Usher had literally decades of hits to pull from for his NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, so it had to be stressful to whittle the options down to an under-30-minute set. Fortunately, that time in the limelight has taught Mr. Raymond a few things about being an entertainer — namely, to play the hits. That’s just what he did, opening the set with his 1997 breakout single, “You Make Me Wanna…,” the lead single from his second album My Way — the project that set him on the road to becoming the superstar that he is today.
Then, inspired by the viral challenge based on his 2004 Confessions smash, he launched into a stunning falsetto rendition of “Superstar.” Even better, he brought along the singer who helped kick off the challenge, Eric Bellinger, who sang backup alongside Vedo (both are stars in their own rights, highlighting just how big Usher really is). Then, bringing out yet another hit, Usher went even further back to 8701 single “U Don’t Have To Call.” With the horns backing the arrangement, the futuristic Neptunes production becomes a funky, jazzy slider.
And speaking of viral moments, there’s a new challenge in which Zoomers ask each other what Usher was doing at 7 o’clock — a clear reference to his My Way single “Nice And Slow” that embarrassingly few young people have gleaned. However, the audience at NPR’s office knew exactly what was going down, turning the song into a full-on singalong, from the first verse to the double-time rapped bridge. Of course, he performs the obligatory “Confessions, Part 2” and then closes out by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the title song from My Way, playing a full-force presentation of Usher’s second top-five hit.
You can watch Usher’s Tiny Desk Concert above.