meta-scriptUsher Electrifies Las Vegas with Triumphant Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show: 6 Best Moments | GRAMMY.com
Usher Electrifies Las Vegas with Triumphant Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show: 6 Best Moments
Usher performs onstage during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show.

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Usher Electrifies Las Vegas with Triumphant Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show: 6 Best Moments

R&B superstar Usher ran through his career of hits, from “U Got It Bad,” “Burn” and “Yeah!” to “My Boo,” “Love in This Club,” “O.M.G.,” and more during his halftime performance at Super Bowl LVIII.

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 03:14 am

He’s (still) got it bad! Usher lit up Super Bowl LVIII with an electrifying halftime show filled with a career-spanning setlist, drool-worthy dance moves and a parade of surprise guests including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Lil Jon, H.E.R., will.i.am and more.

Days before taking the stage at Allegiant Stadium, the eight-time GRAMMY-winning R&B superstar opened up to Apple Music about the creative approach he took to planning his halftime show. “What I did is, I was very mindful of my past, celebrating my present, which is here in Las Vegas, and thinking about where we’re headed in the future, and that was really the idea,” he said. “What songs do I feel people know me for? What songs have been a celebration of all of the journey of what life and love and emotion has been offered in my music?

Usher’s halftime show comes on the heels of a monumental year and a half for the star, following his sold-out 100-show Las Vegas residency, My Way, at the Park MGM’s Dolby Live Theater. The R&B heartthrob also released Coming Home — his ninth studio album (and first in nearly a decade) on Friday — just two days before his epic performance.

Below, GRAMMY.com broke down all the best moments from Usher’s momentous halftime show.

That Grand, Las Vegas-Style Entrance 

From the drop, Usher let us know his Super Bowl set would be a celebration of all things Sin City as the camera wove through acrobats, showgirls, contortionists and dancers to reveal the R&B icon in all his glory — dressed in a dazzling white cape and seated on a mirrored thrown. 

From there, he launched into a high-energy rendition of “Caught Up,” one of the five consecutive top 10 singles from his landmark 2004 album Confessions. Not even an acrobat being launched through the air could distract from Usher’s swagger as he sauntered across the field.

A Sweet Shout-Out to His Mom

Transitioning between 2003’s “U Don’t Have to Call'' and a snippet of Confessions deep cut “Superstar,” Usher took a moment to recognize the magnitude of the occasion with a shout-out to his mother, Jonetta Patton. “But if you do call, know that God answers prayers. They said I wouldn’t make it. They said I wouldn’t be here today, but I am. Hey, mama, we made it. Now this — this is for you. My number one,” he said before crooning, “Spotlight, big stage / Sixty-thousand fans screamin’ in a rage.”

A Nostalgic Duet with His “Boo”

Usher’s halftime performance really hit its stride once he broke into his 2008 No. 1 hit “Love in This Club” with a full marching band. But the end of the song delivered the first big surprise of the night as the singer gestured across the field to introduce none other than Alicia Keys.

Seated at a futuristic red piano with a majestic cape of the same shade billowing behind her, the 16-time GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter performed a snippet of her own 2004 single “If I Ain’t Got You” before being joined by Usher on their No. 1 hit “My Boo.” 

The pair’s decades of friendship were palpable as they belted out, “I don’t know about y’all but I know about us, and uh / It’s the only way we know how to rock / It started when we were younger, you were mine / My boo” and the number ended with both stars grinning ear to ear as Usher wrapped his arms around Keys. 

“Burn”-ing Up to Confessions

With producer Jermaine Dupri playing hype man, Usher celebrated the 20th anniversary of Confessions by running through a medley of songs from the 14x-platinum album, including “Confessions Part II” and a soaring take on “Burn,” which was undeniably one of the standout vocal moments of Usher’s entire set.

The star also put his sex appeal on full display, tearing away his glittery silver top to reveal a simple white tank as he performed “U Got It Bad” — only to remove that as well, finishing the song shirtless and glistening with sweat before ceding the spotlight to H.E.R. on an electric guitar.

“O.M.G.,” That Roller Skate Choreography!

Joined by will.i.am, Usher returned to stage dressed in a sparkling black-and-blue ensemble and roller skates — incorporating a popular moment from his recent residency as he ran through his 2010 chart-topper “O.M.G.” by nailing the choreography on wheels. For added measure, he finished off the section by skating deftly through will.i.am’s legs and striking a pose. 

