Purple and white—conveying fireplace and blankness—have been such excellent colours for Rihanna to strobe at us tonight. Over 18 years within the highlight, the singer has left little doubt that she’s a girl of depth and vary, with wild fascinations and gut-held convictions and a wealthy private life. However by now, we must always perceive that she’s by no means going to indicate us all of that—as a result of no artist ever might, and since she’s not going to bullshit us in any other case. Rihanna will as a substitute give us blazing-hot surfaces. She’ll insist that perspective and style is sufficient, as a result of it may be, as a result of that is pop.
So nobody needs to be stunned by what her Tremendous Bowl efficiency was: an act of radical minimalism, seasoned with lovable humanity. It was austere but scruffy, flat but actual. Some halftime performers have dazzled via exertion. Some have completed so by sending messages. Many have failed, or no less than flailed, within the course of. However Rihanna wished us mesmerized by the factor itself, by the pictures and the sounds, and he or she largely succeeded. Plus, she graciously implied a bonbon of non-public revelation: She’s pregnant once more!
The present began abruptly, with the digital camera shut on her face and the queasy beat of “Bitch Higher Have My Cash” lurching to life. The disorientation match with the place she was: up within the air, on one of many many suspended platforms that’d ascend and descend all through the present, arranging like stairs or championship pedestals. Excessive-flying feats are at all times cool, and whereas different halftime exhibits have featured levitating-superhero illusions, Rihanna opted for industrial-chic honesty. The platforms aligned all the motion onto one vertical aircraft, drawing consideration to the efficiency’s basic nature as a display occasion occurring in a stadium.
After letting our eyes modify to the circus, Rihanna did one thing vital: She put one hand behind her head and bared her tooth, like a demon on a trucker’s windshield. Thank goodness she introduced her sharpest weapons, her facial expressions, into battle. She rolled her eyes and smirked. She powdered her face (a enterprise plug so shameless it circled into being noble) and touched her crotch (dare you be offended by the miracle of life?). These moments instructed us to not take something we have been seeing too severely. When it seemed like she was simply barely attempting to hit the choreography, or when it appeared like she was dueting with a backing monitor, that’s as a result of she was. Irony and insouciance may be distancing qualities in a efficiency, however right here they have been a type of earnestness.
The pops of persona and shrugs of imperfection additionally have been very important as a result of they broke up a pageant of precision. Rihanna’s dancers, modeling the progressive use of hooded puffers as crop tops, wobbled and swayed as one organism. When she sang, she did so clearly and strongly because the setlist pounded via a number of anthemic hits: “We Discovered Love,” “Umbrella,” Ye’s “The entire Lights.” The continuity was numbing at instances, particularly because of the predominance of EDM pop and midtempo singalongs. However when the strident rhythm was interrupted by one thing lithe and syncopated —“Work,” “Wild Ideas,” “Pour It Up”—it gave a enjoyable probability for Rihanna’s nuclear-cleanup crew to register the change with its our bodies.
Strictly talking, the present didn’t meet the expectations that had made it essentially the most anticipated halftime efficiency of all time. As soon as one of the vital prolific working hitmakers, Rihanna put her music profession totally on mute after 2016’s Anti, and nothing about this Tremendous Bowl suggests she’s hurrying into a brand new chapter. However she gave us what made so many individuals love her within the first place, together with dignity the place a lot of mass tradition affords solely desperation. Essentially the most shifting second got here on the finish, when the music had stopped, and he or she thanked the viewers, seemed round, and smiled. Rihanna was excessive within the air, and he or she felt as near us as she’ll ever be.