The Rihanna revitalization

Rihanna made her highly anticipated live performance return at the Super Bowl halftime show, sparking conversation and some criticism.


After nearly a seven year hiatus, pop/R&B artist Rihanna is back and better than ever as arguably the most prominent female figure in the music industry. At approximately 8:30 pm EST on February 12, 2023, Rihanna took to the stage at State Farm Stadium and was the only girl that had the world’s attention. The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl were filled with excitement and speculation over Rihanna’s upcoming performance for the halftime show, something that has always drawn heavy attention. Rihanna joined a small, exclusive list of female artists to ever headline the halftime show that includes Beyoncé, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Diana Ross. Along with the anticipation came rumors and theories as to whether or not Rihanna would bring another staron stage to perform with her. The most suspected artists to come out with her were Drake, Jay Z, and Kanye West. 

Rihanna opened with one of her most bold and brassy songs “B*tch Better Have My Money” followed by “Where Have You Been”, two songs that weren’t super popular in comparison to others she could have opened with. It was quickly followed up by snippets of three vintage songs “Only Girl (In the World)”, “We Found Love”, and “Rude Boy”. At this point in her display, the crowd was getting into the performanceand it seemed that the possibility of a guest would be decided in the next few songs. She went ahead and performed “Work”, a song featuring Drake, but there was no Drake to be found onstage. She then performed “Wild Thoughts”featuring Bryson Tiller, but no Tiller either. She then went on to a more recent hit, “Pour It Up”. The song has resurfaced on TikTok, making it a favorite and keeping the crowd engaged. The next two songs, “All of the Lights” and “Run this Town”, which have Kanye West and Jay- Z featured, made people excited about their potential appearances. Rihanna, however, decided to go solo and stick to just her verse for each song. Her last loud and crowd-enticing song “Umbrella” had the entire stadium singing the classic word for word. Rihanna closed the halftime show with a soft yet powerful rendition of “Diamonds” to cap off an incredible 13 minutes.

The unfortunate first instinct from viewers was to immediately criticize the performance, leading viewers who couldn’t watch live to endorse the same ideas. Some criticized the singer for committing to do the halftime performance while being pregnant, as that limited the dancing aspect of her performance. Pregnant and standing from a floating platform was quite the scene by Rihanna, which showed off some of her additional performance skills. As soon as the performance ended, the viewers tried to find the songs RIhanna didn’t sing, but in 13 minutes, you can only do so many. Noticeably, Rihanna left out “Disturbia”, “SOS”, and “Pon de Replay”, which were 3 of her oldest hits that she kicked off her career with. Centennial freshman and avid Rihanna fan Moyo Adebanjo thinks the performance was “pretty good considering she hasn’t performed or produced any new music in almost a decade.” The resurgence was a large storyline going into the show, knowing that she hadn’t done a performance of that magnitude in a very long time, and then having to deliver on a stage like that is a ton of pressure put on her shoulders. When it came to the dancing, Adebanjo thinks “the choreography was unique” and “simple in a good way.” It can be very easy to get carried away and do too much with dancing, so it was very important that Rihanna kept it sweet and simple.

As far as Rihanna’s legacy, this performance not only brings her back into the music game, but it puts her in a conversation with the best female artists of all time. As an artist, to be able to be away from the game for as long as she was and return to deliver a solo performance during the halftime show is something that not many could have done. This was a huge statement from Rihanna saying that she is back and she can do it all by herself without supporting co-stars. Adebanjo added, “I respect her going solo because she showed she is just as talented without them, and didn’t need others to keep the show interesting.” Rihanna has since performed at the Oscars and saw an increase in song sales. At the end of the day, the Super Bowl halftime show can either be a legacy definer or legacy killer; Rihanna defined her legacy that night with her performance. Rihanna is having fans screaming her name again after taking a bow at the Super Bowl.


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