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What Post-Super Bowl Impact Will We See From Usher, Beyoncé and Other Superstars?

Mr. Nimbus | 02/13/2024

Music’s Biggest Night may have been a week prior, but Super Bowl Sunday still put plenty of pop superstars on prominent display — most notably, veteran pop&B icons Usher and Beyoncé.

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Usher of course performed as the halftime headliner at Super Bowl XLVIII, running through 15 minutes of his biggest hits with assists from guest-star collaborators like Lil Jon, Alicia Keys and will.i.am. And Beyoncé not only starred in a Super Bowl ad punning off her reputation for “breaking the internet,” she went on to basically do just that once again, with the announcement of her much-anticipated Act II sequel album to 2022’s Renaissance, and the release of two country-flavored advance cuts, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages.” (And then, of course, there was also that Chiefs fan and part-time singer-songwriter who the CBS broadcast kept cutting to throughout the game…)

What will the gig mean for Usher’s catalog? And how big do we expect these new Beyoncé songs to get? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. Usher played a pretty hit-filled halftime show — which of his songs do you think will most be helped, either in terms of short-term spikes or long-term legacy, by its inclusion in his setlist?

Stephen Daw: While I’m certain that “Yeah!” will see plenty of well-deserved upticks after Ludacris and Lil John joined Usher for his show-stopping closer, their inclusion in the show was practically a foregone conclusion. But bringing up Alicia Keys for a genuinely great rendition of “My Boo” 20 years after its release felt like the kind of delightful, head-turning surprise we expect to see from a halftime show. Both Alicia and Usher sounded great on the track 20 years later (despite the internet harping on one pre-duet vocal crack), and the on-stage chemistry appeared just as potent as it was back in 2004. Sure, “My Boo” is already one of Usher’s most well-documented hits, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the classic duet saw a cultural resurgence thanks to this phenomenal revisit. 

Kyle Denis: I think “Yeah!” will be helped the most. It’s Usher’s most widely known song and it got a serious showcase during halftime, complete with special guess Lil Jon and Ludacris. In terms of musical moments that will live beyond Sunday night, “Yeah!” leads the pack. It also helps that “Yeah!” was one of the few songs in Usher’s set that didn’t fall victim to a two-line snippet before moving onto the next track. Nonetheless, “My Boo,” could see a substantial jump in traction following the endless barrage of Alicia Keys-focused viral memes. 

Jason Lipshutz: Like the rest of his Confessions singles, “My Boo” was a smash upon its release in 2004 — the Alicia Keys duet spent 6 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 — but hasn’t remained a signature Usher single over the past two decades, and was a more unexpected centerpiece of the Super Bowl halftime show than uptempo smashes like “Yeah!” and “OMG.” Because of that tender stadium harmonizing because Ursh and his surprise guest, however, I’d guess “My Boo” picks up some new listeners, as well as some “Oh yeah, I forgot how great that song is!” streams, and receives a significant spike.

Taylor Mims: If an Usher halftime show was geared toward any specific demographic it was millennials and nostalgia hit hard on “Yeah!” There is not a single person who went to a middle school or high school dance in 2004 or later and didn’t hear “Yeah!” at least a few times per night. Hearing that song again brings back a ton of memories and millennials will be flocking to Spotify or Apple Music to bask in those forgotten times.  

Andrew Unterberger: “Yeah!” definitely seems to be the biggest short-term beneficiary — gonna be real fun to (likely) see that classic back on the Billboard Hot 100 20 years after topping it for 12 weeks — but to me, the biggest winner from Usher’s set was “OMG.” The 2010 Hot 100 No. 1 remains an extremely contentious song within his discography, with many fans deriding it as a regrettable EDM-era throwaway and other fans telling those fans to hush and just fist-pump along with the hook. Usher’s decision to include “OMG” within his inner-circle setlist — the only song of his from the last 15 years to earn that distinction — is a major win for fans in the latter category.

