Rihanna has announced that she will be headlining the Super Bowl half-time show and, as could have been predicted, the internet was giddy with excitement about the news.
Even celebrities turned online to react: “Screaming,” commented Lizzo on Rihanna’s Instagram post of her arm stretched out holding an NFL “Duke” ball. “Hell yeah”, added Katy Perry, “The queen is back,” said Justin Bieber. “Let’s Go,” Tweeted the NFL.
— NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2022
It’s a massive deal: not only will Rihanna will be following in the footsteps of pop legends Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Madonna, but the artist hasn’t publicly performed since 2018 (at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards) and hasn’t released an album since 2016, meaning that the entire world (as well as the 160 million spectators who usually tune in) is likely to be watching, wondering what the Barbados-born singer is going to do.
Which songs is she going to choose? Who will join her on stage? And, most importantly for Rihanna fans, is she going to release an album before then (there’s plenty of time as the show is in February)?
The internet, true to form, also served up hundreds of memes, all of which revolved around the fact that Rihanna has been focused on growing her billion-dollar beauty brand Fenty Beauty (most recently, in May, the brand launched in Africa), instead of producing new music.
“When rihanna performs a 14-minute makeup tutorial at the halftime show instead,” Tweeted one fan, while another joked that she’d spend the 13-14 minute show explaining new Fenty products.
when rihanna performs a 14-minute makeup tutorial at the halftime show instead pic.twitter.com/tIstDaGvNt
— crazy broke asian (@tribranchvo) September 25, 2022
rihanna leaving the super bowl stage after explaining all the new fenty products coming in 2024 pic.twitter.com/yhPtNWL9Qm
— tia (@cursedhive) September 25, 2022
Typically half-time show headliners bring on a tonne of special guests to join them onstage, and they usually belt out a medley of their biggest hits so they can squeeze as many bangers as possible into the short slot.
So while we currently know no further details about the forthcoming show, that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy a good old (calculated) guess about what we can expect. Here are our predictions of the songs that RiRi may choose to perform.
1. B*tch Better Have My Money
Nearly all of Rihanna’s songs are major hits so it will be easy for the artist to find a smash song to open her historic show with. But the 2015 single B*tch Better Have My Money would be an incredible choice. Bass-y and defiant, it’s Rihanna singing on her own and would really set the tone for the following 14 minutes.
The only drawback is that Rihanna would have to watch her language (NFL is very strict about expletives being used throughout the show, as MIA found out after flipping her middle finger on stage in 2012 and then being smacked with a lawsuit) and perhaps Expletive Deleted Better Have My Money wouldn’t have the same impact.
2. This Is What You Came For, with Calvin Harris
If the half-time show is all about high-energy, then surely one of Rihanna’s tracks made with Calvin Harris would be a good choice next? This 2016 song was a massive hit and has a whopping 2.5 billion views on its YouTube video. Alternatively, the duo’s 2011 track We Found Love would also stir up the crowds. Both songs have become dance classics, and Calvin Harris could come on stage as Rihanna’s first guest.
3. S&M (Remix), featuring Britney Spears
Although Britney recently said that she would be unlikely to ever perform again, we can still hope.
Just imagine it: Rihanna and Calvin whip up the crowd, then who walks out but the queen of pop herself? Rihanna and Britney already performed this remix of Rihanna’s 2010 song at the Billboard Music Awards in 2011. But everything’s so different now: Britney is free from her conservatorship, Rihanna has a business empire and is a mother. A decade later, it would be unforgettable to see the legends reunite on stage.
4. Fashion Killa, with A$AP Rocky
It goes without saying that Rihanna’s beau and father to her child A$AP Rocky is likely to come on stage during the half-time performance. The duo were friends for years before they partnered up, with A$AP Rocky featuring on a remix for Rihanna’s Cockiness (Love It) in 2012 and Rihanna starring in the Virgil Abloh-made video for Rocky’s Fashion Killa in 2013.
It’s also an easy win – given that they’re now Mum and Dad, any Rihanna and Rocky performance will go down in pop culture history. The issue is that they haven’t made a major hit together, yet. With that being the case, perhaps they could perform Fashion Killa together?
5. Pour It Up
Then it could be back to another Rihanna solo, and Pour It Up, another bass heavy-wonder, would be a perfect tone reset. Taken from Rihanna’s 2012 album Apologetic, Pour It Up has gained a reputation as a strip club anthem. At the time of its release, Billboard said the track was “an irresistible, Mike WiLL-produced banger for the ladies”, which it absolutely is, and which is why it would be so welcomed during this 2022 performance.
6. Lemon, N.E.R.D
Bouncy and feel-good, this track made by N.E.R.D and Rihanna would be a fantastic follow-up track after the heavy beats of Pour It Up.
One of the few songs released after 2016 (when Rihanna dropped her last album, Anti), this 2017 bop was already performed by both Rihanna and Pharrell Williams on stage in New York at her 5th Diamond Ball in 2019 (the ball is held to raise money for the mogul’s Clara Lionel Foundation) so that means less rehearsal time, too. Plus, it goes without saying that fans would go wild to see Pharrell’s rock band on stage.
7. Wild Thoughts, DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller
As the show enters its second half this 2017 hit is going to keep the momentum going. It’s easy, irresistible and a great sing-along jam.
8. Run This Town, with Jay-Z and Ye
Rihanna is still signed to Jay-Z’s record label Rocnation, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that they were tagged by NFL when the league announced Rihanna’s performance on their Twitter. But what can we glean from this? Is it simply that they’re working with Rocnation on creating the show, or is it indicative that Jay-Z will be making an appearance?
Of course, there is the 2007 sensation Umbrella, which featured Jay-Z, which would make for a great addition to the medley. And so would Jay-Z’s 2009 track Run This Town, which featured Rihanna and Ye (formerly known as Kanye West). Perhaps Rihanna and Jay-Z could perform both of the songs, and Ye could even join them on stage? Then Rihanna and Ye could perform his 2010 song All of the Lights? No, we’re not asking too much.
9. Sex with Me
It’s been a lot. Viewers have been taken on a nostalgic journey through all of Rihanna’s musical stages - from her EDM era to her bouncier tracks, pop hits, and then bolstered by some of her heavier songs. So, how to finish? There are literally dozens of jams that haven’t even been mentioned yet, all of which are winners in their own right, and which would be more than well-received next February.
So rather than go out with a massive bang with a song like Pon De Replay, what about if Rihanna chose to wind down the show with some of her sexy and smooth hits from Anti? She could start with Kiss It Better, then move onto Same Ol’ Mistakes and then finish with Sex with Me. Just picture it: Rihanna is standing on stage, alongside N.E.R.D, A$AP Rocky, Ye, Jay-Z, Britney and Calvin Harris. She’s exhausted, we’re all exhausted. And everyone’s belting out ‘sex with me’s so amazing’. We can dream.
The Super Bowl will take place on February 12, next year.