Rihanna, ‘You Da One’ the Super Bowl Needed

Rihanna performed a solo show at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, which was hosted by Apple Music for the first time.

Rihanna rose from the ashes and shined like “Diamonds” at Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Feb. 12, 2023. A stellar performance from Rihanna featuring a medley of her most popular songs was no surprise, but a new baby on the way was. 

It was first announced on Sept. 25, 2022 that Rihanna would be headlining the Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show, according to National Football League (NFL) Communications. After sponsoring the halftime show for the past 10 years, Pepsi was replaced by Apple Music this year, with analysts expecting the NFL to receive at least $50 million per year for the halftime rights, according to the Associated Press.

Rihanna’s agreement to perform came as a surprise after the star revealed she had previously rejected the offer to sing at the Super Bowl LIII due to the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick, according to a 2019 interview with Vogue. In the interview, Rihanna said she would not be a sellout and did not want to be a service to an industry that did not support her people.

Many fans anticipated Rihanna’s return to the stage after five years of musical inactivity. She last released an album, “ANTI,” in 2016 and last performed in 2018 at the Grammy Awards, according to Billboard. The stage was set for Rihanna to deliver the performance of a lifetime.

Rihanna’s performance took her to new heights – literally. She opened the show with her 2015 single “Bitch Better Have My Money.” The song rang out through the stadium as Rihanna, suspended high on an aerial platform, looked confidently into the camera rocking a red monochromatic look by British designer Jonathan Anderson. 

The 9-time Grammy award-winning artist continued her dive into her illustrious catalog with “Where Have You Been” and “Only Girl (In The World),” two songs that have shaped Rihanna’s career and the pop industry with their addictive beats. 

She ran through hit after hit, jumping from “We Found Love” to “Rude Boy” to “Work” with her angelic voice flowing seamlessly between songs. The dancers, dressed in all white, aided Rihanna in creating a futuristic, chic performance. Their smooth movements worked in tandem with the Barbadian star’s vocals to produce a performance that was the epitome of captivating. 

Many fans predicted Rihanna would perform her first Grammy award-winning song “Umbrella” and other chart toppers such as “Pour It Up,” “All of the Lights” and “Run This Town,” but no one could have predicted the reveal of a new pregnancy, confirmed by Rolling Stone.

Not one to shy away from the spotlight, Rihanna took full advantage of America’s biggest sporting event with over 208 million viewers, according to the NFL. The star revealed her bump during the performance, becoming the first woman to star in the halftime show while pregnant, according to PEOPLE. She played into the reveal by allowing her coat zipper to dip down far enough to reveal her belly along with rubbing her stomach. 

Announcing her pregnancy at the Super Bowl ensured her place in pop culture history. But, it was her closing performance of “Diamonds” that carved her name into the stars.

Rihanna returned to the skies one last time to perform the revival of her 2012 hit. The song was a spiritual experience, with Rihanna singing so soulfully it truly felt as if she was calling out to the audience.

Crowd members waved their phone flashlights in the air, making her look like she was flying among the stars. Fireworks erupted in the background as the artist solidified her spot as one of music’s greatest.  

Rihanna is no stranger to the spotlight. Her ability to capture audiences with enchanting vocals and sensual performances has landed her amongst a category of artists many aspire to reach but few actually achieve.

Rihanna’s performance didn’t include out-of-this-world animatronics like Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl performance or perfectly timed weather events like Prince’s “Purple Rain” in 2007. But her lack of theatrics was made up for with her killer 13-minute mashup of her extensive discography, complex choreography by backup dancers and surprise pregnancy announcement.

The halftime show was everything the audience could have hoped for from one of music’s most seasoned artists. While some may hope this performance means the pop princess is back to reclaim her throne, no news of any upcoming releases has been announced.

Featured image courtesy of Jack Barron

Julia Soeder

Julia Soeder