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Super Bowl halftime show review: Rihanna delivered a mash-up of her greatest hits – and a surprise guest

Nine-time Grammy-winning singer’s return to the stage was a roaring success – and the surprise news she’s expecting her second child an internet-breaking bonus

Mark Beaumont
Monday 13 February 2023 18:49 GMT
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Pregnant Rihanna performs stunning Super Bowl half time show

“All I see is dollar signs,” sings Rihanna, strutting along a catwalk stretching the length of a football stadium while hundreds of dancers, wearing the skimpiest white ski jackets a designer could envisage, gyrate hurriedly out of her path. Well quite.

Roughly six minutes ago, an American football game was under way (general run of play: whistle, fight, advert). Now one of the world’s biggest pop stars is descending from a vast string of floating platforms resembling a stairway from heaven to blast through a 12-minute medley of monster hits in her first public performance in five years. Frankly, 200 million viewers worldwide are somewhat blinded by the cash too.

With a budget often topping $10 million, the Super Bowl halftime show is the instant coffee of stadium gig extravaganzas – the greatest show on earth that you can throw up in just six minutes. And Rihanna’s show reveals a natural honing of the spectacle. An event that was once the annual home of big-name guest collaborations and gargantuan gimmicks – remember Katy Perry riding in on a giant golden tiger surrounded by floundering shark dancers? – has been refined of late into one eye-catching concept taken to stadium-sized extremes.

Where The Weeknd performed on a cityscape stage set built into the stands in 2021, and Dr Dre led a troupe of major rap names across the top of a wheeled-on block party last year, Rihanna takes a classic Super Bowl trope – the flying platform – and owns it, spectacularly.

Up she sweeps to the glitch-rap “B**** Better Have My Money”, queen of a field of hundreds of bumping and grinding dancers, working her blood-red boilersuit just loose enough to prompt worldwide pregnancy speculation. A representative for the nine-time Grammy-winning artist subsequently confirms that she is indeed expecting her second child.

Down she swoops to a quickfire assault of world class raved-up R&B showstoppers: “Only Girl (In the World)”, “We Found Love”, “Work”. The mash-ups work tremendously, blending “Wild Thoughts” into “Pour It Up” via a sliver of “Birthday Cake” that barely touches the sides. And the setlist is smartly compiled, claiming ownership of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” and Jay-Z’s “Run This Town” by some ancient law of Guesters Keepers.

It makes for a magnificent megamix, topped off with a brief twirl of “Umbrella” and a final epic snippet of “Diamonds”. If there are any disappointments, it’s that her protests against the NFL’s discarding of knee-taking quarterback Colin Kaepernick (over which she and many other major acts turned down the 2019 halftime show) seems cheerily swept under the carpet, and that she makes the rookie Super Bowl error of trying to talk into her prop microphone at the end.

Still, all we saw was star quality.

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