To quote one of ’s own floor-shaking anthems back at her: where have you been?
When she takes to the stage in Glendale, Arizona for the LVII HalfTime Show in February next year, it will have been 2,572 days since the release of her last album (2016’s Anti); and 1,840 since her last televised performance (at the 2018 Grammys with DJ Khaled).
Truly, we have been in Disturbia.
In the time since that last album dropped, we’ve had two changes in US President, a pandemic, , 17 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, approximately one billion different seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and approximately two billion different UK Prime Ministers.
There’s even been a running joke that ’s fans have been gifted with an astronomical six – soon to be seven – albums since Anti, while the Rihanna Navy has been reduced to wailing fruitlessly in the comments sections of Fenty-related Insta posts, begging for a new musical era to dawn.
It’s been a long drought, and frankly I don’t know how we’ve pulled through it.
But now, finally, here she comes; Popstar Mode reactivated – and as frustrating as her hiatus has been, it’s the excruciating wait that has made this moment all the sweeter.
On 12 February 2023, she’ll join the long list of musical greats who have performed the HalfTime Show at the Super Bowl; one of the most-watched TV events of the year in the world.
Katy Perry’s stint in 2015 drew a domestic TV audience of 118.5million. has accrued almost 250 million views on YouTube. In the immediate aftermath of the 2022 show by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, US sales of the songs performed increased by 775%.
It’s a slot with huge reach, and where history is made: U2 with their 9/11 tribute in 2002, Prince performing Purple Rain in literal rain in 2007, Beyoncé with Kelly and Michelle in 2013 (and again as a guest of Coldplay in 2016), Lady Gaga jumping off the roof in 2017… it’s a space for icons only.
And ‘icon’ is absolutely a title that befits Rihanna.
In a statement, the NFL’s Head of Music Seth Dudowsky called the 34-year-old a ‘once in a generation artist who has been a cultural force throughout her career’.
Jay-Z, involved in the production via Roc Nation, dubbed her ‘a woman of humble beginnings who has surpassed expectations at every turn’.
Ain’t that the truth.
When her music career was at its most prolific in the early 2010s, she was releasing chart-topping hits at a rate of knots. Her first seven albums came out in the space of just over seven years.
She is believed to be the second best-selling female artist of all time behind only , and even now – more than half a decade since her last ‘proper’ era – she is 17th on a list of most monthly listeners worldwide on Spotify.
She has the acclaim and accolades to back her up, too: nine Grammy Awards, two BRITs, and an appearance in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Umbrella).
Her songs are the songs of a generation, memorable parties, joyful holidays, lively wedding discos and so much more.
When she struts into the (who’s counting?), she will have plenty of bangers to choose from when planning her setlist. Whatever she picks, it will be impossible to satisfy everyone.
But her setlist could be the alphabet, the viral video of her saying ‘I STILL HAVE IT!’ and that song she did for some Star Trek movie and I would lap it up. After so long away, it will be glorious to have her back singing anything at all.
To be fair, it’s not that she’s been resting easy since she last bothered the charts: in recent years she’s made Fenty one of the most famous fashion houses in the world, not to mention giving birth to a son.
And it’s not like we haven’t had the occasional musical moment: alongside DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts, she’s also featured on tracks with N.E.R.D, Kendrick Lamar and PartyNextDoor. But even the last of those was nearly three years ago.
Which is why it’s phenomenally exciting that the time has finally come to reboot Rihanna The Popstar and remind the world what we’ve been missing.
With the world as gloomy as it is and the desperation for a Rihanna comeback only getting more fervent with time, it’s even more thrilling now than it would have been in 2019 when she was reportedly last offered the Half Time slot.
There simply is no better choice for the Super Bowl. And as she told us on 2009 hit ‘Hard’, that Rihanna reign just won’t let up.
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