Rihanna Says Headlining Super Bowl Halftime Show Sent "a Really Strong Message"
Rihanna's highly anticipated Super Bowl halftime performance came and went on Feb. 12, but it left an impact, especially considering the superstar used the performance to announce her second pregnancy to the world. In her Feb. 15 interview with British Vogue, Rihanna unpacked exactly why she accepted the big gig after years of turning down the NFL's halftime show offer.
"There's still a lot of mending to be done in my eyes," Rihanna said about the NFL's treatment of Colin Kaepernick after his peaceful on-field protest against police brutality during the 2016 season. "But it's powerful to break those doors, and have representation at such a high, high level and a consistent level. Two Super Bowls back-to-back representing the urban community, globally. It is powerful. It sends a really strong message."
One of the biggest reasons Rihanna was moved to accept the offer was her new role as a mother (she and her boyfriend A$AP Rocky welcomed their first child in May 2022). "Raising a young Black man is one of the scariest responsibilities in life. You're like, 'What am I leaving my kids to? This is the planet they're gonna be living on?'" she said. "All of those things really start to hit differently."
Motherhood has made Rihanna feel like she can take on anything, including performing at the Super Bowl while pregnant (although that wasn't part of the plan when she accepted the gig). "It's this knowing that you can do anything, even things that seem the craziest, like, 'I'm going to say yes to the Super Bowl in the middle of postpartum?' What the heck am I thinking? But you're geeked on a challenge like that because you know what your body just did. You feel this sense of 'Nothing is impossible,'" she said. "It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I have not been on stage in seven years. Seven years! From zero to Super Bowl? That's mental."
Ahead of the big night, one of Rihanna's biggest concerns was the same as fans': what songs will she include on her setlist? During the superstar's press conference with Apple Music on Feb. 9, she admitted, "The set list was the biggest challenge." "That was the hardest, hardest part — deciding how to maximize 13 minutes but also celebrate," she shared. "That's what this show's gonna be, it's gonna be a celebration of my catalog in the best way we could've put it together."
Rihanna noted that she had to "cram 17 years of work into 13 minutes, so it's difficult." She then elaborated on what she teased as the 39th version of the set list, saying, "Some songs we had to lose because of that, and that's gonna be OK. But I think we did a pretty good job of narrowing it down."
The singer said she's aware of the significance of her headlining gig — "representing for Barbados, representing for Black women everywhere. That's really important. That's key for people to see the possibilities."
She also addressed the ongoing fervor for news about if — and when — she'll release new music beyond her last single. "Im 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 and the people that know the music I put out," she said. "I just want to play. I want to have fun with music."
On Jan. 27, Rihanna released a 12-second teaser on Twitter showcasing her pregame style for the Super Bowl. In the clip, the "Umbrella" singer shows off an outfit from her Savage X Fenty Game Day Collection while dramatic music plays in the background.
The video came just a couple of weeks after Apple Music, the NFL's new partner for the Super Bowl halftime show, released a 30-second trailer titled "Rihanna Is Back," teasing the headlining show on Jan. 13. The short clip features a silhouette of Rihanna as she walks into a dark, empty room while several sound bites inquiring about her return play in the background.
"It's been 2,190 days," one voice says, while another chimes in with, "Dude, Rihanna, we've waited for you." A third voice then announces, "It's been six years since the nine-time Grammy winner dropped an album," until, finally, a spotlight focuses on Rihanna and her 2016 track "Needed Me" drops.
Fans weren't the only ones anticipating Rihanna's big halftime show. On Jan. 8, the NFL and Apple Music shared a joint video on Instagram of Rihanna sporting a hoodie with her tattooed hand holding a football on it, captioned, "5 weeks from today 🔥🔥 #AppleMusicHalftime." The clip originally appeared on the "Anti" singer's Instagram Stories earlier that day.
Additionally, Rihanna's Savage X Fenty brand also shared photos of new merch on Instagram on Jan. 8 in support of her halftime show. "A @badgalriri concert during a football game? Say less. #SavageXGameDay," one caption reads.
The NFL announced Rihanna's performance, also the first-ever Apple Music Super Bowl halftime show, on Sept. 25, 2022, confirming rumors of her being the midgame entertainment for the Kansas City Chiefs (now the 2023 Super Bowl champions) and Philadelphia Eagles' face-off in Glendale, AZ.
On Oct. 4, 2022, a TMZ cameraperson caught up with Rihanna at Los Angeles grocery store Bristol Farms and asked how she's feeling about the performance. In response, she admitted to being "nervous" but also, in the outlet's words, "excited" about the gig.
Rihanna initially shared the news with her fans via a post featuring her hand holding up an NFL football. Although she didn't add a caption, the NFL quickly confirmed the announcement on Twitter, writing, "Let's GO - @rihanna @rocnation #SBLVII @AppleMusic @NFLonFox."
The famed singer had big shoes to fill this year — not that the Grammy winner had anything to worry about. In 2022, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent collaborated for an epic hip-hop halftime performance, and the year prior, The Weeknd helmed the show. Other recent headliners have included Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry.