We’re just days away from the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event of the year, but the spotlight that normally shines over the opposing teams has been stolen by one man: Usher. The R&B legend is set to headline this year’s Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show, and it’s already shaping up to be one for the ages.

Coming off last year’s successful 100-show residency in Las Vegas, the Friday release of his ninth studio album, “Coming Home,” and the announcement earlier this week of his “Past, Present, and Future” tour — which includes two stops in Baltimore in August — the anticipation for the showman’s performance is high.

But how exactly is Usher going to cram a 30-year career, complete with eight Grammy wins, nine Billboard No. 1 hits, and tens of millions of records sold into one comparably short performance? Even he knows it’s quite the task. The star told Apple Music on Thursday, “I got to do it in 13 minutes. That makes it a bit difficult.”

Usher, 45, said he settled on the set list for his performance by asking certain questions: “What songs do I feel people know me for? What songs feel like a celebration of all of the journey of life and love and emotion that has been offered in my music? That was the idea.”

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Regardless of which songs the R&B crooner already plans to sing, dance and ultimately roller-skate to this weekend, I’m throwing my hat in the ring and sharing my fantasy selection of songs and guests Usher should include onstage.

‘Superstar’ (2004)

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This is a no-brainer, honestly. Straight from his Diamond-certified album “Confessions” (which will turn 20 this March), “Superstar” is one of the gems of Usher’s catalog. During the pandemic, the song sparked a viral trend dubbed #SuperstarChallenge, for which fans tried to prove they had the vocal acrobatics to pull off the memorable opening vocal run at the beginning of the song. The singer even addressed the challenge during his NPR “Tiny Desk Concert” performance in 2022.

By the way, I tried that vocal run a few times and nailed it. Not that you asked, but still had to share.

‘Love in This Club, Pt. II’ (featuring Beyoncé & Lil Wayne) (2008)

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I’m the king, y’all know that / She the queen, came right back.” It’s been 16 years since Usher and Beyoncé formally collaborated on “Love in This Club, Pt. II,” and fans of both, like me, have been asking for more ever since. It makes sense to pair them up again, since both have cemented their legendary statuses in the music game through talent, ever-adapting sounds and bar-setting performances.

And let’s not forget Lil Wayne killed his verse on this track, raising the remix above the original song.

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Usher said we can expect some special guests Sunday. Could Queen Bey and Lil Wayne join him on stage? It may be wishful thinking, but I’m still holding out hope. It wouldn’t be the first time Beyoncé randomly popped out during an Usher performance.

‘Lovers and Friends’ (2004)

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Will Usher, Jon and Luda indeed do it again? It sure seems like it — but for a different song collaboration. In an interview with “Entertainment Tonight” on Thursday, Usher said, “It would be foolish to make it all the way to Las Vegas, Jon is here, Luda’s here and not play ‘Yeah!’” But my fingers are crossed that “Yeah!” — a classic of its time that has since been overplayed to death —is not the only group song on the setlist. They performed “Lovers and Friends” together at the 2022 festival of the same name, so here’s hoping they’ll do it again for an even bigger audience.

‘My Way’ (1997)

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We can’t forget about the true ’90s classics that helped launch Usher further into stardom. Sharing the same name as his second studio album, “My Way,” the song is a reminder of how fun and exciting Usher’s music is — and how talented he was even at 19 years old. Performing it would bring the nostalgia and talent together. And while fans already know this hit, it would be a great introduction for newer fans to take a deeper dive.

‘Caught Up’ (2004)

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“Caught Up” hive stand up! Here’s another hit from “Confessions” that would stand out during the halftime show. Outside of the catchy hook and production, this song is the perfect opportunity to show off Usher’s elite dance skills. Just try to sit still during the music video.

‘Good Kisser’ (2014)

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Yeah, I’m going there. “Good Kisser” is a wild choice solely on what the song is about (I’ll let you look that up on your own time), but it’s what those with musical taste call a hit. Usher has always found a way to adapt his sound throughout his career, which has given him longevity in the game. “Good Kisser” is a perfect example of that with its elements of funk, pop and R&B.

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Whether or not you like the subject, it’s, dare I say, one Usher’s underrated songs. Get into the drums and the choreography.

‘U Remind Me’ (2001)

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Let’s get some love in here for “8701,″ Usher’s third album and another one of his best. It’s filled with hits and deep cuts, so it’s hard to choose which song should make the list. I’m a true fan of “U Don’t Have to Call” and “U Got it Bad,” which may ultimately make their way into the performance, but I also feel like “U Remind Me” deserves some shine.

The song represents the golden era of 2000s R&B and it has all elements: the right hook, the right choreography, a banger of a music video and, of course, a chart-topping song.

Wild Card: ‘OMG’ (featuring will.i.am) (2010)

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I know I’m going to get some hate for this, but hear me out: “OMG” was, and is, still a bop. A lot of people are not fans of Usher’s pop and electronic dance music era, during which a song like “OMG” thrived, but it proved he was able to appeal to mainstream audiences.

Despite the hate it gets from even the most loyal of his fans, “OMG” deserves to be on the set list. The song definitely challenges the likeability of the average R&B fan, but the halftime show is about hits. This is one of Usher’s big ones, like it or not.

Tramon Lucas is the Digital Editor at The Baltimore Banner. Tramon has worked in the digital news space for several years, with experiences in creating content and developing strategies for multiple platforms and audiences. He's a proud Baltimoreans and proud alumnus of Morgan State University. 

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