Think about the fact that Usher was the special guest of the Black Eyed Peas — the freaking Black Eyed Peas — when the “I Gotta Feeling” foursome headlined the Super Bowl XLV halftime show in 2011.
But 13 years after Usher swooped in and upstaged the Peas, justice was finally served when the singer had his own career moment on Sunday.
This time around — midway through the showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas — it was will.i.am. who made the quick cameo during “OMG” as Usher Raymond IV reminded us about the superstar that he is 30 years after he made his self-titled debut at 15.
And hot on the heels of his smoking new album “Coming Home,” which was released on Friday, Daddy sealed his return to the top of pop with a performance full of fancy footwork and soulful vocals as he smoothly grooved through hit after hit.
Making his very Vegas-y entrance to a somewhat surprising “Caught Up,” he veered into “U Don’t Have to Call,” “Superstar” and a marching-band take on “Love in This Club,” while giving the sweetest of shout-outs to his mother in between: “Hey mama, we made it!”
Then Usher welcomed the first of his guests: Alicia Keys, who took the piano for a bit of her own “If I Ain’t Got You” before they duetted on “My Boo.”
As great of a performer as Usher is all on his own, it was the kind of moment that reminded you about the power of A-list special guests on the Super Bowl stage — something that was sorely missing from Rihanna’s show last year.
After a hype-man appearance from early producer Jermaine Dupri that was almost like bringing family along to the party, Usher hit his slow-jam stride with a medley of “Confessions Part II,” “Nice & Slow,” “Burn” and “U Got It Bad.”
It’s hard to think of many other performers who could get away with so many ballads without the show getting, well, slow.
Then after Usher bared his chiseled chest — 20 years after Janet Jackson’s infamous nipple flash — his “Coming Home” collaborator H.E.R. rocked out on guitar and a little bit of “Bad Girl” that segued into a roller-skating segment for “OMG.” Still, we would’ve much rather heard “You Make Me Wanna…” or “U Remind Me.”
But as expected, Lil Jon and Ludacris were the biggest guests of the night when they joined to turn Allegiant Stadium all the way up with the “Yeah!” finale.
As far as songs to hype up the crowd at the Super Bowl — and audiences watching around the world — it doesn’t get much better than that.