Is it cheeky that Rihanna has been teasing her ninth studio album for six years? Yes. Where’s ‘R9’, RiRi? After dropping her critically-acclaimed, R&B-changing eighth album ‘Anti’ in 2016, her fans have been pleading for some new material. The odd hook or verse here and there just isn’t enough anymore. So it came as a mighty surprise this Sunday (Sep 26) when news broke that she would take on the Super Bowl LVII half-time performance next February in Arizona; she confirmed the illustrious gig by sharing a snap of her holding a football hours before the day’s slate of games kicked off. Game on.
The NFL’s grand finale is likely the most coveted non-musical place to sing at – only transcendent superstars sing there. Think about all the iconic musical moments: there was the guitar-shredding royalty, Prince, putting on one of the finest live performances ever; Beyoncé’s giant convoy of ladies in formation; and last year, Dr. Dre’s ode to hip-hop was a stunning victory lap. She now joins an immortal list of musicians.
And Rihanna’s rap sheet is already an illustrious one. Over her 19 years in the spotlight, the Bajan national treasure is building a dynasty. She’s churned out seminal pop hits, gained numerous awards and Number One songs left, right and centre, and spearheaded a now-common pop trope: the good-girl-gone-bad.
But once Rihanna moved from pop newcomer to juggernaut role model, she moved into the fashion and beauty realm, using her name to change the game. Brand collaborations with fashion labels like River Island and Puma geared the star to have her own fashion and beauty lines; the inclusive Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty which celebrates all body types and peoples. But, surely, Rihanna headlining the show is her leaving those self-sufficient hobbies alone and her comeback to her first love; music.
What an amazing return that’d be? Again, us fans, we want the music out. We need it. It’s a running joke by this point. With the type of budget and worldwide coverage these performances attain, perhaps she knows that this can be the ultimate comeback. There’s a perfect reason for Rihanna to kill this performance, and an almighty opportunity to give the fans what they want.
But, if we dare to imagine a world in which ‘R9’ isn’t out, then you’re bound to wonder what direction the pop princess is going to go down? Of course, it’ll likely be a medley of Rihanna’s greatest hits, but what if she brings out a bunch of her friends? When one is the mega-mogul and Roc Nation founder Jay-Z, the man who gave you your first record deal and is involved with curating the gig every year, it seems possible that something special could go down. The ‘Run This World’ collaborators could bring out their other friend, Ye, for a stellar reunion.
Perhaps there’s space for DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller who could come and perform the sultry ‘Wild Thoughts’. Or maybe rock legend Slash could appear for a nostalgic rendition of the ‘Rated R’ track, ‘Rockstar’. Everything is on the table.
Over her reign as pop’s it girl, Rihanna has proven time and time again that she can do it all. We know the looks will be flawless and the message concise and clear. Considering that Rihanna declined the performance in 2019, in solidarity with unfairly blacklisted quarterback Colin Kaepernick and not wanting to “be a sellout”, this performance takes on extra importance.
For all those who look up to Fenty as a huge inspiration, she’s not going to waste her time up on that stage. Adding to her polymath status, Rihanna’s newest role of being a mother hasn’t slowed her down, and beyond proving that mothers are truly superheroes, her performance can be where she comments on society as well. Her leadership in the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the support for End Sars – a movement against police brutality in Nigeria – could tell us where her attention goes. There is no better place to reach millions at home than the gig she’s about to perform, and she’ll know that.
So Whether you’re a part of The Navy – her hardcore fanbase – or not, there’s no denying Rihanna’s place on the stage. But let’s all say a little prayer that ‘R9’ will be released before the Super Bowl; it’ll be more fun that way.