The Grammy-winning singer opened his set at the NPR Washington, D.C., office with the throwback tune "You Make Me Wanna…," the lead single off his sophomore album "My Way," which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Usher followed this up with another dose of nostalgia, performing "Superstar," a deep cut from his chart-topping 2004 album "Confessions." Before starting the song, he gave a shoutout to singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger, who served as one of his backup vocalists during the performance and created the Usher-themed #SuperstarChallenge on social media, which challenges people to sing the song’s smooth falsetto riff.
"In this moment that we’ve had in life, we’ve had to find fun and connection in these devices that we have in our hands," said Usher, adding that seeing Bellinger’s challenge take off was an "incredible moment." "Being able to sing and just be joyous, there’s something about that that just ties us and brings us together."
Usher got the Tiny Desk crowd going with his 2002 single "U Don’t Have to Call": "If you feel like singing, I don’t wanna stop you from doing what you wanna do," he playfully told the crowd. He also played the sultry fan-favorite "Nice & Slow," another track from "My Way."
"I’ve got a question for y’all: Can anybody tell me what Usher was doing at 7 o'clock?" Usher asked the crowd, in reference to the song’s opening lyrics and related TikTok trend, to which the audience quickly responded, "Getting in the drop top, cruising the streets."
The 43-year-old singer capped off his set with "Confessions Part II" and "My Way." Usher’s performance also wraps up NPR’s Black Music Month Tiny Desk Concerts. Getting to showcase the singing talent of his Black colleagues Bellinger and singer-songwriter Vedo, who also performed backup vocals, was a moment of solidarity, he said.
"Celebrating Black Music Month, this is Black magic right here, baby," Usher said. "Life is a collaborative process and being able to lift each other up (and) stand with each other is all what it’s really about."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Usher: NPR Tiny Desk Concert ends Black Music Month with soulful set