Rihanna returns to music at 2023 Super Bowl


Emma Kogel

Illustration by

A.J. Newth, Associate Opinion Editor

When Rihanna headlined the NFL 2023 Super Bowl halftime show Sunday, she proved that even if she isn’t always active in the music industry, she’s still one of the most timeless artists of our generation.

This year’s halftime show was sponsored by Apple Music. Rihanna’s set lasted 13 minutes and consisted of a wide variety of her discography, including 12 songs that showcased her talent and performance personality.

Rihanna appeared dressed in all red surrounded by backup dancers in white jumpsuits and sunglasses. The stage was outlined in bright LED lights, following a red and white color palette that only emphasized the singer.

Her setlist was all the talk on Twitter prior to her performance, as many users tried to predict which songs the star would include in her performance.

She opened with “Bitch Better Have My Money” and immediately captivated the attention of the crowd as cheers erupted throughout State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The stage featured several suspended platforms in the air, which moved at different times in the performance and all featured dancers atop them.

The dancing was extremely synchronous as dancers moved with and around the icon, and the pop of color from Rihanna’s red outfit allowed her to be the center of attention, literally.

The rest of her set included “Where Have You Been,” “Only Girl (In The World),” “We Found Love,” “Rude Boy,” “Work,” “Wild Thoughts,” “Pour It Up,” “All of the Lights,” “Run This Town” and “Umbrella.”

Typically, Super Bowl halftime performances bring out special guests, like the 2022 halftime show that featured guests 50 Cent and Anderson .Paak, or in 2020 with guests Bad Bunny and J Balvin.

Rihanna proved she didn’t need anyone, as she was a one-woman show and exceeded expectations. Even with no guest appearances, songs like “Work,” which features Drake, “Wild Thoughts,” which is her song with DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller, and “Umbrella,” with Jay-Z, Rihanna was definitely channeling the musical style from several well-known artists.

She even included her chorus of “All of the Lights,” bringing Ye’s music to center stage more than once.

During “Run This Town,” Rihanna traded her crowd of dancers for a band dressed in black sporting bright red instruments. In the song, she reappeared with a long red coat as she prepared for the climax of the set.

Her performance included special effects like laser lights and fireworks. The effects weren’t the only thing that caught the attention of the audience, as towards the end of the show Rihanna was lifted high into the air on her own floating platform, donning a long red coat as she wrapped up the set with “Diamonds,” followed by a massive display of fireworks, which marked the end of the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show.

Rihanna hasn’t made headlines in music in a while, as she hasn’t released any new music since her last album release “Anti” in January 2016. Her last No. 1 hit was “Work,” also that year. It’s been nothing but crickets for her stage presence as well, as her last performance before the Super Bowl was at the 2018 Grammys performing “Wild Thoughts” with DJ Khaled.

Rihanna was thought to have performed at a Super Bowl sooner, but she turned down offers in 2018 and 2019 to step onto the NFL stage. She declined in solidarity with quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers during controversy when he was all but blacklisted from the NFL for taking a knee during the national anthem during the 2016 season as part of the protest of racial injustice and police brutality.

In a press conference, Rihanna talked about her reasoning for accepting the offer to play the Super Bowl given everything going on in her life, especially being pregnant with her second child. She mentioned that it was crucial for her to show her son what it means to exhibit strength and do difficult and scary things, as well as how important it is for her to represent her country and Black women everywhere, according to a NewsOne article.

While Rihanna hasn’t been very engaged in music until this show, her stage presence, performance personality and sheer talent proved that she will always be one of the biggest icons in the music world.

Rihanna, please, don’t stop the music.