Rihanna Redefines Super Bowl Halftime Show Success


Rihanna at the Super Bowl halftime show. (Photo Credit: Brynn Anderson)

This February, international sensation Rihanna took the stage at the Super Bowl LVII halftime show, one of the most prestigious gigs in the music industry. The show, being the singer-songwriter’s first performance since 2018, was highly anticipated: 112 million people tuned into the annual mid-game concert to celebrate the end of her hiatus. 

Instead of a solid stage, Rihanna went super for the occasion with multiple floating stages, reminiscent of a Super Smash Bros map. They were the setting for her 15-minute performance, which included hit songs like “Rude Boy” and “Umbrella,” accompanied by incredible choreography.

The performance’s focus on its dancers set it apart from past shows. Formerly, halftime shows have surrounded the singer, leaving little room for choreographers to explore the art of dance as the program’s main attraction. Rihanna’s choreographer, Parris Goebel, however, helped redefine the role of “background” dancers to give them the spotlight they deserve. 

The show began with a solo shot of Rihanna on a floating platform then panning out to reveal six other platforms occupied by dancers. By the second song, they surrounded the singer-songwriter on all sides of the runway-shaped stage and remained front and center until the outro.

“As a dancer, it was definitely great to see [them] have more of the spotlight,” says Henning Washington (II). Washington, an avid member of Boston’s dance and choreography community, has closely followed Goebel’s work over the years. “She always allows for her dancers to dance at their highest level possible. […] I think that’s why dancers enjoy working with her and why audiences enjoy watching her choreography,” Washington remarks. “A goal of mine is to be in [one of her] projects one day.”

Although the Super Bowl is known for its game-interrupting advertisements, the halftime show usually provides a break from the ads. Rihanna, however, did not shy away from promoting her cosmetics line, Fenty Beauty, during her performance. Halfway through the concert, she paused to reapply her brand’s “Invisimatte Setting Powder” to restore her flawless, “Fenty-guaranteed” look. 

The promo paid off. Within the first 12 hours following the halftime show, Fenty Beauty gained over 5.6 million dollars in revenue — an amount unheard of for the Super Bowl, which does not directly pay its halftime show performers.

Though the stunt has garnered support from fans, Rihanna’s economic gain has left some questions about the performance’s motive. Business analysts for Excel Sports Management estimate that “Rihanna’s performance will generate 37.5 to 75.1 million dollars in incremental sales growth for Fenty Beauty in 2023 based on reported revenue figures for the brand.” Could this growth have come solely from her setting powder pause?

Regardless of Rihanna’s monetary motivations, her performance will certainly go down in history. Not only was the halftime show Rihanna’s musical comeback, it was also the “hard launch” for her second pregnancy with her partner, rapper A$AP Rocky. The show has left fans wondering, yet again, whether she will rejoin the music industry; some even joke they will not be seeing new music “until 2060.” Rihanna herself remains neutral, insisting that “[performing at the] Super Bowl is one thing — a new album is another thing.” 

Her supporters, however, remain hopeful that new music from Rihanna is on the way.