Peace Up, A-Town Down

Of course, the grand finale of Usher’s halftime set couldn’t be anything but “Yeah!,” his smash worldwide hit that became the longest-running No. 1 of 2004 and an inescapable soundtrack to the early 2000s. Enlisting help from collaborators Lil Jon and Ludacris, Usher turned Allegiant Stadium into an all-out dance party and brought his halftime show to a triumphant climax with the song’s infectious, shout-it-out chorus.

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17 Love Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "I Will Always Love You," "Drunk In Love" & More
(L-R) Usher and Alicia Keys during the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show.

Photo: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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17 Love Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "I Will Always Love You," "Drunk In Love" & More

Over the GRAMMYs' 66-year history, artists from Frank Sinatra to Ed Sheeran have taken home golden gramophones for their heartfelt tunes. Take a look at some of the love songs that have won GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Feb 14, 2024 - 09:42 pm

Editor's Note: This is an update to a story from 2017.

Without heart-bursting, world-shifting love songs, music wouldn't be the same. There are countless classic and chart-topping hits dedicated to love, and several of them have won GRAMMYs.

We're not looking at tunes that merely deal with shades of love or dwell in heartbreak. We're talking out-and-out, no-holds-barred musical expressions of affection — the kind of love that leaves you wobbly at the knees.

No matter how you're celebrating Valentine's Day (or not), take a look at 18 odes to that feel-good, mushy-gushy love that have taken home golden gramophones over the years.

Frank Sinatra, "Strangers In The Night"

Record Of The Year / Best Vocal Performance, Male, 1967

Ol' Blue Eyes offers but a glimmer of hope for the single crowd on Valentine's Day, gently ruminating about exchanging glances with a stranger and sharing love before the night is through.

Willie Nelson, "Always On My Mind"

Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, 1983

In this cover, Nelson sings to the woman in his life, lamenting over those small things he should have said and done, but never took the time. Don't find yourself in the same position this Valentine's Day.

Lionel Richie, "Truly"

Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1983

"Truly" embodies true dedication to a loved one, and it's delivered with sincerity from the king of '80s romantic pop — who gave life to the timeless love-song classics "Endless Love," "Still" and "Three Times A Lady."

Roy Orbison, "Oh, Pretty Woman"

Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1991

Orbison captures the essence of encountering a lovely woman for the first time, and offers helpful one-liners such as "No one could look as good as you" and "I couldn't help but see … you look as lovely as can be." Single men, take notes.

Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"

Record Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, 1994

Houston passionately delivers a message of love, remembrance and forgiveness on her version of this song, which was written by country sweetheart Dolly Parton and first nominated for a GRAMMY in 1982.

Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From Titanic)"  

Record Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 1999

This omnipresent theme song from the 1997 film Titanic was propelled to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 as the story of Jack and Rose (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and GRAMMY winner Kate Winslet) swept the country.

Shania Twain, "You're Still The One"

Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Song, 1999

Co-written with producer and then-husband Mutt Lange, Twain speaks of beating the odds with love and perseverance in lyrics such as, "I'm so glad we made it/Look how far we've come my baby," offering a fresh coat of optimism for couples of all ages.

Usher & Alicia Keys, "My Boo"

Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals, 2005

"There's always that one person that will always have your heart," sings Usher in this duet with Keys, taking the listener back to that special first love. The chemistry between the longtime friends makes this ode to “My Boo” even more heartfelt, and the love was still palpable even 20 years later when they performed it on the Super Bowl halftime show stage.

Bruno Mars, "Just The Way You Are"

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, 2011

Dating advice from Bruno Mars: If you think someone is beautiful, you should tell them every day. Whether or not it got Mars a date for Valentine's Day, it did get him a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona, "Fool For You" 

Best Traditional R&B Performance, 2012

It's a far cry from his previous GRAMMY-winning song, "F*** You," but "Fool For You" had us yearning for "that deep, that burning/ That amazing unconditional, inseparable love."

