Rihanna is Back: and Controversial?


Monika Jeraj

It’s safe to say that all of State Farm Stadium was buzzing before Super Bowl LVII’s halftime show. Rihanna. A household name for over a decade. Who wouldn’t be excited?

Opening with B**** Better Have My Money, Rihanna’s famous captivating gaze first greeted the audience from a floating platform with glittering lights scattered across the stadium as her backdrop. Dressed in a bright red designer jumpsuit, she contrasted her dancing ‘marshmallows’ – her backup dancers – who wore puffy white jumpsuits and black sunglasses. Their exaggerated moves accompanied an impressive setlist which, according to a press conference with Apple, Rihanna said was the “hardest part” of preparing for the performance. She added that she put together 39 versions of the setlist before deciding on the right one, which included but was not limited to classics like Where Have You Been, Only Girl in The World, Work, Wild Thoughts, and Umbrella. Ultimately, Rihanna closed off the show with a song the public has always put at the top: Diamonds. The twinkles of light in the audience became real-life diamonds as the stadium was whisked into a magical crescendo, leading to the extraordinary end of a 13-minute performance marking Rihanna’s spot as an – or maybe the – ultimate icon.

Although Rihanna’s performance was unpaid, it did wonders for her brand. By unintrusively touching up her makeup mid-performance, she hinted at Fenty Beauty, her cosmetics line. And that, in contrast, paid off. In the next 12 hours, Fenty Beauty generated $5.6 million in media impact value and saw an 883% increase in Google searches. According to Launchmetrics, Rihanna’s other enterprise, her lingerie line Savage x Fenty, made $2.6 million. However, her businesses aren’t the only thing that gained traction due to the stunning halftime show. As reported by Forbes, Rihanna experienced a 390% increase in digital song sales, with the songs on her setlist particularly gaining popularity.

Of course, no artist can escape criticism. Despite Rihanna’s remarkable status, many people had many things to say. Some critics complained the performance was too sexual. Some said it just wasn’t “awe-inspiring.” People commented on the outfits, the dances, the songs, and anything else within the scope of reason. An acquaintance I discussed the show with even compared it to the Olympics opening ceremony. “It’s like comparing Broadway and community theater,” they said, portraying any Super Bowl halftime show as ‘community theater,’ including the Rihanna performance.

Objectively, the show was ‘less’ than some previous halftime shows – it had less glamour, less dancing, and fewer performers. However, sometimes, less is more. And we must keep in mind Rihanna’s other debut, in addition to her first performance in four years: her second pregnancy! All in all, public response was positive, and Rihanna’s image was in no way tarnished. The show drew an immense audience of over 112 million viewers and ultimately etched its way onto the list of impressive halftime performances that will be remembered for years to come.