Usher‘s Super Bowl halftime show performance featured a celebration of his greatest hits with the help of a handful of fellow artists whom he collaborated with throughout his 20-plus-year career. But one important person was missing from the night: his longtime drummer, Aaron Spears. The singer subtly paid tribute to his late friend during his show.
Usher’s performance featured two drum sets on stage, with a gold one left open in honor of Spears, Rolling Stone has confirmed.
Spears, who died in October 2023, served as a producer on Usher’s 2004 smash Confessions, which earned him a Grammy nomination, while he was also part of Usher and James Brown’s memorable performance of “Caught Up” and “Sex Machine” at the 2005 Grammys. The drummer also worked with Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lil Wayne, and Lady Gaga throughout his career.
Spears’ wife, Jessica, confirmed his death in a statement shared on social media in October, though did not specify a cause of death. “Aaron was not only an incredibly accomplished drummer, admired by many for his unparalleled talent and passion for music, but he was also a devoted father to our precious son, August,” she wrote. “His love, guidance, and warmth were the pillars of our family, and his absence leaves a void that words cannot describe.”
As for Usher’s halftime performance, the singer kicked off his set with “Caught Up,” before launching into a slew of his greatest hits, including “My Confessions, Pt. II,” and “U Got It Bad.” Lil Jon showed up to perform “Turn Down For What” before Usher launched into his iconic “Yeah!,” which also features Lil Jon and Ludacris, who came out to drop his verses from the massive hit. Alicia Keys was also on hand to duet “If I Ain’t Got You” and “My Boo.”