Rihanna is still iconic, in case you forgot
By Sheroog Kubur, February 14 2023—
This year’s Super Bowl became a hot topic for non-football fans because of the Halftime headliner that no one could have predicted — Rihanna. The singer seemingly abandoned her musical side after the release of her 2016 album, ANTI, and a few features in 2017 so hearing her return to music at the Super Bowl Halftime Show was a shock, to say the least. Needless to say, her performance was much anticipated as her return to music, but it’s more of an homage to her legacy.
It felt almost symbolic for Rihanna to open her first performance in five years with one of her most edgy and daring releases, “Bitch Better Have My Money.” The track embodies her aura, demanding payment in her signature red lip while suspended on a platform above the audience and field. She was standing alone while surrounded by the crowd and her dancers, reminding audiences that despite being out of the act, she is still a seasoned performer.
She came back down for the first of many dance breaks in the night to “Only Girl In The World” and continued with “We Found Love,” slingshotting viewers back to the 2010s when you couldn’t escape these two tracks. Each track was a throwback, going as far back as the Carlos Santana guitar sample from “Wild Thoughts,” feeling like a memory trip for any 2000s baby.
As she traversed through the medley there were whispers of other iconic releases, including an instrumental interlude of “Birthday Cake,” adlibs reminiscent of “S&M” and the echoing lyrics of “Rude Boy” in the distance. Despite a chunk of the songs having features, including a rendition of “Work” and her verse on “All Of The Lights,” she took the stage alone. It was refreshing compared to the years of bringing out special guests or lineups of three artists with their own unique repertoires.
Despite being one of the biggest pop artists of this generation, Rihanna carries an edge with her that radiated off of this performance. Having her strut down the stage while being followed by crawling men or standing centre in front of body-rolling men can only be expected from the same performer who has continuously proved herself to be more about having a good time than appealing to everyone.
She returned to her place above the audience for the finale of her most sentimental and epic track of the night, “Diamonds.” The song itself already stands out, being a powerful and moving love confession in a sea of electronic pop and dark trap-influenced sounds, but this performance amplified its impact. It showed that despite her lengthy break and new ventures, she is still the performer audiences fell in love with in 2003.
Overall, the performance was a nostalgia trip for casual and longtime fans. Trying to guess the next song while the instrumentals flipped through her catalogue or watching her stop mid-performance to fix her makeup with her own brand or seeing gaggles of dancers dressed in white puffer jackets running onto the stage were all part of the complete Rihanna experience — something we’ve missed dearly.