Opinion: Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show was striking

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 17, 2023

I have never cared much for football, so when I tuned in this past Sunday, it was for one thing: Rihanna. And Rihanna did not disappoint. Everything from the staging, to the costumes, to the setlist, was stellar. 

Even days after my first impression, I’m still confident placing Rihanna’s performance in the top five of all Super Bowl halftime shows. 

To begin, we hadn’t heard new music from Rihanna since 2016, with only a couple singles to tie us over. This made the anticipation for this performance even greater. The lights flash on to reveal Rihanna center-field on a floating platform, flanked by three other platforms on each side of her. During her 13 minute set, these platforms were raised and lowered between 15 and 60 feet above the field. According to production designer Bruce Rodgers, the floating platforms were chosen in part because the crew only had under eight minutes to set the stage up, and because there were extra guidelines this year to protect the new turf.

She looked absolutely stunning not only in her bright red, custom Johnathan Anderson catsuit and custom Loewe breastplate. She even finished her set with a flowing, floor-length puffer from Alaia. 

The greatest accessory, however, was her surprise baby bump. 

Her backup dancers perfectly contrasted her in puffy, hooded, white sweat-suits and sunglasses. These “marshmallows” danced their way into audiences’ hearts. The choreography by Parris Goebel was sharp and dynamic enough to enhance the performance, but not too complicated as to distract from a slightly more stationary, pregnant Rihanna. 

Some of the best notes of the night were perfectly choreographed moments like Rihanna rubbing her bump and the sultry dance break during “Rude Boy”. My favorite, however, was when Rihanna touched-up her makeup with her very own brand Fenty. Super Bowl performers don’t get paid for the half-time show, and with no new music coming out, Rihanna cleverly promoted her makeup brand Fenty while applying the new Fenty InvisiMatte Blotting Powder.

Rihanna’s genius business moves didn’t stop here. Fenty beauty released football themed advertisements leading up to the game, and she also released a T-Shirt through her lingerie and loungewear brand Savage X Fenty with the slogan “RIHANNA CONCERT INTERRUPTED BY A FOOTBALL GAME WEIRD BUT WHATEVER.” My thoughts exactly, Rihanna. 

If you missed it, her setlist consisted of twelve songs: “B— Better Have My Money,” “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,” “Umbrella,” and “Diamonds.” Some fans were left without hearing their favorite song, but for Rihanna she has almost too many hits to choose from. 

I personally love that she had no guest artists, and only shared the stage with her unborn baby. Some of my other favorite half-time performers Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Prince also performed solo, and I think this choice can make a performance really strong, or reveal an artist’s weakness. In this case, it proved how strong of an artist Rihanna is, and even more so, how powerful of a businesswoman Robyn Rihanna Fenty is. 

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