Justin Timberlake, "Pusher Love Girl" 

Best R&B Song, 2014

Timberlake is so high on the love drug he's "on the ceiling, baby." Timberlake co-wrote the track with James Fauntleroy, Jerome Harmon and Timbaland, and it's featured on his 2013 album The 20/20 Experience, which flew high to No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Beyoncé & Jay-Z, "Drunk In Love"

Best R&B Performance / Best R&B Song, 2015

While "Drunk In Love" wasn't the first love song that won Beyoncé and Jay-Z a GRAMMY — they won two GRAMMYs for "Crazy In Love" in 2004 — it is certainly the sexiest. This quintessential 2010s bop from one of music's most formidable couples captures why their alliance set the world's hearts aflame (and so did their steamy GRAMMYs performance of it).

Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"

Song Of The Year / Best Pop Solo Performance, 2016

Along with his abundant talent, Sheeran's boy-next-door charm is what rocketed him to the top of the pop ranks. And with swooning lyrics and a waltzing melody, "Thinking Out Loud" is proof that he's a modern-day monarch of the love song.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, "Shallow"

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance / Best Song Written For Visual Media, 2019

A Star is Born's cachet has gone up and down with its various remakes, but the 2018 iteration was a smash hit. Not only is that thanks to moving performances from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but particularly thanks to their impassioned, belt-along duet "Shallow."

H.E.R. & Daniel Caesar, "Best Part"

Best R&B Performance, 2019

"If life is a movie/ Know you're the best part." Who among us besotted hasn't felt their emotions so widescreen, so thunderous? Clearly, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar have — and they poured that feeling into the GRAMMY-winning ballad "Best Part."

Kacey Musgraves, "Butterflies"

Best Country Solo Performance, 2019

As Musgraves' Album Of The Year-winning LP Golden Hour shows, the country-pop star can zoom in or out at will, capturing numberless truths about the human experience. With its starry-eyed lyrics and swirling production, "Butterflies" perfectly encapsulates the flutter in your stomach that love can often spark.

Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber, "10,000 Hours"

Best Country Duo/Group Performance, 2021

When country hook-meisters Dan + Shay teamed up with pop phenom Justin Bieber, their love song powers were unstoppable. With more than 1 billion Spotify streams alone, "10,000 Hours" has become far more than an ode to just their respective wives; it's an anthem for any lover.

Lovesick Or Sick Of Love: Listen To GRAMMY.com's Valentine's Day Playlist Featuring Taylor Swift, Doja Cat, Playboi Carti, Olivia Rodrigo, FKA Twigs & More

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

Usher's Biggest Hits, From Baby-Making Slow Jams To Dance Floor Classics

Usher's Biggest Hits, From Baby-Making Slow Jams To Dance Floor Classics
Usher performs in Boulogne-Billancourt, France in September 2023.

Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

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Usher's Biggest Hits, From Baby-Making Slow Jams To Dance Floor Classics

As Usher preps for the Super Bowl halftime show and his first album in nearly a decade, revisit the entertainer's biggest hits and underrated gems that made him the King of R&B.

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2024 - 05:52 pm

With eight GRAMMYs, over 65 million albums sold, and nine Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s, Usher is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars of his generation. And 20 years after his diamond-certified magnum opus, 2004's Confessions, the 45-year-old triple threat is reminding fans and critics alike that he's still got it.

In the midst of his highly successful (and twice-extended) Las Vegas residency, Usher was announced as the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show headliner, coinciding with the Feb. 9 release of Coming Home — his first solo studio album in eight years. On paper, Usher is the perfect halftime performer that checks all the boxes: the voice, the choreography, the stamina, the hits, the charm. If his electrifying appearance alongside the Black Eyed Peas' 2011 performance is any indication of how Feb. 11 will go, it's bound to be one for the books. 

Super Bowl halftime shows usually last around 13 minutes, but for an artist of Usher's caliber, the high-stakes performance is over 30 years in the making. In 1991, a 13-year-old Usher appeared on Star Search, which led to an audition with LaFace Records. While singing Boyz II Men's "End of the Road," he displayed his knack for captivating an audience even way back then, before appearing on the soundtrack for the 1993 film Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson and Tupac

His debut single, "Call Me a Mack," mostly flew under the radar at the time, though his star power gleamed in the accompanying video. In the decades since, Usher's eight albums and 16 No. 1 hits on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart have helped him earn the unofficial title of "The King of R&B," paving the way for other household names like Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Ne-Yo, and protégé Justin Bieber.

