Sebi Hume, '25
When the NFL announced that Rihanna would be performing at halftime of Super Bowl LVII, the internet almost broke. This show would mark her first live performance since a rendition of “Wild Thoughts” at the 2018 Grammys and it ended her multiple-year refusal to participate in an NFL event. Her halftime show made history simply by its taking place, as it was the first ever by a female billionaire. It was also the first performance by a pregnant woman, a rumor not confirmed by her representatives until after the show. Nearly 119 million people tuned into her halftime show, the most in the history of the event and a 5% increase compared to the game average. Solely from a perspective of numbers, it is safe to say that Rihanna left us with an all-time great performance.
However, a few aspects of her act left room for debate among viewers. There were no monumental set changes or guest appearances, two gimmicks which are normally staples of the halftime show. The 13 minute show involved only Rihanna, dressed in an all-red outfit that revealed her baby bump, and her team of dancers, donning baggy white pants, puffer jackets, and sunglasses. For some, the decision to make Rihanna the only star of the night was a prayer answered. It forced the world to acknowledge her versatility and ability to headline the biggest show of the year so far without any help. However, others were disappointed at not only the amount of attention that Rihanna got but also the way she used her spotlight.
Former WWE star Bill Goldberg said he thought the show was “frickin’ horrible”. Goldberg specifically commented on Rihanna’s risque dance moves, which he said “disgusted” him. Former President Donld Trump weighed in as well, saying it was “the single worst halftime show in Super Bowl history”. Shaquille O’neal, former NBA superstar, responded to criticism of Rihanna by focusing on Rihanna’s ability to perform so well while pregnant: “She did a wonderful job, she’s pregnant, she blessed it, she didn’t fall. Just leave it there.”
Rihanna’s performance served as a reminder to me and my friends of her legendary career in the music industry. At multiple points during the performance we said to ourselves, “I forgot she had this song too!” as she sang hit after hit. Songs like “Where Have You Been” and “B--- Better Have My Money” filled us with nostalgia as we thought back to an era when Rihanna dominated the music scene. It’s safe to say that those songs will be stuck in my head for weeks to come. On the other hand, as much as I loved seeing Rihanna show the world her vast repertoire of powerful music, when she started to bring out songs featuring other artists, I fell in the camp of viewers that hoped for a guest appearance. As the chorus of “Run This Town” filled the arena, I started searching the faces of the backup dancers, thinking to myself “Which one of them is Jay-Z?”. Ultimately, none of the dancers turned out to be an artist in disguise, and as a result the performance left me thinking about what could have been if Jay-Z had been out there with her. Nevertheless, it was impossible for me to not be amazed with her performance after witnessing her final act. As she sang “Diamonds” while being lifted up into the night sky, the entire arena and perhaps the entire world sang with her, and she cemented her performance as one of the greatest of all time.