Rihanna Quiet Quit the Super Bowl Halftime Show
Yes, the first word of the first song that Rihanna sang was bitchlike in “Bitch better take my money if I’m about to get hooked on Brothers Super Smash. Platform high above the field during pregnancy to kick off my highly anticipated Super Bowl halftime show,” the word itself is gracefully omitted, but still gleefully rubbed into our awestruck faces. Yes, the platform’s minimalist and dizzying staging caused either Smash brothers., Super Mario Odysseyor, for the seniors who are guaranteed to be baffled by Rihanna’s whole deal, Donkey Kong. No, she did not sing her new, Oscar-winning, but very sleepy Black Panther: Wakanda Forever song (excellent); no she didn’t sing any new songs at all and there is no indication that her hypothetical ninth album and her first since 2016 Antiexpected or will ever exist (shit).
Yes, Associated Press just confirmed that Rihanna is actually pregnant, so I no longer feel like I’m writing this while playing this particular Super Mario Bros. level.
Yes, there was copious lip-syncing, gracefully and gleefully undisguised. Yes, Brothers Super Smash. the staging, which is very conspicuous when viewed from above, quite effectively compensated for her limited mobility. (But not as limited as you might think! She’s pregnant! Shit!) Yes, she sang/performed a whole bunch of her amazingly awesome hits, fast as can be: no choice is terribly amazing (not even “Bitch”) and not a bit does not disappoint. No, except for her team of chubby white back-up dancers the size of training camp and her modest group, she didn’t get anyone out. No special guests. Nobody. Zero. (Yes, I held my breath throughout All of the Lights.) Drake was crying. Good.
Yes, it is quite logical, given the fact that she literally pregnantshe gave about 15 percent more pure an effort like, say, Katy Perry in the same place. Even Rihanna’s choreography—clear, precise, deadly confident, lustful enough to elicit angry phone calls but subdued enough to safely ignore those complaints—had pompous leisure. An old line from her old friend and current halftime powerhouse Jay-Z kept popping into my head: My presence is charity. But this is the essence of the greatness of Rihanna, all her incomprehensible, but triumphant deal with: Her regal restraint, her disinterest almost, could be more arousing than, say, Lady Gaga trying harder than you’ve ever seen anyone try anything in your life. Maybe. “Don’t act like you forgot,” is one of the lines of “Bitch”, which she really could sing. No, we didn’t. “Ballin bigger than LeBron,” she sang. Yes, well, definitely.
All was good. Just good. It’s good that it was just good. Performers of the Super Bowl halftime show traditionally come to this concert to prove something, or at least prove something. sell— say, the enthusiastically anticipated new album. But not Rihanna, despite her long hiatus from music since Anti and despite the feeling that the stakes were high, her highest possible stakes are coming back. But this break only seemed to make her more powerful and beloved; her absence is also somehow charity. We miss her madly, even when she there. Even towering high above Literal Super Bowl field, she holds back; she cold; she is quite at her leisure. Like this persistent myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brains, it runs at 10 percent capacity because that’s all our bodies can handle.
The set list was ok. The star-studded chorus with the EDM belt “Where Have You Been” quickly echoed the star-studded chorus with the EDM belt “Only Girl (in the World)”: Yes. Big. “We Found Love,” which bleeds into “Rude Boy,” which blew through at a faster pace to make the transition work, making “Rude Boy” one of the few components of this show working harder than usual: yes. Even better. “Work”: Yes. Certainly. Fantastic. (Loved the camera over her shoulder and the ease with which she even sang a song called “Work.”) “Wild Thoughts”: OK. Great. No DJ Khaled cameo during “Wild Thoughts”: Yes. Fantastic. It was all great – most of these songs are arguably among the best pop songs released by anyone in the 21st century – but none of them were particularly revelatory. I know this song. I like this song. I worship the person who sings this song. I still love this song and idolize this person, even if I have already forgotten this performance of the song.. Sometimes this is enough. Sometimes this is enough.
Nothing to prove, nothing to sell, except for a quick check on Fenty’s makeup before she launched All the Lights. (Let’s just say it’s her song now.) I’d trade “Run This Town” for any of her other 20 hits, including even sleepy Black Panther one? Yes. Will I complain about it Really? Nope. Is it strange that I was almost unmoved when she started “Umbrella”, one of my favorite pop songs of this or any other century? It’s a little weird, but really, what did I want? The very presence of the song is charity. And then she reconnected to smash platform and sailed away into the night singing/performing “Diamonds”, one of the countless monster hits we’ve been ecstatic to hear, even if her enthusiasm didn’t exactly match ours. This has never happened and never will: this is the essence of Rihanna. It’s not that confusing.
However, the moment that I will probably remember is the close-up of her face in the middle of her step, right before she started “Pour It Up”: her smile, her smirk, her beaming look from the side. And then the camera flipped. I thought of 50 Cent reading “In da Club” upside down during last year’s Dr. Dre, 50 looks a little uncomfortable, not really safe. However, he gave it his all, because in this scene, with such high stakes, that’s what you have to do. Anyway, that’s what most people have to do.