Though the aptly titled Coming Home marks his first solo album since 2016's Hard II Love, he's continued to whet fans' appetite with several one-off singles, including "Bad Habits" and "Glu." For the lead single from Coming Home, "Good Good," he recruited Summer Walker and 21 Savage, signaling a new chapter for the music veteran. Following his announcement, Usher described the forthcoming LP as a body of work that not only honors his legacy, but tells "a story that is open to interpretation and that will connect with people in different ways."

As the world awaits Usher's Super Bowl halftime show and new music, GRAMMY.com is revisiting 15 songs that made him a force to be reckoned with in entertainment.

"You Make Me Wanna," My Way (1997)

Three years after his 1994 self-titled debut album failed to garner much attention, Usher crashed the second half of the decade with his breakout hit "You Make Me Wanna." Inspired by the then 19-year-old's real-life experiences of juggling multiple women, he sings frankly about being stuck in a love triangle: "You make me wanna leave the one I'm with/ Start a new relationship wit' you."

Peaking at No. 2 on the Hot 100, "You Make Me Wanna" set Usher's career ablaze as the lead single off 1997's seven-time-platinum My Way album — helping him stand out among a sea of fellow R&B newcomers, including Joe and Ginuwine.

In 1998, the success of "You Make Me Wanna" also earned Usher his first-ever GRAMMY nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. That same year, he was chosen as Janet Jackson's opening act for the U.S. leg of her Velvet Rope Tour, setting a precedent for the show-stopping performances he's since become known for.

"Nice & Slow," My Way (1997)

So many of Usher's best songs focus on the art of lovemaking, but "Nice & Slow" is notable as his first No. 1 on the Hot 100 — and for cementing his sex symbol status.

Only 20 years young at the time, Usher delivers suggestive lyrics (e.g., "I got plans to put my hands in places/ I never seen, girl you know what I mean") with such bravado that it's easy to mistake the then-budding entertainer for someone twice his age.

Moments before laying down the sensual track, producer Jermaine Dupri set out to create a "ballad that's gonna knock out the world," he said in 2003's The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Over 25 years later, "Nice & Slow" is still quintessential Usher, as it gave way to a long string of slow jams like "Do It To Me" and "Climax" that make the ladies swoon.

"Bedtime," My Way (1997)

Around the release of Confessions, Usher declared himself a "sexaholic" (which he later refuted). But the hearthrob's sexual appetite first appeared on his album My Way, as evidenced by one of the LP's closing tracks, "Bedtime." In the opening line, he sings, "Craving your body all through the night/ Feels like I'm going through withdrawals."

Penned by R&B mastermind Babyface, the number is structured a little bit like a lullaby but isn't as captivating as "Nice & Slow." Still, it earns a spot on this list for being one of the very first in his catalog to ooze grown and sexy vibes.

"U Remind Me," 8701 (2001)

Kicking off his now-iconic 8701 era, "U Remind Me" follows Usher as he falls for a girl who resembles his ex, but ultimately decides against dating her for that very reason.

Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, "U Remind Me" shares similarities to "You Make Me Wanna" as both songs center around inner conflict, but the most noticeable difference is the vocal delivery. His runs and ad-libs carry more weight in "U Remind Me," which also charted higher internationally. According to what Jimmy Jam told MTV at the time, the goal was for "people to hear Usher sing and go, 'This boy can sing. He's a singer.'" 

Becoming his second No. 1, "U Remind Me" paid off critically for him as well, earning the child prodigy his first GRAMMY for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 2002.

"U Got It Bad," 8701 (2001)

After "U Remind Me," Usher slowed things down with his third chart-topper, "U Got It Bad," which is believed to be about then-girlfriend, Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas of best-selling female group TLC, who also stars in the accompanying video.

Interpolating Prince's "Adore" and Maxwell's "Fortunate" from 1987 and 1999, respectively, "U Got It Bad" finds Usher struggling to accept that he's fallen deep for someone, a slow-burning feeling intensified by a guitar solo that soars midway through. The smoldering track showcased that he was a fully developed star capable of conveying emotion in addition to crafting tunes that fill the dance floor.

"Yeah!" feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris, Confessions (2004)

Usher was at his commercial peak when he tried his hand at crunk music à la "Yeah!" with Lil Jon at the helm. Somewhat of a catalyst for his foray into EDM (more on that later), "Yeah!" marked the first of four consecutive No. 1s off Confessions and Usher's longest-running chart-topper at 12 weeks. Naturally, it was crowned the most-played song of 2004 despite the label's hesitation to release it as a lead single.

