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Rihanna’s Return to the Music Industry: A Briefing and Analysis of The 2023 Big Game Halftime Show

Updated: Jan 9

By Ryan Hermenet

Gen-Z grew up with Rihanna. Coming into the music industry in the mid-2000s and holding relevancy for ten years following, young adults took interest when finding out about the artist’s performance at what many refer to as the NFL’s “Big Game” of the year.

Many have considered the artist’s lack of new music and break from touring as her way of going M.I.A., and this was the comeback die-hard fans had been waiting for.

The weeks leading up to the artist’s performance were filled with fan speculations on which hits the artist was planning to perform. Many on TikTok held true to their firm belief that Disturbia was the only reasonable way to open her set, while others expected Pon de Replay or SOS.

Very few would’ve guessed that the artist selected Better Have My Money as the headliner. However, the surprise didn’t go unappreciated as fans watching near and far cheered for the artist’s big moment.

Rihanna’s complete set list is as follows:

1.) Better Have My Money (2015) 2.) Where Have You Been? (2011) 3.) Only Girl (In the World) (2010) 4.) We Found Love (2011) (feat. Calvin Harris) 5.) Rude Boy (2009) 6.) Work (2016) (feat. Drake) 7.) Wild Thoughts (2017) (DJ Khaled with Bryson Tiller) 8.) Pour It Up (2012) 9.) All Of The Lights (2010) (Kanye West with Kid Cudi) 10.) Run This Town (2009) (Jay-Z with Kanye West) 11.) Umbrella (2007) 12.) Diamonds (2012)

Her stage setup, while remaining fairly simplistic in comparison to previous Halftime shows, allowed her to amplify her performance with different-leveled floating platforms and a long runway-like main stage.

The backup dancers and their routine didn’t appear to clash with the artist’s personal performance or distract, a common issue in the past. An example of this is Katy Perry’s 2015 performance for the same annual event, which many remember for left shark.

Personally, I was impressed with Rihanna’s comeback. Her performance proved unpredictable, showing the artist still has flare and can keep an audience on their toes.

However, like many others, I am very disappointed that tracks like Disturbia were left off the list. For what the artist performed, she definitely impressed the audience. But there is so much potential in what she could’ve added to make it even better, more memorable - a throwback to my childhood and many others alike.

Fans want more of Rihanna and hope to get it soon. Calls for a tour and new music are being shouted by her following, but it’s ultimately up to the artist herself to make the decision on revitalizing her career in the pop music industry. If she does top charts and makes more concert appearances however, many fans, including myself, agree this performance was the “welcome back” we needed to see.

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