Rihanna shone bright like a diamond at the Super Bowl LVII halftime show. This is not the first time the pop star and icon has been invited to headline the Super Bowl halftime. In 2019 Rihanna was invited, but she declined in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick who was blacklisted by the NFL because he protested police brutality during the national anthem. This year, she accepted the invitation and performed a packed setlist of 11 of her top hits; the setlist also included elements from other songs of hers that were weaved seamlessly into the arrangements.
Perhaps what was most striking about Rihanna’s performance was not her singing, but the stunning choreography that accompanied her. Whereas past Super Bowl halftime performances featured surprise guests, outlandish costumes and jaw-dropping sets with special effects, the focus of this show was a minimalist, stripped down dance routine performed by Rihanna and her troupe of dancers. “Troupe” is putting it mildly — it was more like a legion.
The dance routine itself had fairly simple yet precise blocking. Involving 80 dancers, the routine had elements of hip-hop and modern dance styles that were reminiscent of TikTok moves, including dabs, shoulder rolls and hip thrusts. At various points, Rihanna and her troupe danced on individual platforms suspended above the field; other times they danced across an elongated, red-lit stage that allowed Rihanna to dance to and fro, creating a tug-and-pull dynamic between her and her backup dancers.
Both Rihanna and her backup dancers wore street style fashion that added a distinctly modern and urban feel to the performance, distinguishing themselves from past halftime shows headlined by performers like Madonna or Katy Perry who sported flashy and distinctly diva-esque costumes. Rihanna’s troupe wore white Fenty puffer jackets and shield sunglasses, creating a stark contrast to their queen, who wore a red canvas flight suit and a matching, sculpted leather corset by Loewe. The outfit also showed off a surprise: Rihanna is pregnant. At the start of the halftime show, Rihanna posed and showed off her growing belly, and she later confirmed her pregnancy.
Rihanna’s setlist featured some of her top hits: “Bitch Better Have My Money,” “Work” and of course, “Umbrella,” among many others. The songs were arranged in such a way as to allow Rihanna to sing excerpts from them and then easily transition into her next number. What became increasingly apparent during the show was how far Rihanna’s musical accomplishments extend; despite including so many of her top hits, there were many she had to leave out of the 14-minute performance.
During “Diamonds,” the stadium lit up with the glow of waving flashlights as the crowds roared. It truly gave the feeling that the whole stadium watching was shining bright with her; meanwhile, fireworks sparked over the stadium, referencing the line “you’re a shooting star.” Rihanna really was a vision of ecstasy — despite not having over-the-top stage design or surprise guests — indicating that she is an icon for our time, based solely on her artistic merit.
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