Closing out NPR’s Black Music Month, “I’m just hoping to just really just have fun today. This office party we’re having. Yeah man, so let’s get right into it.” With that said, Usher began his Tiny Desk set.
First, he took the time to introduce his entire 9-piece band by name—from keys, to low brass, and guitars. Then, he kicked into “You Make Me Wanna…” so abruptly, it almost felt like he was mid-sentence. But he glided over every note so effortlessly, it didn’t really matter.
Back then, it wasn’t well known, but now it’s a proven fact: Some of the biggest names in R&B from the late ’90s and early ’00s can’t actually sing. Usher isn’t one of them. His voice hasn’t really changed since the aughts—proven with the next song, “Spotlight.” He slipped into a gorgeous falsetto solo at the end that is something of a dream—right before a ’90s funk beat slipped into the tiny studio from the brass band.
“U Don’t Have To Call” is the culprit for this breakdown in beat. This is one hell of a set, by the way. It never lost the vibe, something only emphasized with his long black trench coat and leather neck accessory. After which, Usher asks the NPR audience what time it was when he was in his drop top, before slipping into “Nice & Slow” with the answer (7 o’clock on the dot). Following that, a fun and smooth rendition of “Confessions Part II,” which now has its own GIF.
“I know she’s not about to save another kid in this mov…” pic.twitter.com/W8ADXi5HF2
— Halle Berry (@halleberry) July 2, 2022
“It’s been real fun. And to celebrate Black Music Month—” Usher stretches out his hands, referencing the band “—This has been Black Magic.” And to close out the 24-minute mini-concert, Usher mentioned that the 25th anniversary of My Way, his multi-platinum second record, was coming up. Then, he slipped into the album’s title track, “My Way,” to close it out.
Catch more NPR music highlights with our roundup of the best Tiny Desk home performances.
Photo via Bob Boilen/NPR