When the news broke in September last year that Rihanna will headline the Super Bowl LV11 half-time show social media was buzzing with rumours of an album drop ahead of the performance on 12 February.
The Barbados native’s last album, Anti, was released in January 2016 and since then Rihanna has taken a step back from music focusing on her lingerie line Savage X Fenty and makeup line Fenty Beauty launched in May 2018 and September 2017 respectively. Her beauty line gained popularity for offering 40 shades of foundation for people with fair to darker skin tones, something rarely done in the cosmetic industry prior. But she seemingly hinted at a possible return to music after featuring on the Black Panther Wakanda Forever soundtrack with the song, Lift Me Up, that dropped on 28 October 2022. Speaking to Entertainment Tonight at the movie’s premiere in November the multi-Grammy award winning musician said she was “honoured” to be a part of the film.
Actress Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Nakia in Black Panther, didn’t know the musician was a part of the movie before it launched. “I have no idea how it happened but I’m glad it happened and I look forward to hearing what she has gifted this story.” Last year was a big year for Rihanna; she also had her first child with rapper Asap Rocky, a baby boy who’s name is not yet known. Lift Me Up is a tribute to the life and legacy of the original Black Panther, Chad Boswick, who died on 28 August 2020 of colon cancer. As the days draw closer to the Super Bowl show and no sign of a possible album drop, we speculated what eight songs she’ll include in her 14-minute appearance.
Bitch Better Have My Money 2015
Produced by Kanye West, rapper Travis Scott and Canadian songwriter Ebony Naomi (WondaGurl), Bitch Better Have My Money is a trap anthem where Rihanna exercises her rapping abilities.
Released on 26 March 2015, the song was meant to feature on her 2016 album Anti. In the song the musician bluntly and assertively demands to be paid what she is owed. At the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards Rihanna put on a show-stopping first performance of the track where she dazzled fans with her hip and swaggy dance moves accompanied by about nine back-up dancers Apart from the high energy production itself the highlight was her grand entrance from a helicopter and her outfit. She rocked an emerald green Versace fur coat with matching sunglasses, choker and and boots.
Needed Me 2016
Needed Me, the seventh track of Anti, is a laid-back electronic R&B and trap song where the musician exercises her rapping abilities accompanied by subtle vocals. With roughly three million likes on Youtube the music video of the track was directed by filmmaker Harmony Korine.Rihanna puts her best acting foot forward as she confronts her former love interest with a gun in a private room of a strip club, a rather vivid way of emphasising a lyric in the song where she says, “Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage?”
Work featuring Drake 2016
Teaming up with Canadian-born rapper and songwriter Drake, Work is the lead single off Anti, written by singer Jahron Brathwaite, Monte Moir, Rupert Thomas, Allen Ritter and producer Matthew Samuels. The song is a mixture of dancehall, reggae, pop and R&B and samples the 1998 Jamaican song Sail Away Riddim by Richie Stephens and Mikey 2000. Work’s two-part music video that dropped on 22 February 2016 has reached more than one billion views on Youtube celebrating Jamaican reggae dance.
Diamonds is the second song on Rihanna’s seventh studio album Unapologetic, released November 2012. The track, written by musician Sia and producers Benny Bianco Tor Hermansen and Stargate, is a romantic song about the beauty of love.
Playing on the idea of the beauty of a rough diamond that doesn’t yet have its shine, the lyrics of the song compare love to the preciousness of the rock and its value. Like a diamond, once love is nurtured it will produce a glorious sparkle. Her best performance of the song was at the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Aside from the exceptional instrumentals, her sultry yet raw vocals and vibrant presence, the musician’s outfit was something to write home about. Rihanna wore a black Viviene Westwood gown with black lace gloves, a white pearl choker and matching sunglasses
Umbrella featuring Jay Z 2007
Sporting a pixie cut and blue dress a 20-year-old Rihanna accepted her first Grammy award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2008 for her 2007 hit song Umbrella, featuring Jay-Z.
The song is the lead single from her third album Good Girl Gone Bad and fuses pop, hip hop and R&B with a few hints of rock. Topping the United Kingdom Singles Chart for 10 weeks and selling more than 6.6 million copies, it solidified Rihanna’s music career. The slightly dark and electronic sound of the track was the musician’s first move towards experimenting with a more edgy, punk rock and electronic pop, which she later did with the 2009 songs Wait Your Turn and Rockstar 101 off her album Rated R.
We Found Love featuring Calvin Harris 2011
We Found Love dropped in September 2011 and is the lead single on Rihanna’s sixth album, Talk That Talk, that features Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and also appears on his third album, 18 months. This upbeat electro house song that includes components of dance, pop and techno, details a romantic relationship between a couple where “love is found in a hopeless place”. It reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 10 weeks, surpassing the success Umbrella and selling more than 10 million copies.
What aided to the success of the song is its music video,directed by Melina Matsoukas, who previously worked on her 2010 track Rude Boy, Lady Gaga’s Just Dance and Beyonce’s Diva. The We Found Love visuals were shot in Ireland and is about a toxic relationship that’s fuelled by love, sex, drugs, addiction and domestic violence. It took home a Grammy Award for Best Music Video at the 2013 awards and a MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year at the 2012 awards show. A memorable live performance of the song was at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.
Stay featuring Mikky Ekko 2012
Stay is the second single to come from her album Unapologetic. The song is a duet with American musician Mikky Ekko, and is a sultry, vulnerable and emotional ballad that speaks about an inability to avoid true love.
Reaching more than one billion views on Youtube, the music video depicts a naked Rihanna in a bathtub and symbolises the rawness and vulnerability in the song’s lyrics. Stay won song of the year at the first iHeartRadio Music Awards in May 2014 and the song has been streamed more than 500 million times on Spotify. On Saturday Night Live in November 2012 the musician gave an emotional solo performance of the song that’s gained more than 30 million views on Youtube.
Rude Boy 2009
Taken from her album Rated R released in November 2009, Rude Boy is a mid tempo reggae and R&B track that features parts of raggamuffin (subgenre of reggae and dancehall) sound.
The slang term “Rude Boy” became popular in Jamaica during the 1960s and describes gangsters. In her song Rihanna plays on that idea of flirting with a mischievous gangster while demonstrating her sexual freedom playfully and confidently. Selling more than three million copies in the United States since it debuted, it reached number one on the United States Billboard Hot 100 Charts after several weeks and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. It would be a full circle moment if the songstress includes the track in her half-time Super Bowl show since she first performed it at the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam on VH1 in Miami on 4 February 2010.