Of all of Usher's party anthems, "Yeah!" wins for holding its relevance 20 years later; to this day, it remains a staple at wedding receptions, sporting events, and countless other celebrations. Plus, Ludacris' scene-stealing guest verse, where he rhymes "ridiculous" and "conspicuous," is forever etched in our memory.

In 2005, Usher added to his GRAMMY collection after "Yeah!" took home Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. It was such a smash that "Ursher, Jon and Luda had to do it again" in 2004's "Lovers and Friends," which narrowly missed the No. 1 spot, and then again with "SexBeat" in 2020.

"Burn," Confessions (2004)

True to the diaristic nature of Confessions, "Burn" sees Usher grappling with the aftermath of a failed relationship. "Sendin' pages I ain't supposed to/ Got somebody here, but I want you/ 'Cause the feelin' ain't the same/ Find myself callin' her your name," he laments in the second verse.

"Yeah!" took Usher's stardom to the next level, but "Burn" gave fans a deeper glimpse into his personal life. By then, his two-year relationship with TLC's Chilli had run its course. As Usher noted himself to MTV News, "It's unfortunate when you have to let a situation go because it's not working. Although you may want to stay, you've got to let it burn."

That level of vulnerability resonated with broken hearts everywhere; "Burn" dethroned "Yeah!" when it skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100. Subsequently, Usher held the No. 1 and 2 spots on the chart, becoming the first artist to achieve such a major feat since the Beatles 40 years earlier. 

"Confessions Part II," Confessions (2004)

While "Burn" saw Usher pulling back the curtain, he left it all on the table in one of the most talked about songs of his three-decade career: "Confessions Part II."

In "Part I," he sings about having a "chick on the side," but "Part II" marks the point of no return as he confesses to impregnating his mistress. As expected, "Confessions" sparked rumors that Usher got another woman pregnant while dating Chilli. In reality, it was recorded before their breakup and based on Jermaine Dupri's situation. Still, Usher delivers the story as if it was his own.

Even though "Confessions Part II" revolves around infidelity, it's difficult to not feel sympathetic toward him as the track winds down: "This by far is the hardest thing I think I've ever had to do/ To tell you, the woman I love/ That I'm havin' a baby by a woman that I barely even know/ I hope you can accept the fact that I'm man enough to tell you this," he says in the spoken interlude.

"My Boo" feat. Alicia Keys, Confessions (2004)

Usher and Alicia Keys were both at the top of their game when they joined forces for "My Boo," an ode to young love that's guaranteed to make you cry nostalgic tears of joy. Even the most cynical hearts can't resist singing along: "I don't know about y'all, but I know about us and, uh/ It's the only way we know how to rock," a twenty-something Usher croons in the outro.

The romantic duet is even sweeter when you realize that Usher and Keys have known each other since they were teenagers. Their undeniable musical chemistry won a GRAMMY for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals.

At the time of its release, "My Boo" went straight to No. 1, which means he spent an astonishing 28 weeks atop the Hot 100 in 2004, proving that the year unequivocally belonged to none other than Usher.

"Bad Girl," Confessions (2004)

"Caught Up" was the final single off of Confessions, but Usher's reign could have carried well into 2005 and possibly even '06 if deep cuts like "Throwback," "Superstar," "Can U Handle It?" and "Bad Girl" were released as singles. The latter appears as a snippet in the beginning of the music video for "My Boo," leaving you wanting more.

In "Bad Girl," Usher prefers women who look "fresh out of Elle magazine" and can buy their "own bottles." Fueled by hypnotic electric guitar riffs, "Bad Girl" exemplifies his fondness for a late-night rendezvous: "Look at them bad girls moving it/ Making faces while they doing it/ Ah, I want to take one to the restroom/ So close, I'm smelling like your perfume," he sings in the second verse.

The song also took on a life of its own when Usher performed it at a 2005 concert special with Beyoncé, who steals the show without ever touching the mic.

"Best Thing" feat. Jay-Z, Here I Stand (2008)

When "Best Thing" arrived, Usher and Jay-Z were both newlyweds. So, of course, Usher was feeling particularly inspired by then-wife Tameka Foster.

