celebrating Atlanta's HBCU culture to shining light on Southern rappers like Ludacris and Lil Jon, Usher brought the brilliance of the Black South to Las Vegas.

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 08:41 pm

In the days leading up to Usher’s Super Bowl performance, the singer waxed poetically about the significance of this moment not only in popular culture but for Black music.

Speaking with Kelly Carter on "Good Morning America," Usher reflected on the history of Black entertainers who performed for the masses under restrictive laws. Although a majority of those laws have been overturned, it would be remiss to not think about the recent series of court cases that have targeted Black musicians, such as Atlanta-based rapper Young Thug, whose music is currently being used against him in court

For singers like Usher who have been privy to the ways in which Black music — and those who create it — have been mistreated, his halftime performance was as much as a statement as it was a tribute to those who came before him. "I'm coming through the front door with this one," Usher told Carter.

It is only fitting that the performance opened with lines from "My Way" the title of his Las Vegas residency, which has featured a who’s who of prominent figures in pop culture before launching into "Caught Up." Usher then descended from his anointed throne in a crisp, all white Dolce & Gabbana ensemble, he began a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine with an array of backup dancers; the standout being renowned celebrity choreographer Sean Bankhead.

Usher made it clear early on, however, that his performance was no mere spectacle. He paused to deliver a testimony, one that bears repeating despite his new album and $100 million-earning Vegas residency: "They said I wouldn't make it, they said I wouldn't be here today, but I am." 

Once the air cleared and Usher thanked his momma for her steadfast advocacy and faith in him, he led Allegiant Stadium in a sing along of "Superstar." The track from 2004’s Confessions recently inspired a viral challenge on TikTok. 

A consummate performer and supporter of his peers, Usher wasn't content to simply highlight his own success. The singer transformed Allegiant Stadium to "The Yard" — the singular place at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where students gather to talk, discuss, and have fun — and filled it with music. 

Usher’s Yard included a performance of "Love In This Club" with the assistance of two members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., the second oldest Black fraternity in the U.S. The trio was supported by the Jackson State University marching band, known as the "Sonic Boom of The South," to finish the song. 

Even his brief moment of affection with singer Alicia Keys, who joined the singer for "My Boo," can be described as a "homecoming hug." Homecoming is another HBCU tradition, where alumni convene at their respective campuses and greet their former flame with a hug.

When Jermaine Dupri entered the stage to announce the 20th anniversary of Confessions, the transportation was complete. The audience was no longer in Vegas, but in Atlanta, the Black Mecca of the world. And Usher is Atlanta’s nucleus.

It is here that the spirits of Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Prince accompanied Usher as he bewitched millions with a singular microphone and momentum stage presence. A haze of purple clouds and smoke led the way for singer H.E.R., the night’s self appointed "Bad Girl" and her crew of roller skating baddies.

While Usher may have began the halftime show with the enthusiasm of a young boy who just got his chance to perform a solo in the church choir, by its end he was fully inhabiting his chart-topping sex icon persona.Will.i.am’s voice rippled through the stadium as Usher, donning a blue and black Off-White outfit reminiscent of football shoulder pads, glided onto the stage with an aura that is equal parts charismatic and sinful sweet. 

Skating, a main tenant of Atlanta’s culture, is embedded in Usher’s ethos and a part of his larger business. The singer loves skating and owns several skating rinks.

Usher finished the extravagant performance with "Yeah!" — a song beloved in Atlanta and far, far beyond. That the song is turning 20 this year and still resonates with a global audience (not to mention a football-loving one) is further evidence that Usher truly is the "King of R&B."

"Your moment is your moment. And this is a moment I’ve prepared for during the last 30 years," Usher told Billboard ahead of the Super Bowl. 

He certainly owned his moment. Usher's Super Bowl halftime show was no singular performance or an audition, but a coronation. He was receiving the torch carried by all the Black entertainers who preceded him, and reminding the world that the South still has something to say. 

Surrounded by Ludacris and Lil Jon,  strippers, and his own marching band, Usher closed the night out with the A-Town Stomp and one important phase: "I took the world to the A!" 

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