When we talk about music icons, no list can ever be complete without mentioning the generational talent that is Usher Raymond. Even after more than 30 years in the music industry, the R&B singer-songwriter is still at the top of his game, and the overwhelming success of the first leg of his second Las Vegas residency is proof that he’s only getting better with time. All hail the king of R&B.
Because I am first and foremost God’s favorite, I was invited by French cognac powerhouse Rèmy Martin to join their team in Las Vegas for a VIP experience to raise a toast to all things Usher and attend the last show of the first half of his My Way residency. In celebration of the launch of its new global campaign, “Life is a Melody,” the good people of Rémy Martin flew me out to Sin City and put me up in a fabulous deluxe suite at the Encore at Wynn, one of the city’s finest, most exclusive resorts, complete with a fully stocked personal bar with bottles upon bottles of Rèmy Martin 1738 Accord Royal and XO. I was swept off to an influencer dinner prepared by a world-class chef, complete with a drink menu of special Rémy Martin cognac-based cocktails, before jetting down the Las Vegas strip for the event of the season: the final show of Usher’s My Way residency.
The My Way Residency marks the superstar’s second Sin City takeover (he famously made history as the first Black male singer to have his own residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2021), but his triumphant return to Las Vegas two years later manages to make even more of a splash. The My Way show is a much bigger production by far, with the setup of its new home at Park MGM’s Dolby Live amphitheater allowing for more than 6,000 people to watch Usher do his thing, but somehow, it also feels smaller, more intimate even. That sense of closeness — with fellow fans and with Usher himself — is absolutely intentional. From the smooth, sensual start of his setlist (“My Way,” appropriately) to its spirited closing number (“Without You”), Usher is leading his loyal fans down a journey through the greatest hits.
“Hello, ladies,” Usher greets the crowd in a silky smooth voice, casually strolling down the stage’s runway as cheers and literal shrieks (guilty!) erupt throughout the amphitheater. He took in the raucous applause with a smile before getting the show started. The performance that followed was a sonic journey that stretches across three decades and eight studio albums, an expertly curated lineup of late 90s/early 2000s anthems, his most popular features, and newer releases that never missed a beat. We went from the club to the roller rink — Usher really loves roller-skating — to the bedroom and back to the clu(r)b again, losing our voices as we scream-sang the words of Usher’s near-perfect discography at the top of our lungs for hours.
I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my 30 years, so I can say that I’ve seen my fair share of excellent performances; I was there when Burna Boy made history in 2022 as the first Afrobeats artist to sell out Madison Square Garden, and I was present (and weeping) when Beyoncé turned the entire AT&T Stadium purple and tearfully performed a rendition of “The Beautiful Ones” after learning of Prince’s passing in 2016. Still, the My Way show was something different — something I’d never experienced before. Usher is one of those artists with an undeniable impact on pop culture. He’s first and foremost an R&B singer, but his career has seen him switching lanes and genres, too; he’s also dabbled in pop, bachata, and electronic dance music. That versatility and range are the secret sauce to his success, and even though Usher’s career has practically laid the blueprint for the modern pop star to follow, we haven’t seen another man in R&B replicate that star power yet. The proof is in the pudding: there’s only one Usher.
Everyone knows it, too. There’s a reason why almost all of Black Hollywood has made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to sit front and center at Usher’s residency — and why his shows are always the talk of the town. When Emmy-nominated writer and actress Issa Rae attended the show, she couldn’t help but swoon as Usher serenaded her in front of thousands. Keke Palmer practically broke the internet when her special moment with the R&B icon stirred up a still-occurring discourse about relationship etiquette. (Sitting in VIP, I myself was torn — I love Usher, but I also didn’t want to be the first person to faint at the My Way residency if he held the mic in front of my face during “There Goes My Baby.”) Like Prince and Whitney Houston before him, and like Beyoncé, his only contemporary (yes, I said it), Usher is the celebrity’s celebrity.
To say that I was on cloud nine following the concert would be an understatement; even as I looked longingly at my stash of Usher bucks the next day, I just wanted to relive those two hours all over again. Thankfully, my Usher experience was far from over. After an exclusive poolside party with Rèmy Martin at the Encore hotel, the team opened up the doors to its ”4 on the Floor” roller-skating pop-up, transporting Usher’s fans and friends to a world ruled by three of his favorite things: music, liquor, and skating. The Rèmy Martin team transformed what was once an empty space into a stylish skating rink that would impress even the most loyal Cascade skaters, complemented by a DJ booth, a fully-stocked open bar, and a champagne tower of — you guessed it — Rémy Martin cognac. I’m not a skater, but I laced up for a spin around the rink. (I couldn’t make a full lap, but that’s neither here nor there.) When Usher arrived, it was as if he was back in his natural habitat, ditching his expensive sneakers for a pair of light-up skates and taking to the floor. He bobbed and weaved through the throng of skaters and glided across the linoleum with the ease and elegance of a professional, waving his towel in the air while his crew of dancers skated in sync behind him. It was like something out of a movie or a music video: Usher floating around the room while hundreds of people gaped at him in adoration.
On my way back to the airport, I felt that familiar sense of post-concert melancholy wash over me as I reminisced over the weekend’s events. After several eras of being an Usher stan, I’d finally seen the man — the legend! — in person, and I was obsessed. With the music industry as crowded as it is (and getting more congested by the day), it can be hard for some musicians to stand out and make their mark. Still, there are some artists whose talents place them in a league of their own. Natural charisma amplified by an unbeatable work ethic, magnetic stage presence, and meticulous attention to detail. Hits that stick like grits generation after generation. Culture-defining moments. Always evolving but ever relevant. That’s Usher, baby.