Millions of dedicated fans spent Sunday evening hunched over their TV screens, eagerly awaiting the moment they’d been anticipating since the beginning of the year. Don’t ask them which football team they were rooting for; they barely knew who was playing. They were there for Rihanna.
Rihanna’s 13-minute performance at Super Bowl 2023 was permeating with pride. Many fans have been begging for a new album announcement since the release of her 2016 album “ANTI,” while others were hoping for a surprise guest performer. While neither were featured in the performance, Rihanna knew she didn’t need to include any surprises. Rihanna is a standalone act that needs no embellishments; she alone, is the embellishment.
The performance included several Billboard Top 10-charting songs spanning across multiple albums. “B**** Better Have My Money” shook the stadium as her opener, with momentum only growing as she sang “Work,” “Rude Boy,” “Umbrella” and more. The transitions between each song were also seamless, making it sound like a cohesive album of its own. Rihanna left no iconic stone unturned.
The performance excelled most in its technical aspects. Viewers were immediately wowed by the suspended platforms that the nine-time Grammy Award winner and her backup dancers performed on. The stage design was born out of necessity, as the delicate grass field of the Glendale, Arizona stadium had to be preserved in order to prevent player injuries. Each floating platform was “strong enough to carry a freight train,” according to Super Bowl Halftime production designer, Bruce Rodgers. The technological feat of the performance is sure to go down in Super Bowl history.
The singer and her dancers’ costumes were simple yet distinct, reminiscent of chic astronaut suits — fitting, considering the star literally performed in the sky. The choreography was perfectly synchronized, and although it lacked a standout factors, viewers were still mesmerized by the clean moves coming from each and every dancer. Choreographer Parris Goebel managed to hit the perfect balance of humor and sleekness in the routine.
The biggest surprise came from Rihanna’s pregnancy announcement. After welcoming a child with rapper A$AP Rocky last May, she revealed her second pregnancy during her performance. No words had to be spoken. Her gently rubbing her baby bump as she sang “I’m alive” during “Diamonds” was enough to make waves. As such, she became the first known pregnant woman to headline the halftime show.
However, considering the hype around a future album and an expectation of a guest star, the performance felt like it ended too soon. Fans were waiting for something to happen and that something never came. This is hardly the fault of Rihanna, though. In this performance, she reminded fans that she is both the beginning and the end of a sentence. Despite being quieter in the music scene since “ANTI,” save for the release of a few singles, she returned triumphant and legendary.
For all those that left the party as soon as halftime ended, Rihanna made sure they left after a touchdown.