Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show: a welcome return for pop’s relaxed queen

Rihanna wasted no time in making a statement during her return to the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show, four years after her last live performance and seven years since her last studio album, glamsquad reports 

 

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There was no entrance montage or musical build-up to her set; we focused in on Rihanna’s face, chin down as if ready for battle, her presence after years of pop music absence an exclamation point in and of itself.

The Barbadian singer commanded a floating stage perched scarily high above the field, launched into a hard kickoff of her discography with Bitch Better Have My Money, and seemingly announced her second pregnancy just nine months after the birth of her son with one sweep of her hand over her belly.

‘It’s important for me to do,’ Rihanna says of her appearance on the Super Bowl stage.


Such is the power of Rihanna, a mega-celebrity whose charisma and famously laid-back charm (as well as successful fashion and beauty businesses) have carried her through a lengthy musical hiatus and at times overshadowed her extensive catalog of hits.

 

Her halftime performance capitalized on her reputation for being unbothered and effortlessly cool – no musical guest, little choreography, no stress or strenuousness, and a possible huge pop culture news drop as a casual aside.

(Since then, her publicist has confirmed the pregnancy.) She appeared to be a half-beat behind her army of white-clad, hard-elbowed backup dancers at times. She floated, at times literally (and seemingly fearlessly) above the expectations of an all-out, no-holds-barred halftime show, with a detachedness that could be read as admirable self-possession or frustrating boredom.

Which isn’t really important because Rihanna is a performer who understands the power of her presence, both seriously (how a strut on stage counts as entertainment in and of itself) and as a bit of fun (she at one point fielded a makeup compact from a backup dancer, a nod to Twitter jokes about her turning the show into a Fenty ad). Rihanna’s catalog is so vast – she has 14 number one hits, the fourth most of all time – that any setlist (and there were 39, according to her press conference) will be a letdown on some level.

 

The end result was an underwhelming, almost too-comfortable return to the musical spotlight, as well as a reminder of how many instantly recognizable, still banging songs Rihanna delivered between 2007 and 2016.

There were some disappointing exclusions due to the laws of time and a 13-minute set (nothing from Anti other than Work? No SOS? ), but Rihanna’s set featured many of her hits, including Where Have You Been All My Life, Only Girl in the World, We Found Love, Rude Boy inflected with the saucy, definitely not for family-friendly television S&M, Cake, and Pour It Up. Her cover of Kanye West’s All of the Lights, as if he weren’t even on the track, was a high point of undeniable energy and cultural power – a reminder, in less than 10 minutes, that Rihanna has so many good songs.

So many, and sung (or inflected over a backing track) flawlessly enough to let the numbers carry the show for her. The singer committed to very little choreography, at times barely moving or assuming command of her impeccable dancers.

 

The middle section, which sped through later-era hits like Work and DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts, felt like an afterthought, with Rihanna giving the bare minimum and commanding the world’s attention with a shrug. Whether true or not, it fits with her image as a laid-back queen after years of nearly unrivaled pop music grinding (in the eight years between 2005 and 2012, she released seven albums). However, it is not the energy one would expect from a Super Bowl performance, where artists such as The Weeknd in 2021 and Jennifer Lopez and Shakira in 2020 meet the pressure of the spotlight with intense, obvious perfectionism.

Still, the journey ended with the nostalgic reassurances of Umbrella, sung with a standing mic and dramatic red cape as Rihanna rose once more on her freakily high floating stage, and a full-belt version of Diamonds.

The stage, which was wired to somewhere out of sight, was visibly shaking during the final number, but Rihanna seemed unconcerned. Rihanna was alone in the sky, fireworks overhead, and surrounded by a sea of cell phone lights, a fitting end to a set that relied more on star power than delivery.

 

Credit: Hollywood reporter

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