When Rihanna was announced as the Super Bowl’s 2023 halftime performer, the news — released with an image of the singer’s hand holding a football in the air — broke the internet. For years now, fans have been desperate for new music and live shows from Rihanna, so much so that it’s become a joke that even she’s in on. But instead, she cancelled the release of her scheduled studio album, focused on expanding her beauty and lingerie empire (becoming a billionaire in the process), and, of course, became a mother.
Now, ahead of her first performance in seven years — and her biggest of her career, Rihanna has opened up about the timing of it all. “It feels like it could have only been now,” she said during a pre-show press conference, dressed impeccably in Alaïa. “I mean, when I first got the call to do it again this year, I was like, ‘Psst, you sure?’ I’m three months postpartum, like, should I be making major decisions like this now? Like I might regret this.”
Rihanna went on to say that becoming a mother actually prompted her to say yes, rather than it being a barrier, as you might expect. “When you become a mum, there’s something that just happens where you feel like you could take on the world, you could do anything,” she explained. “And the Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world. So as scary as that was because I haven’t been on stage in seven years, there’s something exhilarating about the challenge of it all. And it’s important for me to do this this year. It’s important for representation, it’s important for my son to see that.”
The hardest part of the process was choosing which songs from her catalogue to perform during her 13 minutes on the stage. As she explains, she wanted to “maximise 13 minutes but also celebrate.”
“That’s what this show’s gonna be. It’s gonna be a celebration of my catalogue in the best way that we could have put it together. You’re trying to cram 17 years of work into 13 minutes…but I think we did a pretty good job of narrowing it down. There were probably about 39 version of the setlist right now. We’re on our 39th. Every little change counts, whether I want a guitar cut out, something muted, something added or just put in a whole new song, or take out a whole song.”
Though she didn’t give anything away in terms of what songs we can expect to hear, she did share a few of her favourites, saying she enjoyed recording her 2010 album Loud and 2012’s Unapologetic, signalling out ‘Diamonds’ as a specific song.
“I was on the road for both of those albums when I created them. I was touring one album, making the next, and then I came back and toured that album and made the next, and then ANTI was the first time that I took my time making an album while not being on tour. And that frustrated my fans a bit, and here I am doing it again to them. But ANTI, for sure, top favourite album I’ve ever made.”
Thankfully, fans will be happy to hear that Rihanna hasn’t closed the door on making new music, she’s just taking her time and having fun with it. “I’m feeling open to exploring, discovering, creating, things that are new, things that are different, things that are off, weird, might not ever make sense to my fans, you know, the people that know the music that I put out,” she said. “I just want to play. I want to have fun. I want to have fun with music.”
Sunday can’t come soon enough.