Recorded during Hov's Heart of the City Tour, "Best Thing" celebrates commitment over "trickin' and kissin' miscellaneous chicks." Of the song's background, Usher reportedly said, "If you are a playa, you're a playa. If you're a real man, you're a real man, but you know you got to — in some point in life — you've got to grow up. Grow away from certain immaturities."

He and Foster divorced the next year, but "Best Thing" speaks to something bigger: the beginning of his transition into manhood.

"OMG" feat. will.i.am, Raymond v. Raymond (2010)

With easygoing lyrics like "I fell in love with shawty when I seen her on the dance floor/ She was dancing sexy, pop-pop-popping, dropping, dropping low," "OMG" sounds like a continuation of "Yeah!" but with hints of Eurodance.

Written and produced by Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am, "OMG" gave Usher's post-Confessions career a much-needed boost. Despite spawning the No. 1 single "Love in This Club," his previous studio effort, 2008's Here I Stand, was deemed a commercial disappointment. 

Although "OMG" was criticized for Usher's use of auto-tune, the party classic thrusted him back to the top. What's more, he displayed a willingness to reinvent himself at a time when EDM started to infiltrate the charts. It not only became Usher's ninth No. 1 hit, but it produced his first of four entries on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, while paving the way for his other dance-pop hits like Pitbull-featuring "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" and "Without You" with David Guetta.

"Numb," Looking 4 Myself (2012)

At first listen, "Numb" may sound like just another synth-heavy banger about leaving your troubles on the dance floor, but the song is actually a well-crafted culmination of what was going on behind the scenes for the R&B superstar.

In the years leading up to his seventh album, Looking 4 Myself, Usher experienced some turbulent times. Months before their divorce, Tameka Foster went into cardiac arrest prior to undergoing cosmetic surgery (depicted by scenes of Usher comforting a woman in the hospital in the accompanying video for "Numb"). A couple years later, fans booed him after he walked off stage mid-show in Berlin. Then, in the midst of a highly publicized custody battle with Foster, his 11-year-old stepson died after a tragic jet ski accident.

In true Usher fashion, he sang and danced through the pain: "Keep on doing the same old thing/ And you expecting change/ Well, is that really insanity/ Or just a losers' game?" he ponders in the second verse.

Stalling at No. 69 on the Hot 100, "Numb" is one of Usher's lowest-charting songs — but along with "Sins of My Father," which deals with breaking generational curses, it spotlights his depth as an artist.

"Tell Me," Hard II Love (2016)

Usher set out to make music he wanted to with 2016's Hard II Love. Though it marked his first album to miss the top spot in eight years, the 15-track LP is a welcome return to his R&B roots. He does just that in "Tell Me," a nearly nine-minute carnal extravaganza that acts as the album's centerpiece and encompasses the physical, emotional, and spiritual connection between two lovers.

At face value, "Tell Me" boasts Usher's endurance in the bedroom, but on a deeper level, it's about intimacy — an element missing from a great deal of today's R&B, especially from the male perspective. His golden falsetto shines through, making eight and a half minutes sound like the sweetest serenade.

"Boyfriend" (2023)

Last summer, things got interesting when Keke Palmer stopped by Usher's acclaimed Vegas residency, where she was serenaded by the "There's Goes My Baby" singer. Seen by millions, the lighthearted moment turned negative when Darius Jackson, the father of Palmer's child, publicly shamed her for the sheer outfit she wore to the show.

But in the name of entertainment, Usher seized the moment, flipping the controversy into a new earworm. Adding fuel to the fire, Palmer stars in the video, which appears to be filmed in Vegas. And the lyrics are as cheeky as they come: "Somebody said that your boyfriend's lookin' for me/ Oh, that's cool, that's cool/ Well, he should know I'm pretty easy to find/ Just look for me wherever he sees you."

The stunt jokingly earned Usher the nickname "Domestic Terrorist," but more importantly, it illustrated his power to still generate buzz as a well-established artist amid the rise of R&B's new class comprising younger male singers like Steve Lacy, Jvck James, Brent Faiyaz, and Lucky Daye.

Thirty years after his debut, Usher proves he's the last of his kind with the voice, sales, and stage presence to back it up. In a recent interview with Vogue, he described his highly anticipated Super Bowl performance as a "celebration for everybody, for all of us, from the beginning up until this point." 

It'll be the single biggest showcase of his career, but judging by his showmanship, he'll meet the moment while reminding the world of his greatness as a new, exciting era begins — one that demonstrates he's still at the top of his game.