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2. Despite releasing his new Coming Home album just two days earlier, Usher didn’t play a single song from the album during his show — not even his recent Hot 100 top 40 hit “Good Good.” Were you surprised by the snub, and do you think it’s going to have any particular impact on the album’s commercial fortunes?

Stephen Daw: I don’t think it was too shocking that nothing off of Coming Home made it onto the stage on Sunday. Historically speaking, the Super Bowl halftime show is a place to celebrate a career’s-worth of accomplishments, not necessarily to promote new work. While a quick, 30-second nod to “Good Good” could have given the song a brief bump, I don’t think the lack of Coming Home numbers will have too much of a negative effect on the album’s numbers — a rising tide lifts all boats, and I suspect that the influx of listeners going back through Usher’s catalogue will only benefit his latest LP. 

Kyle Denis: I was less surprised that Usher ignored Coming Home and more surprised that he flat-out ignored the last decade of his recording career. Surely, we could have fit a tease of “Climax” or a “Good Kisser” drum break or a snippet of “I Don’t Mind” somewhere in the show! In terms of the commercial fortunes of Coming Home, it’s a bit hard to say. Playing a new track from the LP would have certainly helped; it’s hard to imagine the average viewer watching the halftime show and understanding that Usher has a new 20-track album out right now. Between the absence of Coming Home during his set and the lack of a commercial for neither his forthcoming tour nor the album itself, it does feel like the ball was dropped in terms of prioritizing the promotion of the record. 

With all that said, I don’t think Coming Home was ever going to pull astronomical numbers — but I can almost guarantee that the final tally would have been higher with a bit more concerted focus on the album during the halftime performance. Between the success of “Good Good” and his fast-selling tour, Coming Home is already shaping up to be Usher’s biggest commercial win – in terms of full-length projects – since 2012’s Looking for Myself

Jason Lipshutz: Considering that his Super Bowl performance included a slower R&B medley in between pop smashes, I was surprised that he couldn’t sneak “Good Good” in between songs like “Burn,” “Nice & Slow” and “U Got It Bad.” Obviously the old-school fans loved seeing stars like Alicia Keys, Lil Jon and Ludacris come out during the halftime show, but having Summer Walker and 21 Savage arrive on the Super Bowl stage would have thrilled a whole new generation of Usher fans — while also demonstrating the breadth of Usher’s decades-long run as a crossover hit machine.

Taylor Mims: It is surprising. For promotion alone, it seems like it would have been a smart move to sneak even a few moments of some new material in. But Usher decided to do a retrospective of his long and accomplished career and who can blame him. When you’ve only got 12 minutes to remind the world about your 30 years of success, there have to be some concessions.  

Andrew Unterberger: I was a little surprised: Coming Home is a real moment for Usher, his first album as the lone lead artist in nearly a decade, released just two days before the Super Bowl and already boasting his biggest hit in a decade. I don’t think it’ll necessarily hurt the album that much, and honestly, it’s unlikely the album would be boosted by a token song or two as much as 2004 blockbuster Confessions will be with its seven (!!) separate songs featured in Ush’s set. But it’s a little unfortunate that an artist who’s continued to release great music for the whole back half of his 30-year recording career would present himself pretty much solely as a catalog artist — again, “OMG” was the oldest song he performed, and that song is 14 years old at this point.

3. Beyoncé grabbed some of the night’s headlines for herself with the announcement of her upcoming Act II album and the release of two new songs, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages.” Do either of them sound like “Break My Soul”/”Cuff It”-sized hits to you, or do you think folks will need some time to come around to her (mostly) new country-influenced sound?

Stephen Daw: Emotional Ballad Beyoncé Singing Ridiculous Vocal Runs Because She Can™ is my personal favorite Beyoncé variant, so I’ve naturally found myself listening (and re-listening) to “16 Carriages” more out of the two. But if we’re looking for a hit, then I’m going all-in on “Texas Hold ‘Em.” The vibe is immaculate and smartly straddles the line of a country hit and a Beyoncé banger. It doesn’t feel like she’s pandering to a specific audience (looking at you, Ben Shapiro), but instead feels like a natural evolution on the sound she introduced with “Daddy Lessons” on Lemonade. I don’t know that either of these will reach the heights of a breakthrough like “Break My Soul,” but I think a top 20 placement is absolutely in the cards for “Texas Hold ‘Em.”

