By Terrance Turner
Feb. 12, 2023
Rihanna headlined the Super Bowl halftime show tonight for her first live performance in over six years. It worked. Rihanna did exactly what needed to be done: a dizzying, danceable medley of her greatest hits, complete with solid choreography and some gorgeous aerial shots.
Rihanna began her set with one of her most provocative singles. Clad in a bright red jumpsuit, hovering above the turf on a rectangular platform, she launched into “Bitch Better Have My Money,” the bold trap song she released in 2015. “Y’all should know me well enough (Bitch better have my money!). Please don’t call me on my bluff/Pay me what you owe me,” she sang. Her background dancers (dressed in white ski suits) danced on their own square platforms.
Eventually, Rih and her dancers were lowered to the stage. She continued performing, breaking into a series of several smash hits from 2010-2012. After “Where Have You Been”, she belted out “Only Girl (in the World),” then her effervescent dance hit “We Found Love”, followed by the saucy “Rude Boy” — all four were No. 1 singles.
Down on the ground, Rihanna worked the stage. She segued into her hit 2016 song “Work” (which was her 14th No. 1 single). While her dancers grinded in front of her, Rih serenaded them with lyrics from one of her most memorable songs. The words summed up all that went into this halftime show: “Work, work, work, work, work…”
In the second half of her set, Rihanna surprised fans with some left turns. She moved from “Work” into “Wild Thoughts”, her 2017 collab with DJ Khaled. Rihanna used the instrumental of her 2011 hit “S&M” as a transition, but didn’t perform the verse or chorus. She also left out her chart-topper “Disturbia”. Some fans were dismayed:
Instead, Rih devoted some time to her 2012 single “Pour It Up”. (Unclear why she did this but not “S&M” or “Disturbia”). Then she performed two collaborations that she’d recorded with rapper Kanye West. First, “All of the Lights”, from West’s 2010 Dark Twisted Fantasy album. Then “Run This Town”, a 2009 single by rapper Jay-Z that also featured West. (Rihanna sang the hook.) The latter song likely has sentimental value for Rihanna: it won her a Grammy, for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.)
Thankfully, Rihanna ended with two fan favorites. She sang what was probably a must-have for fans: her 2007 blockbuster “Umbrella”, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. (The song also topped the charts in the UK AND Canada.) It won her a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
And she ended with “Diamonds” — a beloved favorite, and yet another number-one single.
Once again, Rihanna rose to the skies as she sang. As the New York Times put it, “she ascended into the heavens from which she came.” And as she did so, she was illuminated by a dazzling array of lights, both from stadium spotlights and millions of lit-up phones. Shine bright like a diamond, indeed.