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5 Essential D'Mile Productions: Silk Sonic, Victoria Monét, & Others
Producer D'Mile

Photo: Monhand Mathurin

interview

5 Essential D'Mile Productions: Silk Sonic, Victoria Monét, & Others

Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY nominee D’Mile revisits his career milestones and discusses his work with H.E.R. Victoria Monét, Silk Sonic and more.

GRAMMYs/Jan 22, 2024 - 02:24 pm

Editor’s note: This article has been updated on Monday, Jan. 22 to include mention of Victoria Monét and reflect D’Mile’s 2024 GRAMMY nomination.

"He is a genius. I don’t feel like most people realize how much of a genius he actually is" producer D’Mile asserts when thinking back on his popular project with Bruno Mars.

But prior to the formation of Silk Sonic, longtime friend and bandmate Anderson .Paak implored Mars and D’Mile to come together for a session. "Once we realized we were doing a group project, I think it was easy for all of us to know what kind of vibe it was going to be," D'Mile says. 

"Leave The Door Open,'' the GRAMMY-winning product of the trio’s collaboration, became a hit for its groovy R&B bridges and velvety vocal harmonies — and D’Mile’s career skyrocketed. Now, he is a creative backbone behind many top artists, infusing discographies with blues, jazz and neo-R&B, while engineering for Beyoncé, Jay Z, Lupe Fiasco, H.E.R. and others. Now, D’Mile is nominated for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, at the 2024 GRAMMYs, alongside Jack Antonoff, Hit-Boy and more.

 At the66th GRAMMY Awards, D’Mile is nominated forProducer Of The Year, Non-Classical for his work on JAGUAR II. TheVictoria Monét record is nominated for Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album. Non-Classical.

Long before earning a clutch of awards, D’Mile was disciplined in a musical household. Dernst Emile II, a.k.a. D'Mile was born to two esteemed Haitian musicians —  vocalist Yanick Étienne and Dernst Emile, an established music arranger and instrumentalist —  with a wide global lineage and appreciation of the music of the African diaspora. Coming up in Brooklyn,  D'Mile learned the piano from his father, and would hear his mother sing jazz and Haitian konpa around the house.

"They would always work together," the music producer bashfully remembers over Zoom, chuckling. "My dad [still] gives private lessons to this day. I was just always around instruments my whole life — the jam and recording sessions. I feel like I am just a younger version of him." 

A young D'Mile inherited the musical aptitude of his parents, nurturing his musical roots while keeping his ear close to the ground as his career blossomed. "One of my first [producer] placements ever was actually Mary J. Blige in 2005," D’Mile reflects bashfully. That single was the title track on Blige’s 2005 album, The Breakthrough, which won the GRAMMY Award for Best R&B Record.  

Nearly two decades into producing music, D’Mile applies artists' personal experiences to the music they create together, tailoring their sounds as a reflection of who they are, at the moment he meets them. "I just do what I know when I feel right in my heart," D’Mile says, shrugging his shoulders. "[But] when I do a collab with an artist, I try to speak to who they are through the music."

That insight, and ability to cohere an artist's essence with contemporary culture, has led to many hit-making moments. After having compulsive thoughts of quitting music over the past decade, D’Mile ignited an artistic flare at the beginning of the pandemic and a plethora of gold-plated accolades was on the horizon. 

From 2020 to 2022, D’Mile experienced highs that accelerated career’s trajectory. At the 2020 GRAMMY Awards, D’Mile received seven nominations for his work on Lucky Daye’s debut album, Painted and H.E.R’s second album, I Used To Know Her. Following the police murder of George Floyd, D'Mile channeled racial tensions into H.E.R.'s "I Can’t Breathe"; the song won the coveted GRAMMY Award for Song Of The Year in 2021. That same year, D'Mile won an Academy Award for Best Original Song ("Fight For You") in the motion picture, Judas and the Black Messiah.

D'Mile's star only continued to rise in 2022. At the 64th GRAMMY Awards, the producer took home three golden gramophones for his work on Silk Sonic's "Leave the Door Open" — including Song and Record Of The Year. A testament to his production expertise and wide-ranging ear, D'Mile was also nominated for his efforts on Christian/Contemporary song "Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)."

"I am not saying my first accomplishments haven’t hit me yet, but it is just unbelievable sometimes to think of all of the good things that have been happening in my career recently," D'Mile reflects.

