Rihanna’s Super Bowl show: Unbothered, effortlessly cool – and an unexpected guest on board

Rihanna is suspended on a moving light-up platform at a height I can only measure as ‘too bloody high to be up at with that tiny tether for safety’

The Super Bowl is a big sporting event to some, but to us true fans it’s about waiting for some men to take a break from chucking a football around so we can see some actual talent. On Sunday night, not having the Artane Band at its beck and call, the NFL has to make do with Rihanna for its half-time show.

I should say first of all that I have many learnings as an alumni of one of the United States’ best football schools. One is that gridiron is such a stop-start game that it’s annoying to watch. The other is that on a date you shouldn’t tell an NCAA Division I linebacker that you think “pads are for periods, not football”, even if he is making fun of rugby.

But back to the halftime show, which is as important to the Super Bowl as its other core parts are: multilayer dips with chips, and commercials that make us strangely emotional. It has provided the theatre for pivotal moments in our cultural history, such as Janet Jackson’s exposed breast and Katy Perry’s left shark flailing its fins out of time.

Some people have been worried about Rihanna will do at Super Bowl LVII, as the last time she performed in public was in 2018. As she said in a tired voice at a preshow press conference, “I haven’t done this in a hot minute.”


Super Bowl half-time shows are certainly challenging. We know this because getting ready for them has spawned an entire genre of content in itself. Jennifer Lopez made a 95-minute documentary about her 14-minute half-time show. Because Jenny from the Block is also an educator, we know that at least 12 minutes of the roughly 30-minute break are eaten up by setting up and dismantling the stage, leaving performers to condense a two-hour concert into the time it takes to cook oven chips.

Logistics aside, Rihanna also has to deal with internet think pieces asking, What has Rihanna been doing all this time? The answer is becoming a literal billionaire and having a baby, two notoriously difficult achievements. (Maybe I’m just protective of Rihanna because I think we have an affinity as two women who were named as a result of a misheard Fleetwood Mac lyric. Probably.)

The songstress starts her set suspended on a moving light-up platform at a height I can only measure as “too bloody high to be up at with that tiny tether for safety”.

Her daring red outfit with sensible puffy jacket unites millions of people across the world as we all ask out loud “Is your wan pregnant again?” and frantically search Google on our phones to find out.

Rihanna’s rep confirms afterwards that there is indeed a child, and not just a large pasta lunch, in her slightly rounded belly. This draws relief from members of the press like myself who, because of the mortification involved if we get it wrong, do not like to say anyone is pregnant until they’re practically giving birth.

She launches into Bitch Better Have My Money, which is ironic, as the NFL doesn’t pay Super Bowl performers. The pop princess then performs a Grease-style megamix of her hits above a team of hazmat-suited dancers. Her performance has no Beyoncé-style physical stunts. In fact Rihanna doesn’t seem that fussed about the dance element of her show, sometimes giving the air of someone who’s just trying to get through a hungover shift at work.

The problem may be that the Antipodean dance powerhouse Parris Goebel hasn’t left any crumbs with her choreography. The professional dancers’ sharp, slick movements make an obviously pregnant woman look a little tired in comparison. Actually, it’s insane we could even think that: Rihanna is dancing in heels on a platform in the air while belting out numbers without even looking slightly puffed out.

Spare a thought for the backing dancers, though, who must be raging about the costume choices for their big break. “Did you see me, Ma? Yeah, I was the one covered with safety glasses and a weed-spraying suit ... No, not that one. I was on the left.”

The opening bars of We Found Love bring all us millennials back to a simpler time of dancing in regional nightclubs, the taste of Fat Frogs in the back of our throats. Her songs remind us of a genre-spanning back catalogue of floor fillers. She doesn’t have to do much on stage. She’s already done it. She’s given us hit after hit. And an incredible range of inclusive foundation shades and high-pigment highlighters.

What more could we ungrateful creatures want?