It took only 13 minutes for the world to remember why Rihanna is one of the most iconic performers of our lifetimes. Bold, crisp, and lethally confident, her return to the stage was simply exhilarating — and if you think it was boring, you are simply just wrong.
Following the announcement that Rihanna is performing at the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show, fans had a million questions: will she perform new music? Is she going to bring out guests? What is she opening with? Where is the damn album? People all over Tik Tok imagined various ways to open the show, and what songs could be heard for the first time in over 6 years. During an Apple Music broadcast shared by the NFL via twitter, Rihanna stated that the show will be “celebration of my catalogue in the best way that we could’ve put it together”, and what a celebration it was! Her musical career alone spans over 17 years across both the business and entertainment industries, with an incredible amount of timeless hits to choose from, and the best part of it all is that none of the choices were new material.
Plenty of artists have used the Superbowl as an opportunity to prove or promote something. Rihanna needs none of that. The world waited with bated breath to simply see her. With a seemingly simple structure, Rihanna delivered us the reminder that she is, in fact, powerful on her own. Following huge and intricate performances from previous years, the LVII halftime show delivered raw authenticity. Rihanna did not need the Superbowl, but rather the Superbowl needed Rihanna. She does not need a large-scale stage, or mind-bending acrobatic choreography, or guest appearances (but more on that in a minute). She plays in a league above the literal Superbowl, the largest North American sporting event of the year, and she is still at complete and utter ease.
It is the audacious coolness of Rihanna that makes her such an exciting and refreshing artist. She is bold, fierce, unafraid. It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t dropped an album in years, you’re going to watch her sing her old catalogue and you’re going to love it. You will sing along to every one of those songs because you have grown up with her music and it’s just as invigoratingly exciting as it was when it first came out. And while the entire performance appeared simple at first glance, the chill factor of the entire thing is enabled by incredibly high attention to detail, care, and pure hard work.
It is because of Rihanna’s constant strive to be better, her close involvement in everything she does (from music, to her make-up and skin care line, to her SavagexFenty brand), that she is able to pull this off. While others try hard, she lets the work speak for her.
Her opening song was the best choice to set the tone for her return from hiatus. She drops the smoothest “Bitch” on live TV from the iconic “Bitch Better Have My Money”. The self-made billionaire doesn’t need to remind you, because you and I and anyone else can’t act like we forgot. “Ballin’ bigger than than LeBron”. Yes. Agreed. In less than 15 minutes, Rihanna nods to all of the genres she’s explored, from the dazzling EDM tracks “Where Have You Been” and “Only Girl” being immediately followed by a funk-remix of “Rude Boy” and the reggae-pop “Work”. While all of them so drastically different, we take a walk down memory lane into the best years of our lives, and the nostalgia of it all makes her setlist so much sweeter. “Wild Thoughts”, “All of the Lights”, “Run This Town”, and “Umbrella” are solely her songs now, and no special guests need to be acknowledged as anything more than a “oh yeah, they were on that track too.” Ending the setlist with Diamonds closes the loop in the most magical way, with Riri floating above the Superbowl field as over 70,000 flashlights brightened the stadium.
And then there are the outfits, her dancers, and the stage design, the close-ups of her immeasurably memorable smirk as she comes back to performing live. The all-white puffer costumes of the dancers in high contrast to her blood-red Loewe metal-breasted jumpsuit. It seems infuriatingly simplistic because it is — and only Rihanna has the infuriating confidence to pull it off. Remember the lack of special guests? Well, I take that back because she gave us a coy pregnancy announcement by quickly touching her baby bump while suspended 60 feet in the air on a wobbly platform swinging because of the winds (I mean, did you see that one dancer that almost fell off? Go back and watch again if you didn’t).
To top it all off, Rihanna at her core is a hard-working, talented, passionate woman who has earned every single thing she has ever achieved on her own. Having come from a troubled home in Barbados, Rihanna truly is as self-made as can be. She has overcome glass ceilings in multiple insanely competitive and cut-throat industries, launching successful brands in all through her music, Fenty, and Savage. She has got not just musical talent, but true business acumen. Don’t think she could have ever missed the opportunity to make a cheeky Fenty reference in the middle of an already stacked performance. And if you think it was a superficial marketing gimmick, she saved several millions of dollars by not dropping a typical commercial, and earned over $5 million in Media Impact Value according to wwd.com.
So there you have it. And if you still didn’t like it, go watch it again.