At the
66th GRAMMY Awards, D’Mile is nominated for his work on JAGUAR II; the Victoria Monét record is nominated for Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album. Non-Classical.

The Los Angeles-based musician is nourishing the nucleic basis of R&B, creating an environment for upcoming and celebrated artists to rejoice and evolve. The producer shared memories from some of his favorite collaborations with GRAMMY.com.

Joyce Wrice - Overgrown

Executive produced by D’Mile, Joyce Wrice's 2021 debut album is an exquisite gift to R&B buffs. The bluesy 14-track Overgrown is a delineation of nostalgic 90’s R&B and hip-hop, with pitched vocal highs and emotional lows.

"The first time Joyce and I met in the studio, I was picking up on who she is as a woman and her vision for Overgrown," says D’Mile. "I got close with her and I would gather information off of what she would play me. I feel like when I make music, that's me kind of examining who you are."

Throughout Overgrown, the San Diego native sings about the pains of healing from heartbreak and unrequited love. The album is also a celebration of womanhood, where a confidently independent Wrice embraces the mental strength she discovered while finding herself. 

Buddy - "Happy Hour"

Compton-raised rapper Buddy released his sophomore album, Superghetto, in 2022 and D’Mile produced one of the most popular tracks from the project. "Happy Hour" is an ode to letting loose and treating life as joyously chaotic as ordering a drink at a crowded bar on a weekend night.

"Buddy and I created this song a couple of years ago," D’Mile recalls, thinking deeply about the track's origins. 

The single can be seen as a sequel to T-Pain’s 2007 anthem, "Bartender" — and fittingly so. Adds D'Mile, "T-Pain hopped on the track maybe a few months before it was released. I can’t take credit for getting that feature on the song, but it did make all the sense in the world."

H.E.R’s "Fight For You," "I Can’t Breathe" & I Used To Know Her

In 2021, D’Mile got together with longtime collaborators H.E.R and singerTiara Thomas to create socially-charged songs that highlighted the atrocities of police violence against Black Americans.

"The creation of these songs started with a conversation," D’Mile says, smiling as he reflects on the trio's tight bond. "H.E.R and Tiara were talking about what was going on in the world. H.E.R. is an artist that really cares about people and cares about what's right."

D'Mile recalls that H.E.R. picked up a guitar and played "I Can’t Breathe." "I remember tearing up when I first heard the song and I just knew exactly what I needed to do to help."

The producer also assisted on the tearful tune "Could've Been," which was also born from this session and later appeared on H.E.R’s second LP.

Victoria Monét - Jaguar

D’Mile had his hands in all processes behind the production of Victoria Monét’s debut album, Jaguar. The supersonic 2020 project is a funky unification of fun R&B with sultry pop melodies.

While Monét has penned lyrics for Ariana Grande, Nas, Chris Brown and others, Jaguar was the Georgia native's first full-length foray as a solo artist. The performer, dancer and recent mom is also using D’Mile’s musical compositions on her next album.

D'Mile says he's excited for Monét’s next musical chapter, which incorporates her experiences with motherhood and more sass.

"We dug a little deeper. She is an artist that I feel really comfortable with," the producer says of Monét's forthcoming record. "There might be a couple of songs that you wouldn’t expect from her, and then there are songs that are just incredible records."

And all in all? “That’s my fam. That’s like my sister, you know. Me and Vicky have known each other for years,” he said in another interview. “I’ve always been a fan. I’ve seen her grow and we’ve worked on and off pretty much since the beginning.”

Silk Sonic - An Evening With Silk Sonic

The breakout group of 2021 were undoubtedly the nostalgically catchy vocal duo Silk Sonic — a project of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. D’Mile executive produced the entire An Evening With Silk Sonic album, which swept the 64th GRAMMY Awards.

D’Mile related immensely to Bruno Mars, who is also a producer, and found commonality in .Paak's interest in older R&B originals from the likes of Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. The stars finally aligned in 2020 when Anderson reached out to D'Mile about a collaboration.

"It took us two years to create the vision and we all just kind of love that era of music [that Silk Sonic is emulating]. That's what we grew up on," D’Mile reminisces. "'Smoking Out the Window' was a song that Bruno and Anderson sat on for five years until the right moment came. It feels like a blur because we were just having so much fun together."

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