Rihanna will make her long-awaited musical comeback on one of the most-watched stages in the world.
The Barbadian singer confirmed on Monday morning (Australian time) that she will headline the 2023 NFL Super Bowl half-time show in Arizona in February.
Rihanna, 34, shared the news in an Instagram post with a picture of her distinctive tattooed hand holding an NFL football. It came just hours after rumours began to swirl that the star would make an appearance at the NFL.
The NFL, which has temporarily rebranded itself on social media as the ‘National Fenty League’ in honour of Rihanna’s beauty empire, confirmed the news on Monday.
“We are thrilled to welcome Rihanna to the Apple Music Super Bowl half-time show stage,” head of music Seth Dudowsky said.
“Rihanna is a once-in-a-generation artist who has been a cultural force throughout her career.”
The show will be the first sponsored by Apple Music, which has taken over from long-time backer Pepsi.
Rapper Jay-Z, who signed Rihanna to his Roc Nation label at the start of her career, has been heavily involved with producing the Super Bowl’s renowned half-time extravaganza in recent years.
“Rihanna is a generational talent, a woman of humble beginnings who has surpassed expectations at every turn,” he said of the news.
“A person born on the small island of Barbados who became one of the most prominent artists ever. Self-made in business and entertainment.”
Fans and other celebrities shared their excitement on social media.
“The queen is back,” singer Justin Bieber wrote below Rihanna’s post.
“omggggg the fenty bowl is coming,” said another excited fan.
Rihanna will be the latest in a long list of music icons to take the Super Bowl half-time stage – including Prince, Madonna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.
The 2022 show, which featured Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent, was watched by 103 million people around the world.
Long time coming
Rhianna’s return will come after years of focusing on her Fenty Beauty empire in recent years, with her brands now worth an estimated US$2.8 billion ($4.3 billion).
Fans have begged the pop superstar to drop new music for six years, since her most recent album, ANTI, was released in 2016.
She last released a track back in 2020, appearing on PARTYNEXTDOOR’s track BELIEVE IT.
Rihanna has also been focused on her personal life in recent months. In May she gave birth to her son with rapper boyfriend A$AP Rocky.
At the Super Bowl, she will have 12-15 minutes to perform her catalogue of smash-hit songs, from Diamonds to Umbrella.
Rihanna’s selection as the show’s headliner may explain her numerous visits to music studios in recent weeks – with fans hoping it meant the singer was working on her ninth studio album.
The singer first turned down an offer from the NFL to perform at the half-time show in 2019, citing issues with the NFL’s alleged treatment of football star Colin Kaepernick. She told Vogue she couldn’t bring herself to be a “sell-out”.
“I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people,” she said.
“I just couldn’t be a sell-out. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organisation that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
Monday’s announcement follows news last week that 11-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift recently turned down an offer from the NFL.
Swift, 32, reportedly wants to continue to focus on re-recording her back catalogue.
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