Ever since Rihanna was announced as the headliner of the Super Bowl LVII halftime show over four months ago, part of the fun for longtime fans has been trying to guess which of her many, many hits her setlist will include. Typically, Super Bowl halftime performers are given between 12 and 15 minutes to play on the world’s biggest stage — so even if Rihanna opts to perform an ultra-efficient mega-mix at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Sunday night (Feb. 12), she probably won’t be able to squeeze in anywhere close to her 14 career Hot 100 chart-toppers, let alone all of her 31 career top 10 singles.
So which hits are making the Super Bowl, and which ones are being left outside the stadium? Although Rihanna’s setlist is being kept tightly under wraps, it’s safe to assume that some of her defining smashes (“Umbrella,” “We Found Love,” “Diamonds,” “Rude Boy,” “Work,” “SOS”) will be featured alongside a combination of notable hits that work in a Super Bowl context (“Only Girl (in the World),” “Where Have You Been,” “Pon de Replay,” “Disturbia,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” “This is What You Came For”).
Toss in a ballad or two, and save some time for recent single “Lift Me Up” (which is nominated for the best original song Oscar — Rihanna would be smart to appeal to Academy voters on the largest platform possible!), and you’re looking at a robust setlist, full of hits and stuffed to the brim. But the truth is, Rihanna could create a memorable Super Bowl show using none of those aforementioned songs — that’s how many career hits she’s accrued. And while there’s a good sense of which Rihanna hits won’t be performed at the Super Bowl, a fair amount of them deserve to be hoisted back up for the world to see.
Here are 10 Rihanna songs that, in all likelihood, won’t be played during the Super Bowl halftime show… but if we’re being honest, they really should be.
“Shut Up and Drive”
There’s at least a shot that Rihanna busts out “Shut Up and Drive” during the halftime show: the 2007 single is an enduring radio hit, PG-rated, and uptempo enough to slot in alongside the handful of dance-pop heaters that helped define the first half of her career. Expecting “Drive” to get the cold shoulder is simply a numbers game — Rih could choose any of “Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop the Music” or “Disturbia” ahead of it from the Good Girl Gone Bad era — but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of elaborate steering-wheel choreography and open-road set pieces at midfield.
"Bitch Better Have My Money"
Considering that the Super Bowl halftime show remains a family-friendly affair, the chances of “Bitch Better Have My Money” getting any airtime are pretty slim… but you won’t find many more audacious, daring and downright fun tracks in Rih’s discography than this stopgap trap single, released in the months leading up to Anti. In an alternate universe, fake dollar bills rain down within State Farm Stadium as all in attendance bellow “Bra bra BRA!” in unison with Rihanna. We’d like to visit that universe sometime.
“That Rihanna reign just won’t let up,” from the braggadocio-dripping military-rap stomp of “Hard,” became a defining lyric for the first half of Rihanna’s career, as she kept rattling off studio albums like 2009’s Rated R that included multiple top 10 hits. Although “Hard” was eventually eclipsed in popularity by the Rated R single that followed it — “Rude Boy,” which is a more probable Super Bowl inclusion — it remains the type of booming anthem that would play well in a stadium setting. Plus: wouldn’t we all want a Super Bowl appearance by Jeezy? To quote the man’s choice ad-lib, Yeeeeeeeeah!
“You da One”
“You da One” was Rihanna’s follow-up single to “We Found Love” off her 2011 album Talk That Talk — and even though it became a top 20 hit, the cultural footprint of her preceding radio offering invariably dwarfed that of this reggae-leaning midtempo track. Yet “You da One” remains a sly banger that could serve as a perfect bridge between a ballad and a dance track (or the other way around) during the show, and give Rihanna some choice melisma-ing opportunities during the hook.
Speaking of irresistible reggae showcases, “Man Down” would give Rihanna the opportunity to glisten over some electro-ragga and rum-pum-pum-pum during a transitional moment in the setlist. Although Rihanna’s 2010 album Loud is rife with colorful dance-pop smashes like “Only Girl (In the World)” and “S&M,” “Man Down” is more nuanced and affecting, telling the story of post-assault vengeance while still provoking movement from its listeners. It’s a highly unlikely Super Bowl inclusion, but if it sneaks in, “Man Down” would turn into a highlight.
“Pour It Up”
The Super Bowl has historically been grounds for endless beer advertisements — and while Rihanna is singing about Patron, not Bud Light, on “Pour It Up,” the tie-in potential could be boundless. This killer club track from Unapologetic is boisterous, magnetic, and probably too adult-leaning for the halftime show, as enjoyable as it would be to hear Rih extol strip club indulgences on the world’s biggest stage. Wherever Rihanna plots her Super Bowl after-party on Sunday night, however, “Pour It Up” will likely get a spin.
If Rihanna opts to perform one of her few post-Anti guest spots, she’ll likely reach for “Wild Thoughts,” her 2017 pop smash with DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller, instead of this rap showcase with N.E.R.D. that was released in the same year and stalled out at No. 36 on the Hot 100. As understandable as that choice would be, the party of “Wild Thoughts” can’t match the hard-nosed hater evisceration of Rihanna’s “Lemon” verse: from the opening declaration “I get it how I live it!,” Rih glides over the beat like a rap champ, and a Super Bowl showcase (maybe with special guest star Pharrell Williams?) would make for a show-stopping moment.
Not only do Rihanna and Drake have bigger hits together — neither “Work” nor “What’s My Name?” would be a shock to be included in the Super Bowl setlist — but the superstar pair also have collaborations in which Rihanna is more prominent, making the title track to Drake’s 2011 opus Take Care an unlikely inclusion. Still, “Take Care” sizzles more than a decade after its release, with one of Rihanna’s most subtly powerful hook performances; plus, opening line “I know you’ve been hurt, by someone else / I can tell by the way you carry yourself” could easily apply to a dinged-up player in the Super Bowl itself! Football stars hobbling toward the blue medical tent deserve an anthem, too.
"Kiss It Better"
Out of all of her Anti hits, “Kiss It Better” is probably the odd one out when it comes to cobbling together Rihanna’s halftime setlist: “Work” is the obvious smash, “Love on the Brain” could deliver the dramatic-ballad centerpiece, “Needed Me” was a bigger hit, and in the end, “Kiss It Better” may be deemed too sexually charged for the Super Bowl. But imagine hearing that guitar riff echo across the stadium! Think of how satisfying it would be to sing along with “What are you willing to doooo….”! “Kiss It Better” was one of the highlights of the Anti world tour, and should be given consideration (along with, ahem, “Consideration”) on Sunday night.
"Take a Bow"
How many enormous ballads is too many? Rihanna’s discography includes multiple radio-ruling songs with slower tempos, and in a field with “Stay,” “Love on the Brain,” “Lift Me Up” and a mid-tempo ballad like “Diamonds,” “Take a Bow,” the Hot 100-topping post-breakup showcase from 2008, may simply be crowded out by something more recent. That would be a missed opportunity for a sneaky-brilliant set-closer, though: imagine, after a multi-song run of high-energy hits, hearing the “Take a Bow” piano line kick in and Rihanna sing, “How ‘bout a round of applause? A standing ovation!” Whew, we just got chills.