Usher’s national listening party

February 6th, 2024

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Big drop at the Big Game // Illustration by Kate Walker

Usher’s halftime show is the ultimate album drop

The Future. Usher’s upcoming 13-minute-long Super Bowl halftime show will be the biggest marketing moment of the event — marketing for Usher himself, that is. The renowned R&B singer is set to launch his long-awaited studio album at the game, so don’t be surprised if it becomes the best-selling record of the year.

National listening party
The Super Bowl is turning out to be the most high-profile album release party of the year.

  • Like previous artists, Usher is doing the halftime show for free and will probably spend millions of his own money (The Weeknd and Dr. Dre each spent $7 million for their shows on top of the NFL’s $10 million budget in 2021 and 2022, respectively).

  • That’s because he’ll earn way more in marketing value, which will make his digital song sales and collaborations with brands like Remy Martin pop. Rihanna saw song sales spike 390% and earned $44 million in earned media for her Fenty Beauty brand.

  • All of that bodes well for Coming Home, Usher’s first studio album since 2016, to make a lot of noise when it debuts that day.

The show itself will take a page out of his best-selling Vegas residency, giving audiences an Eras-style sonic trip through his 30-year career as an artist. Pretty fitting with Swift herself in the audience to cheer on her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Kelce just better hope that Usher doesn’t choose Swift for one of his famous, intimate serenades.

So, now we want to hear from you…


We ask the hard-hitting questions.

Are you looking forward to Usher's halftime performance?

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72.5% of you voted for None of them in yesterday’s poll: What podcast do you listen to (Call Her Daddy, The Joe Rogan Experience, and/or SmartLess)?

“The Daily, Freakonomics, Hidden Brain.”

“Have just never had any interest in any podcast.”

“Hate to be that guy, but why listen to someone else’s mental chatter when mine is annoying enough?”

“I listen to way too many podcasts, just not these ones.”

“None of those podcasts resonate with me.”

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Branded // Illustration by Kate Walker

The Super Bowl of marketing

The Future. The Super Bowl is not only the biggest sporting event in the country, but it’s also the biggest marketing event, with competition over who has the best ad as fierce as any team rivalry. With Usher headlining the Halftime Show and Taylor Swift making general headlines, a record number of female viewers will likely power this Sunday’s game to record ratings… for both the game and the ads.

Focus group
Paramount Global is giving brands plenty of opportunities to get their Super Bowl spotlight.

  • The entertainment conglomerate has sold out of its broadcast inventory on CBS, which hit a record price of $7 million for a 30-second spot.

  • But for brands who couldn’t cough up that much, they were able to buy inventory during the stream on Paramount+, the slime-filled coverage on Nickelodeon, and the Spanish-language broadcast on TelevisaUnivision.

  • To compete for virality, brands have spared no expense in recruiting famous faces for ads, with celebrity-starring commercials accounting for two-thirds of ads last year (up from less than a third in 2010).

  • And with TSwift making an appearance and somehow juicing ratings even more, female-skewing brands have gotten into the fray — Dove bought its first ad space in 18 years and e.l.f. Cosmetics did so for the first time ever.

Everyone wants a piece of the 115.1 million viewers who watched the game last year — the largest audience for a TV event ever.

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Cubicles could make a welcome return to the office

The Future. The open-floor concept of the Silicon Valley startup era is ending as workers yearn to recapture the personal space of the once-hated cubicle. As privacy becomes a key part of people’s optimal work environment, companies that provide dedicated space for each employee could see a hiring boost.

Goodbye, ping-pong table; hello, privacy
Cubicles are becoming cool again.

  • People are finding it harder to get work done in an open-concept office — one study found that workers performed 14% worse on cognitive tasks, while another found that a significant number of workers said it hurts their productivity and creativity.

  • Ironically, it’s also hurting face-to-face interactions — a Harvard Business School study found that 70% of employees turn more to Slack and email in an open-concept office. Why? People don’t want the whole office hearing their conversations.

  • That’s not to say that open concepts don’t have their benefits — several studies found that they greatly increase opportunities for collaboration and bonding.

The renewed push for cubicles is, as Thomas Roulet, a professor of organizational sociology and leadership at the University of Cambridge, says, a barometer for how remote work has shaped the workforce. Employees have gotten used to having their own spaces to buckle down and focus

People just want to get their work done.

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The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • Taylor Swift continued her winning streak with a fourth Album of the Year Grammy — the first artist to ever do so. Read More → thr

  • Speaking of the Grammys, the broadcast hit a high of 16.9 million viewers — the biggest audience since 2020. Read More → deadline

  • Disney debuted an animated short film featuring Professor Ludwig Von Drake informing shareholders how to vote for board seats amid its battle with activist-investor Nelson Peltz. Read More → thr

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • New Balance unboxed a sneaker recycle program and resale shop titled “Reconsidered.” Read More → hypebeast

  • Happy, Robert Downey, Jr.’s and Craig Dubitsky’s new coffee brand, gave the National Alliance on Mental Illness a 1% stake in the company, joining the Pledge 1% initiative. Read More → fastcompany

  • McDonald’s let loose a souped-up 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, dubbed the “Burgercuda,” on the streets of America... and people can win up to a year of free burgers if they find it. Read More → hypebeast

Tech, Web3, & AI

  • Rick Rubin is bringing his world-famous creativity to website design via a new partnership with Squarespace. Read More → fastcompany

  • Tinder will apparently warn you when you’re being disrespectful to a match. Prepare the memes. Read More → techcrunch

  • A deepfake scam in Hong Kong swindled over $25 million from a multinational firm. Read More → standard

Creator Economy

In partnership with Shareholder Vote Exchange

  • Roblox has rolled out a real-time AI chat translator so users can seamlessly talk to anyone in the world. Read More → theverge

  • Meta’s Oversight Board found that Meta’s rules on deepfake videos are “incoherent.” Read More → techcrunch

  • Execs are trying to figure out how to lay off people without going viral. Read More → bloomberg

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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Boye Akolade. Copy edited by Kait Cunniff.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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