Rihanna held a press conference ahead of her headlining performance at the Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show on Sunday. The pop star said that she didn’t sleep last night because she was working on logistics until the wee hours at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Az.
“I’ve been so focused on the Super Bowl I totally forgot that my birthday is coming up,” she told Apple Music’s Nadeska Alexis. “I totally forgot about Valentine’s Day.”
Although Rihanna was predictably light on any specifics about the Halftime Show and whether she’d use the opportunity to unveil new music, the conversation covered a number of subjects, including how the timing of the performance seemed to have aligned perfectly with where she is in her life right now.
“It feels like it could have only been now,” Rihanna said. “When I first got the call to do it again this year, I was like, are you sure? I’m three months postpartum. Should I be making major decisions like this now? I might regret this. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world. As scary as that was because I haven’t been on stage in seven years, there’s something exhilarating about the challenge of it all. It’s important for me to do this this year. It’s important for representation. It’s important for my son to see this.”
As for how to fit her dozens of global hits into such a short framework, Rihanna said that “the setlist was the biggest challenge. That was the hardest, hardest part — deciding how to maximize 13 minutes but also celebrate. That’s what this show is going to be. It’s going to be a celebration of my catalog in the best way we could have put it together. You’re trying to cram 17 years of work into 13 minutes, so it’s difficult. Some songs we had to lose because of that, and that’s going to be OK, but I think we did a pretty good job of narrowing it down.”
“There are probably about 39 versions of the setlist right now,” she continued. “Every little change counts, whether I want a guitar cut out, something muted, something added, [to] put in a whole new song, or take out a whole song. Every time I make a change, something has to be updated, and that’s the new version.”
The performance is expected to not to the Barbados-born artist’s cultural roots, with Rihanna enthusing, “that’s a big part of why this is important for me to do this show: representation. Representing for immigrants. Representing for black women everywhere. That’s key for people to see the possibilities. It’s a long way from home, right? It’s a beautiful journey that I’m on. I could have never guessed that I would have made it here, so it’s a celebration of that. I’m really excited to have Barbados on the Super Bowl stage.”
Alexis gently inquired where Rihanna’s head is at in terms of new music, in light of the fact that she hasn’t released a new album since 2016’s Anti. “Musically, I’m feeling open,” she said. “I’m feeling open to exploring discovering creating things that are new. Things that are different. Things that are off. Weird. Might not ever make sense to my fans. I just want to play. I want to have fun. I want to have fun with music.”
This is the first Super Bowl Halftime Show to be sponsored by Apple Music, which is taking over for longtime partner Pepsi. Rihanna is also following in some pretty big footsteps, as last year’s event won three Creative Arts Emmys thanks to performances by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar.
Rihanna recently released a new Super Bowl “Game Day” line as part of her Savage X Fenty brand, with 17 pieces ranging from jerseys to hats, hoodies, and boxers. One t-shirt is emblazoned with the words “Rihanna concert interrupted by a football game, weird but whatever.”
She also contributed two new tracks to the hit film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever late last year, with “Lift Me Up” earning an Academy Award nomination for best original song.