More than 110 million people tuned into the Super Bowl on Sunday — some to watch the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, some to see if Travis Kelce would get a kiss from Taylor Swift at the end of the game, and some to see the best commercials of the year.
But when Usher stepped onto the halftime show stage last night, it was a surprise nostalgic moment for a whole lot of parents across the country — to the point that Gen X, Xennials, and Millennials were all trying to claim him for their own generation.
It felt as though many people went into the show thinking, “Oh yeah, I like Usher,” and then were suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of early 2000s hits that just wouldn’t stop: “Caught Up” followed by “U Don’t Have To Call,” “Lovers And Friends” and ” Love In This Club.”
And was that a couple of lines from “Confessions Pt II” that we heard? Am I in my freshman year dorm room, listening to music while writing a paper on my original iMac? What year is it, and why do I feel so happy and free?
Then suddenly Alicia Keys is on stage in head-to-toe red and the two of them are singing “My Boo.” And then he’s on roller skates singing “OMG.” And then suddenly Lil John and Ludacris are there to sing “Turn Down For What” and “Yeah!”
At some point, Usher lost his shirt and no one with two eyes and a beating heart was mad about it.
What happened after the show was over (other than the Chiefs winning in overtime) was a whole lot of infighting about whose generation Usher — and his music — belongs to.
Gen X came in strong, claiming that the R&B superstar is clearly theirs because he was born in 1978, is 45 years old, and released his first album in 1994. He was born before the first personal computer and put out his first song the same year that Reality Bites was in theaters; they have a point.
But the Millennials, Xennials, and elder Millennials all claimed Usher for their own, too. After all, even though Usher is Gen X, his music was more popular in the clubs when this slightly younger generation was up to our very best partying.
Evidence: His biggest hits were released between 2001 and 2010, and his peak was probably in 2004, when Confessions came out.
But — couldn’t both factions be right? Couldn’t Usher be a bridge that unites Gen X, Millennials, and the Xennials? Couldn’t we all just put on roller skates, take off our shirts, and dance to “Yeah!” while our children look on, confused and concerned?
Some people saw the halftime show as a moment for unity for the generations sandwiched between the boomers and Gen Z. And maybe that’s the best way to look at it. Usher for all middle-aged people with various knee problems, whose knees are like this partially because of Usher!
Perhaps the best part of the whole thing was getting to sit my kids down after the halftime show and tell them all about Usher, and Alicia, and Lil John, and Ludacris, to make sure that they, too, will appreciate the greats, just like we learned about classic rocka and R&B from our parents. It’s the circle of life, and last night was Usher’s time.