Rihanna’s return: 2023 Super Bowl halftime show


Jorik Kleen

Rihanna’s Halftime performance left many in anticipation for more.

Aditi Bhadauria, Sports Editor

This year’s Super Bowl consisted of ecstatic energy and high spirits not only for the game but for Rihanna’s highly anticipated halftime performance. Fans eagerly awaited her musical comeback since her last debut in 2016.

Rihanna’s makeup brand Fenty Beauty has been her main focus since 2016. The brand became her sole focus, covering up her dominant presence in the music industry, so her coming to the stage made me anticipate a new album, song, or a feature announcement. I was looking forward to seeing Rihanna’s stage presence after a six year break. As social media erupted with opinions about Rihanna’s performance, many think that the performance was mediocre at best. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter mostly compared her to other artists’ Halftime Shows, stating how after coming back into the limelight, Rihanna should have made her identity more shown throughout the show- which I ultimately agreed with. 

After the ads were over, I was expecting a grand stage entrance for the Halftime Show, but was startled to see Rihanna just pop up on my TV instead. Wearing a red jumpsuit, Rihanna was proudly showing off her new baby bump starting off the performance with “B**** Better Have My Money,” which had me exhilarated and ready for the next 15 minutes of the show. My eyes were glued to the screen, unblinking as Rihanna performed hit after hit from “Where Have You Been” to “Umbrella.”

The backup dancers in their white outfits went on to the platforms, seven floating LED platforms 60 feet above the field. Compared to past Super Bowl sets such as Katy Perry’s 26 foot long, 1600 pound tiger or The Weeknds’ backdrop of a skyline with masked dopple-gangers, Rihanna’s performance ultimately lacked some flair. As I was watching Rihanna on stage, I was mesmerized but after the performance it felt underwhelming. The performance had songs from different parts of her life combined into a 14 minute debacle, but instead of a show it felt like a concert. 

Her performance was definitely iconic, suddenly reminding the world of her presence and voice, but was it really Super Bowl worthy? Performances at the Super Bowl usually feature artists giving it their all with elaborate choreography, sets, themes, outfits and messages. In the moment of it all, watching her perform was alluring, reflecting upon the show, I didn’t grasp any theme from it, lacking in originality and ingenuity. 

Rihanna’s performance was captivating, however, it felt incomplete. Her voice, her songs, and even her Fenty promotion in the middle of the performance were okay, but apart from the live presence it didn’t feel like an iconic Super Bowl Performance. Rihanna’s performance left me hoping for another album, song, or feature on the way – but… as Rihanna came back I ultimately wanted something more.