Rihanna’s Halftime Show: Flop or Bop?
Rihanna made a highly-anticipated return to music with her live performance at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. The question, however, is: was it a triumphant or unsuccessful return? According to viewership numbers, she was triumphant with over 118 million fans tuning into the performance.
Though Rihanna has remained largely out of the musical spotlight since the release of her last album Anti in 2016, she's stayed plenty busy. The nine-time Grammy winner launched her company Fenty Beauty in 2017 (which helped her become Forbes' youngest self-made billionaire) and also welcomed her first child with ASAP Rocky in May of 2022.
The performance started with white, puffy backup dancers dancing above the field on rising platforms, already previewing that this would be a unique show. Rihanna mostly stuck to one outfit throughout the show which included a red jumpsuit. She topped off her show-stopping look with an iconic high ponytail that had some pieces braided. Rihanna also wore dangly diamond earrings that were a direct nod to her smash hit “Diamonds.” The 34 year old star also rocked a baby bump, both revealing her pregnancy and making history as the first pregnant performer at the Super Bowl. She also promoted her makeup brand Fenty Beauty with a subtle foundation fix during a song change.
The setlist was articulated with big hits such as “Work,” “Umbrella,” and “Diamonds,” however many of her more well known hits were missing. For example, big names such as “Disturbia” and “Needed Me” were not performed even though they were teased in the commercials leading up to the show. However, Rihanna stated that it was hard to fit her extensive music catalog into just 13 minutes, so it is to be expected that some songs would be left out. "That was the hardest, hardest part — deciding how to maximize 13 minutes but also celebrate," she said, noting there were some 39 versions of the setlist. "That's what this show is gonna be — it's gonna be a celebration of my catalog in the best way that we could've put it together." Speaking of disappointment, many fans were expecting Rihanna to bring out another artist to join her during halftime. Many names were suggested like Drake, her boyfriend A$AP Rocky, or even Beyonce. She has had many mainstream hits with big names such as these and fans felt as though her entire performance was teasing a reveal that never happened. Many memes have circulated that her ASL interpreter Justina Miles was more interactive than Rihanna herself, entertaining the crowd with her animated signing.
Overall, Rihanna delivered a good performance, with a carefully thought out tracklist fitting into the tight 13-minute limit as well as providing a spectacle with her innovative risers. While some fans felt her performance was subpar, it may not be amongst the most memorable halftime shows because of the music itself, Rihanna’s presence as a whole made it an event to be watched for years to come.