We are living in the year of Usher. With just two days to go before he takes the stage for the Super Bowl halftime show, the king of R&B has released his ninth studio album, Coming Home, his first solo record since 2016; it comes, of course, on the heels of a successful residency in Las Vegas and a newly announced tour set to commence this summer. A jam-packed schedule is nothing new for the hitmaker, who told Vanity Fair that preparing for Sunday’s halftime show has “really been a process.”
“I’m learning something at the age of 45. It is to savor the moment. Days are becoming shorter. Weeks are becoming shorter. Years feel like months now; they go by so fast. I’m just trying to savor every bit of it and just enjoy it,” he said of the forthcoming show.
“The anticipation that I’m feeling and the excitement that people have, the calls I’ve gotten, the support that I’ve gotten from fans, the outpouring of messages around what it’s going to be and how many people are going to tune in—it feels really, really, really promising.”
Usher recently spoke with VF about preparing for Super Bowl Sunday, releasing his new music, and bringing Atlanta to Las Vegas.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Vanity Fair: Can you talk about your inspiration for the halftime show?
Usher: Something very magical happened here in Las Vegas during my residency, where I was able to bring all of my worlds together. I basically turned Las Vegas into Atlanta. I brought that melting pot that is Atlanta in a culture to Las Vegas. I wanted to bring that to a stadium. So what I did for the show, I put my residency on steroids and I brought it to another level. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to make it to the residency, this will be like the level above 10 times of what that was.
With a career spanning 30 years, was it hard to choose the set list?
It is hard; the bane of my musical director’s existence. IZ and Bobby Avila and Lil Jon were the musical directors for this Super Bowl.
I thought a lot about the moments that people remember and also took the opportunity that I would have to create a memorable moment. What you should expect from a live artist’s performance, I tried to push that forward, but that’s a lot to do in 12 minutes. I wasn’t able to fit in as many of the songs I wanted to, but I gave you enough of each of the songs that had a meaningful impact on my career. And that’s it. I tried some new things and introduced a few things that probably people wouldn’t have expected. Without telling you too much, I tried some things fashionably that I feel are going to be memorable for the fashion industry.
Can you speak more to the fashion and what you will be wearing?
There’s a moment in the show that I specifically designed myself. Not often does an artist use this as an opportunity to introduce another aspect of them creatively.
Did you collaborate with any particular designer, like Pharrell?
This portion of the collaboration was based on the work of my team, who put the entire show together. But it is an opportunity to introduce a bit of a culture that I am curating around [roller] skating.
Congratulations on your ninth studio album, Coming Home. What do you want longtime fans and new listeners to take away from this new album?
Never give up on what you believe in. Remain passionate, and it’s okay to be vulnerable. Creating this has been a process that has spanned over the last six years of my life. And not just consistently recording for six years, but living and reflecting and then finding inspiration, and then writing about it and then thinking about it and finding the right musicians or the right mixers and the right people to just continue to lift it up and make it great.
Collaborating with L.A. [Reid] once again, who I started my career with, now working with him feels like a coming-home. I’m hoping that it will be a love letter received by my fans. I am mindful of the fact that I’m making music that I think the world should listen to and be able to feel something from. But my fans specifically, if they’ve been watching my life, which I know they have been supporting, they understand what I’m talking about. They understand what nuance is there, so they know that there’s something specially specific for them.