Usher proclaims ‘United States of Atlanta’ as he receives Phoenix Award

Usher, just three days after his well-received Super Bowl halftime performance, was bestowed with the Atlanta Phoenix Award, considered the city’s most prestigious honor.

The ceremony was held Wednesday at the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame beside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Usher was among the inaugural inductees in 2021.

In his comments to those gathered for the presentation, Usher explained the purpose behind his halftime show: “I wanted the world to understand this amazing culture that Atlanta has. This is officially the United States of Atlanta. I’m here and looking at the world, but I’m still in Atlanta.”

He added: “I’ve been in every nook and cranny in the city and opened my arms to the city and the city has opened its arms to me. We’re like a fraternity of our own.”

His 15-minute halftime show was a love letter to Atlanta while covering hits from his 30-year career, including “Caught Up,” “My Boo,” “OMG” and his signature song “Yeah!” From roller skates to the booming marching band to guest appearances by fellow Atlantans Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris and Lil Jon, the city was imprinted all over the football field.

And Usher ended up being part of the most-watched Super Bowl halftime performance in history, garnering an average of 123 million viewers.

Usher performs during  halftime of Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

“Usher, you are our ambassador,” said Mayor Andre Dickens to Usher at the ceremony. “I know you were born in Chattanooga, but we love you here.”

This Phoenix Award has previously been given to hundreds of worthy Atlantans from a range of fields. Among past recipients in the entertainment, sports and media field in recent years are Ludacris, T.I., Dupri, Evander Holyfield, Tyler Perry, Sanjay Gupta and Monica Pearson.

Legendary record producer L.A. Reid, who helped shape Usher’s early career in the 1990s, was also on hand at the Wednesday ceremony. Usher simultaneously received an emblem on the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame, which was inaugurated in 2021.

”Usher was our love child at LaFace [Records] and look what he’s become,” Reid said. “He’s exceeded all of our expectations. Actually, I expected you to be bigger than this.”

He then brought former LaFace staff to stage, including Shanti Das and Kawan Prather: ”These are the people that gave birth to the music scene in Atlanta. We brought infrastructure, we brought family. ... The work that we did together led to producing the greatest entertainer in the world.”

Dickens also praised Usher’s long-running youth-oriented nonprofit group Usher’s New Look: “I also like that his heart is in the right place. We thank you for what you’ve done for young people in Atlanta.”

The event featured the Booker T. Washington High School Marching 100 and their Bad to the Bone Dance Team, who performed with Usher in Las Vegas during the Super Bowl.

Usher, who recently completed a long residency in Vegas, is basking in the glow of publicity and acclaim he hasn’t seen in years.

Professionally, Usher released his ninth studio album “Coming Home” last week. The 20-track LP features Burna Boy, The-Dream, Summer Walker, 21 Savage and more. Later this year, the Grammy-winning superstar will hit the road on his Past Present Future tour, which includes five Atlanta stops at State Farm Arena.

Usher with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Feb. 14, 2024 at a ceremony where the R&B singer received the city's highest honor The Phoenix Award.on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Natrice Miller/

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And on a personal note, Usher also found time to wed his longtime girlfriend and music executive Jennifer Goicoechea this past weekend.

How to follow Usher updates today from AJC

Stick with the AJC as we follow Usher on his big homecoming day (and week). He heads to Clark Atlanta University for a welcome home rally Wednesday afternoon following the earlier awards ceremony and we’ll be there. Wednesday night, we’ll take you into a listening party for his new album, “Coming Home.” Follow reporters DeAsia Paige (@deasia_paige) and Christopher A. Daniel (@journalistorian) on X for more. Keep up with the latest at