Rihanna shows how to put on a Super Bowl Halftime Show

Choreography, stage design and the emphasis on music make this year’s halftime show shine


Courtesy of WIRED

Rihanna performs at the Super Bowl Halftime Show earlier this month.

Carolyn Malman, Contributing Writer

With 14 songs as Billboard No. 1 hits and 31 top-10 songs, Rihanna has made her mark on the music industry. Therefore, it was no surprise that Rihanna announced at the end of 2022 that she would be performing the Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2023. 

With countless hits and a dynamic catalog of music, it is hard to imagine Rihanna fitting the highlights of her discography into a 13-minute set. However, Rihanna managed to fit all that and more into her Super Bowl halftime show

In the months leading up to her performance, fans posted their predictions on social media to how they thought Rihanna would open her halftime show. Many acted out theatrical performances of “All of the Lights,” “Where Have You Been” and “Only Girl (In the World),” but “Bitch Better Have My Money” would open Rihanna’s iconic performance. 

The first image fans saw from the live performance was Rihanna’s “Fenty face.” She looked beautiful with her flawless makeup, definitely showing off the long wear of her products, and her limited-edition Mason Margiela red outfit. Right from the start, she stands solo on a floating stage with dancers on stages beside her as she transitions from “Bitch Better Have my Money” to “Where Have You Been.” Over the remaining 12 minutes, Rihanna sang a melody of her songs from “We Found Love” to “Wild Thoughts” to ending her performance with “Diamonds.” 

With no public announcement of her pregnancy before the performance, Rihanna left fans wondering: did she put on postnatal weight, or is she pregnant with her second child? Rihanna does not care about rumors that may be started about her, which is why she openly shows off her belly throughout her performance to announce her pregnancy. Rihanna comments on the continuous emphasis on female bodies throughout the media, which is why she makes no initial effort to describe her personal health situation to viewers.

Because Rihanna is a woman headlining the Super Bowl halftime show, people expected her to show off her figure and include sexy dancers. However, Rihanna had other plans for her performance. She put the emphasis on her music, her success and the improvement of her voice live. Her “marshmallow dancers,” as they are often referred to on social media sources, are dressed all in white to allow Rihanna, dressed all in red, to stand out. 

Critics claim that Rihanna’s performance was “boring”  and a “waste of money.” Some believe that it was not as visually stimulating as Beyonce’s 2013 performance or, more recently,  Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent in 2022. However, the project head of the stage design and construction for Rihanna’s performance, Aaron Sieber, told Wired that this is the most “technologically advanced Super Bowl Halftime Show.” 

Further, Rihanna’s performance was thoughtfully choreographed and compelling to watch with all of the moving stage pieces and song changes. Rihanna’s approach works directly in accordance with the philosophy of her businesses — celebrate differences and allow people to be confident as themselves. Rihanna’s lingerie company Savage x Fenty calls on consumers to “Celebrate Your Body.” Fenty Beauty, the most successful celebrity makeup company, revolutionized the beauty industry with extensive shade ranges so everyone can feel included and accepted. 

As a long time fan of Rihanna’s, I appreciated how she placed the emphasis on herself and her extensive catalog of music. Opening with “Bitch Better Have My Money” sets the tone for her halftime show — the song being a single that has no features on it. In a recent interview, Rihanna told Entertainment Tonight that “it’s an entertainer’s dream to be on a stage like that.” Rihanna took advantage of this opportunity and created a show that reflected the depth of her catalog of music.

Additionally, Rihanna protested common pressures placed on female entertainers. Rihanna’s performance directly contrasted that of Katy Perry, Beyonce and most recently Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Instead of reflecting negatively on these women performers, she celebrates that she is different. She feels no expectation for her performance to be anything other than a show that celebrates her iconic musical and personal identity. Rihanna’s halftime show reaffirms how influential she is, and she will continue to revolutionize both the music industry and the beauty industry in years to come.