How about that run of hits? Hit after hit after hit. Someone online said it was anthems – and that’s a great word for what Rihanna delivered last night at the Fenty Bowl: an endless and explosive set of anthems, songs that were made for huge stadiums, for singing along at the top of your lungs, songs recognisable to almost everyone who’s been around the last 15 years.
Leading up to the Halftime Show, people were putting bets on the tracklist and also first and last song. My prediction last week was “What’s My Name”. This is what I wrote:
“…imagine the hype when the first bars we hear will be…
“Oh na na, what’s my name?”
Play it back – that’s what happened, isn’t it? “Bitch Better Have My Money!”
That, by the way, was what came next… and a deliberate choice for Rihanna to set the tone for her historic performance. The song is said to be based on Rihanna’s real-life experience being f-cked over financially by a former accountant. She lost millions back in the late 2000s/early 2010s…and now? Oh, just a casual billionaire in one decade. That’s a gangster move, stepping up out there in front of the biggest audience and basically reminding us that she’s a f-cking boss.
And a boss doesn’t need any guests. Now that we know, this was intentional too. Rihanna was making a statement here, having no other artists on her stage: I’m pregnant, and I can handle this by myself. With an abundance of attitude and swagger, all kinds of stank face, and sexuality too.
Because a pregnant Rihanna, who has never been the best dancer, was still out here winding and grinding, dipping and spreading, tapping her ass and her pussy. A pregnant woman patting her pussy – make that the new feminist gesture.
Could she have had guest appearances? Of course. Jay-Z was in the house and I’m sure he could have come in with an assist. And yet. RiRi was making a point. “I got this” is the point. And the special “guest” that she talked about in an interview prior to the show turned out to be her baby who now will always have that memory of being with their mother during one of the highest points in her career.
Speaking of high points though – that platform. That final shot! The production value! They said that one of the reasons why the set was designed that way was to protect the grass. And they made the most of that request with the sliding levels that lifted and lowered Rihanna and the dancers during the performance. Everything that was shot so that the scale of the visuals matched the scale of the music, so that the choreography between the cameras and the performers and the sound were perfectly aligned. It doesn’t always work out this well. During The Weeknd’s Halftime Show, for example, I found that some of the shots didn’t quite meet the moment. Rihanna’s team, however, clearly worked on every detail, from the exact moment when the cameras would pan to the wide to heighten the vibe and when the cameras came in close and followed the movement of the presentation, like when the dancers peeled away one by one to finally land on Rihanna’s hand on her ass.
And, of course, the touch-up:
she's a business woman #SuperBowlLVII pic.twitter.com/kLFdBHnVuy— NOSTALGIA (@notgwendalupe) February 13, 2023
But that too could have happened at any time – she chose to bring the compact out right before “All of the Lights”, “extra bright I want y’all to see this”…
Which brings me to the transitions. The transitions between the songs, the way the music was arranged, how it built and built, especially towards the end, from “All of the Lights” to “Run This Town”, into “Umbrella” and then culminating with “Diamonds”… it was a sick flow. It was measured to drive the hype, a crescendo that swelled, and swirled, lifting her higher and higher, right up to the end, taking her to the pinnacle. Rihanna in red, with child, an emphatic exclamation point on the power of women.
And the power of a badass ASL interpreter! JUSTINA MILES!
shoutout to ASL interpreter justina miles for absolutely going off for rihannaâ€™s #SuperbOwl performance pic.twitter.com/exVHkFH3Xl— Off Colour (@OffColourOrg) February 13, 2023
I really wish this ASL interpreter got some national airtime during Rihanna's Halftime performance... SHE IS GETTING HER LIFE, LITERALLY ATE AND LEFT ZERO CRUMBS!!!!! What is her NAME?! #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/ECzvhHGpWn— Ryan Aguirre (@aguirreryan) February 13, 2023