Rihanna’s Super Bowl half-time show: a welcome return for pop’s relaxed queen

Four years since her final dwell efficiency, seven since her final studio album, Rihanna wasted no time to make an announcement throughout her return to the stage on the Super Bowl half-time present. There was no entrance montage to her set, no musical build-up; we opened shut up on Rihanna’s face, chin down as if readying for battle, her presence after years of pop music absentia an exclamation level unto itself. Wearing a fittingly daring purple go well with, the Barbadian singer commanded a floating stage perched scarily excessive above the sector, launched into a tough kickoff of her discography with Bitch Higher Have My Cash, and with one sweep of her hand over her stomach, seemingly introduced her second being pregnant simply 9 months after the beginning of her son.

Such is the facility of Rihanna, a mega-celebrity whose charisma and famously relaxed allure (and profitable vogue and sweetness companies) have carried her by means of an extended musical hiatus and at occasions overshadowed her in depth catalog of hits. Her halftime present capitalized on her fame as being unbothered and effortlessly cool – no musical visitor, barely any choreography, no stress or strenuousness, a potential enormous popular culture information drop as an off-the-cuff apart. (Her publicist has since confirmed the being pregnant.) At occasions she appeared a half beat behind her military of white-clad, hard-elbowed backup dancers. She floated, at sure factors actually (and seemingly with out worry of heights) above the expectations of an all-gas, no-brakes half-time present, with a detachment that would learn as admirable self-possession or as irritating boredom.

Which doesn’t actually matter – Rihanna is an artist who understands the facility of her presence, each in seriousness (how a strut on stage counts as leisure unto itself) and as a bit (she at one level fielded a make-up compact from a backup dancer, a nod to Twitter jokes about her turning the present right into a Fenty advert). Rihanna’s catalog is so in depth – she has 14 primary hits, the fourth most of all time – that any setlist (and there have been 39 of them, in keeping with her press convention) might be on some stage a letdown. The ultimate product served as a reminder of simply what number of instantly recognizable, nonetheless banging songs Rihanna delivered between the years 2007 and 2016, and likewise as an underwhelming, nearly too-comfortable return to the musical highlight.

Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl LVII, NFL, Half Time Show, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale Arizona, USA - 12 Feb 2023Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock (13765256bm) Rihanna performing during the halftime show Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl LVII, NFL, Half Time Show, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale Arizona, USA - 12 Feb 2023
{Photograph}: Dave Shopland/Rex/Shutterstock

By the legal guidelines of time and a 13-minute set, there have been some disappointing exclusions (nothing from Anti aside from Work? No SOS?), however Rihanna’s set powered by means of lots of the hits – The place Have You Been All My Life, Solely Lady within the World, We Discovered Love, Impolite Boy inflected with the saucy, undoubtedly not for family-friendly tv S&M, Cake combined in with Pour It Up. Her takeover of Kanye’s The entire Lights, as if the rapper weren’t even on the monitor, was a excessive level of plain power and cultural energy – an reminder, in just below 10 minutes, that Rihanna has so many good songs.

So many, and sung (or inflected on prime of a backing monitor) flawlessly sufficient, to primarily let the numbers carry the efficiency for her. The singer dedicated to a minimal quantity of choreography, at occasions barely transferring or assuming the position of commander of her impeccable dancers. The center part, zooming by means of later-era hits resembling Work or DJ Khaled’s Wild Ideas, had the impression of an afterthought – Rihanna giving the naked minimal, commanding the world’s consideration with a shrug. Whether or not true or not, it really works along with her picture as a relaxed queen after years of practically unmatched pop music grinding (within the eight years between 2005 and 2012, she launched seven albums). Nevertheless it’s not essentially the power one expects from a Tremendous Bowl efficiency, the place performers resembling The Weeknd in 2021, or Jennifer Lopez and Shakira in 2020, meet the stress of the highlight with intense, clear perfectionism.

Nonetheless, the journey ended on a excessive constructed on one other excessive: the nostalgic reassurances of Umbrella, sung with a standing mic and dramatic purple cape as Rihanna rose as soon as once more on her freakily excessive floating stage, and a full-belt model of Diamonds. That stage, wired to someplace past our view, was visibly shaking throughout the remaining quantity, and but nonetheless Rihanna appeared unbothered. It was a becoming remaining be aware for a set that relied extra on star energy than supply – alone within the sky, fireworks overhead and surrounded by a sea of cellular phone lights, Rihanna was above all of it.

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