Kyle Denis: Folks will probably need a bit of time, because the overarching sound of both singles stands worlds away from the glitzy bombast of Renaissance. There’s some potential for “Texas Hold ‘Em” to morph into a line dance anthem that evokes the dance trend that helped “Cuff It” take off, but I’m more interested to see if “16 Carriages” can get Queen Bey her first hit ballad in quite some time. 

Jason Lipshutz: “Texas Hold ‘Em” sounds like a hit to me, full of big hooks, back-and-forth whoops and a captivating Beyoncé vocal take that sneaks up on you instead of bowls you over. There’s an air of inclusivity to this country boogie, as if Bey is beckoning the listener to an unfamiliar party; maybe it won’t be as commercially resonant as “Break My Soul” or “Cuff It,” but “Texas Hold ‘Em” sounds like a pristine table-setter for this Beyoncé era, and I’m hoping it crosses over to country, pop and Queen Bey fans alike.

Taylor Mims: “Texas Hold ‘Em” is a winner and if anyone can make pop radio come around to country, it will be Beyoncé. That stomping beat will get enough Beyoncé fans on board with the country route and then some folks might be a bit warry of the banjo, but she’ll wrangle them in eventually. If the rumors are true that Beyoncé is on a mission to reclaim genres created by Black people, I think people will be open to her taking country back to its roots and give it all a listen.  

Andrew Unterberger: The Super Bowl boost and general headline-making moment of their release will certainly help their first-week performance — though unfortunately, they’ll be hurt by their Sunday night release, meaning they’ll have just four full days’ worth of chart stats to count towards their first frame. Beyond that, it’s a little harder to predict: Radio will likely be slower to fully embrace this sonic left-turn than it was the top 40-accessible “Break My Soul,” and streaming momentum will depend on one of the songs catching heat on TikTok and other social media platforms. So far, so good: “Texas Hold ‘Em” in particular is off to a fast start, holding the No. 2 spot on both Spotify’s and Apple Music’s daily charts and topping iTunes. I’d ultimately bet that the era’s most pronounced chart impact will have to wait for the full album’s release in late March, though.

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4. All eyes will certainly be on the country world following the release of these songs and the full Act II to see what their response will be to her efforts. How much, if at all, do you think Nashville and the country machine will embrace this version of Beyoncé?

Stephen Daw: Country music’s track record when it comes to Beyoncé specifically is mixed; while 2016’s “Daddy Lessons” earned her some country radio play and a significant amount of support from A-listers in the genre, the Recording Academy’s genre committee famously denied the star any consideration for country-related awards at the 2016 Grammys. It’s hard to predict whether or not the country industry will bring Beyoncé into the fold here — but quite frankly, they’d be stupid not to! What better way to celebrate the format’s rise to cultural dominance than by showcasing how one of the biggest artists on the planet is putting out good country music? Not platforming “Texas Hold Em” or “16 Carriages” on country radio is just leaving money on the table. 

Kyle Denis: Based on the writing and production credits on the two new tracks, it looks like Beyoncé has intentionally side-stepped the contemporary Nashville machine for her new country album. And that would make sense, considering she’s trying to pay homage to the Black roots of the genre. I wouldn’t be surprised if the track’s music videos (should we get any) get some spins on CMT, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see country megastars across racial lines embracing Queen Bey. In terms of the country radio institution, however, it would truly be a watershed moment in music if Beyoncé was able to get legitimate country radio hits with original country songs crafted outside of the purview of Nashville. 

Jason Lipshutz: I’d suspect that different factions of the country music industry embrace this Beyoncé era to varying degrees: while streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have already slotted in “Texas Hold Em” atop their primary country playlists, country radio moves more slowly and is generally more traditional in their programming, so that will be a tougher nut to crack. We’re likely in for a few months of some country listeners being frequently exposed to new Beyoncé, and others fairly unaware of her new project; such dissonance will produce warranted hand-wringing, but that’s just the reality of the different speeds and approaches of Nashville’s biggest platforms. 

