It was obviously worth the wait: After five long years, Rihanna returned to the stage Sunday night for a glitzy performance during the Super Bowl LVII halftime show, and while she didn’t have any surprise collaborators singing alongside her, she did have a special guest by way of a new baby on the way as she proudly showed off her baby bump as she performed. Reps for Rihanna confirmed to Rolling Stone that the singer is pregnant.
In 13 minutes, the singer reminded the world of why she remains a musical queen, even when she hasn’t released an album since 2016. Among her hits, she performed “Bitch Better Have My Money” as she floated on a platform alongside dancers in a stunning red outfit. “Where Have You Been” followed. As fireworks lit up the sky, she sang “Only Girl (In the World).”
She showcased her vocal range as she brought things down a notch for “We Found Love” as she descended to Earth to dance on the field with her bevy of dancers. She gave the Navy all of the hits, including “Rude Boy,” “Work,” “Wild Thoughts,” and “Pour It Up.” And she hit her collabs, too, dropping “All of the Lights” and “Run This Town” (though she performed without any special guests) before it culminated with her breakout song, “Umbrella.” She once again stepped on the platform as it rose for “Diamonds.” She thanked everyone as she gazed at the fireworks that punctuated the event.
Earlier in the week, she revealed that she culled the setlist down from some 39 versions. “You’re trying to cram 17 years of work into 13 minutes, so it’s difficult. Some songs we had to lose because of that, and that’s going to be OK, but I think we did a pretty good job of narrowing it down,” she told reporters at a press conference earlier in the week.
The spectacle marked Rihanna’s first public performance in over five years, last appearing onstage at the 2018 Grammys to perform “Wild Thoughts” with DJ Khaled. Around that time, a Super Bowl halftime show was on Rihanna’s radar, though she turned down offers in 2018 and 2019 in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was all but blacklisted from the NFL after taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality during the 2016 season.
Since then, production on the Super Bowl show has been taken over by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, with whom Rihanna has worked since 2014. When Rihanna’s halftime performance was announced last year, Jay said, “Rihanna is a generational talent, a woman of humble beginnings who has surpassed expectations at every turn. A person born on the small island of Barbados who became one of the most prominent artists ever. Self-made in business and entertainment.”
Along with prepping for her Super Bowl halftime performance, Rihanna has been busy with an array of projects in recent months. She hosted her fourth “Savage X Fenty” fashion show last November and, most notably, released some new music. The singer recorded two songs for the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack, “Lift Me Up” (which was later nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars) and “Born Again,” marking her first releases since her 2016 album, Anti.