Taylor Mims: As a community, the modern country genre has historically been very skeptical of Black artists and many artists of color have said they are treated like outsiders who need to prove their sincerity to “three chords and the truth.” But Beyoncé does not need the genre gatekeepers’ approval. She does not need their airplay or an invite to perform at a country awards show. If they don’t welcome her, it will highlight the rampant discrimination in the genre. If they do welcome her, a Black woman will be the center of attention in the genre for possibly the first time. Either way, Queen Bey wins.  

Andrew Unterberger: I think they’ll embrace her in ways that don’t require a great deal of prolonged commitment. For instance, I bet country award shows will recruit her heavily: She’ll be great for ratings, and even the controversy her appearance will inevitably generate will be good for putting the show on folks’ radars. But will she become a major presence on country radio? Will the genre’s conservative-minded ruling class openly welcome her as a peer? Will her success lead to greater opportunities for other Black artists, and artists crossing over from outside genres? That all seems a little less likely to me.

5. Of course, there was another longtime pop star besides Ush and Bey who dominated headlines on Super Bowl Sunday. Since she’s now the only one of the three who hasn’t, give your prediction: Will Taylor Swift ever headline Super Bowl halftime?

Stephen Daw: Yes, Taylor Swift will absolutely do the Super Bowl halftime show someday, but I don’t think that day will come any time soon. The pop superstar is at an all-time zenith in her professional career, with signs only pointing further up for her future. Putting aside all the records she broke in her own career, Taylor brought in a ridiculous amount of revenue and attention to the NFL itself, and she did it without once performing at a game. Simply put, the league needs her more than she needs them — so she might as well keep waiting until she’s ready to bring out the big guns for her much-anticipated halftime performance. 

Kyle Denis: She’ll do it. If she doesn’t, it’ll be to make a point that she’s bigger than the whole thing – but is anyone really bigger than the Super Bowl? I expect Tay to take the halftime stage before the decade closes, probably around 2026 or 2027, by which point her re-recording endeavor should finally be over. A Super Bowl halftime show would be a picture-perfect way to celebrate Taylor Swift finally owning all her work. 

Jason Lipshutz: I think she will, although I’d guess it’s still a few years away, after her six-album re-recording project is completed (so she can play Taylor’s Versions of all of her hits) and the Eras Tour is long in the rearview (so that the halftime show doesn’t feel like a rehash of a mega-tour and its accompanying concert documentary). I’d imagine that Taylor Swift has an open invitation from the NFL to take their biggest stage, though, so whenever she wants to take over halftime, she will. 

Taylor Mims: Not anytime soon. Would the NFL love to have Taylor Swift perform at halftime? Most certainly. Could Taylor Swift pull off an epic halftime show? Without a doubt. But Super Bowl halftime performers do not get paid to perform and often use the 15 minutes or less to promote something. Taylor Swift gets promotion for free every single day and she does not need help selling tickets or albums. Also, imagine Swifties trying to get their hands on the already uber-coveted Super Bowl tickets. The mayhem!

Andrew Unterberger: My reflexive response was “no,” as Taylor Swift hasn’t performed at an award show or televised live event in years. After all, why should she? Her own tour is arguably a hotter ticket than any other institution’s most popular or prestigious events right now anyway. But I do think Swift cares about history, and the fact of the matter is that most of the greatest stars of modern pop history — from Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna to Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and now Usher — have a Super Bowl halftime performance on their resumé.

So if and when her own live schedule becomes a little less hectic, and maybe after she’s spent a little less time reflecting on her past than she has over these past few years of album re-recordings and Eras revisitings — let’s say around the turn of the next decade — I imagine she’ll probably want to put a checkmark next to this all-timer qualification. By that point, it’ll probably be one of only a precious few she has left.

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus




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