Rihanna unpacked the “jam-packed show” she’ll be giving on Sunday during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show press conference Thursday (Feb. 9).
In Phoenix just days ahead of the big game and even bigger performance, RiRi sat down with Apple Music’s Nadeska Alexis in front of a live studio audience to discuss all of the hard work she’s put into her first live performance in seven years.
“It feels like it could have only been now,” she said about the timing of her Super Bowl Halftime Show performance at this point in her career. With 14 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits, nine Grammy Awards, eight studio albums and $1.4 billion net worth under her belt, Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty) only accumulates more achievements in need of celebration, and this weekend’s performance is no exception.
“When I first got the call to do it again this year, I was like, [hisses] ‘You sure?’ I’m three months postpartum. Should I be making major decisions like this right now? I might regret this,” she said. “But when you become a mom, there’s something that just happens where you feel like you can take on the world. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world, so as scary as that was because I haven’t been on stage in seven years, there’s something exhilarating about the challenge of it all … It’s important for my son to see that.”
The 34-year-old singer later opened up about the “immense” physical challenges of performing again after she welcomed her first child with A$AP Rocky in May. “You’re just running around for 13 minutes, trying to put like a two-hour set for 13 minutes,” Rihanna explained. “And you’re gonna see on Sunday, from the time it starts, it just never ends until the very last second. I know I’m saying too much, but it’s a jam-packed show.”
Even filling the show with all of her jams has been challenging, having to curate a setlist that represents her discography and sticks to that 13-minute runtime. We at Billboard have even tried coming up with our ideal setlist for RiRi — and even thought about more songs she should still consider performing — but Rihanna has us beat, because she said she came up with 39 versions of the setlist, which she called the “biggest challenge” of all.
“That was the hardest, hardest part — deciding how to maximize 13 minutes but also celebrate. That’s what this show’s gonna be. It’s gonna be a celebration of my catalog in the best way that we could have put it together. You’re trying to cram 17 years of work into 13 minutes … but I think we did a pretty good job of narrowing it down,” she explained with a chuckle during the press conference. “There were probably about 39 version of the setlist right now. We’re on our 39th. Every little change counts, whether I want a guitar cut out, something muted, something added or just put in a whole new song, or take out a whole song.”
While Alexis reflected what Rihanna means to her as a fellow Caribbean woman, the superstar mused about how her halftime show special will certainly be about “representing for immigrants, representing for my country, Barbados, representing for Black women everywhere … I’m really excited to have Barbados on the Super Bowl stage.”
The Apple Music host also questioned the direction of her new music — yes, what her fans have all been waiting for — especially in regards to RiRi’s claim from her 2019 Vogue cover story that her ninth studio album, called R9 in the meantime, would be “reggae-inspired or reggae-infused.”
“Musically, I’m feeling open. 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, the people that know the music that I put out. But I just wanna play it,” she responded. “I want to have fun. I want to have fun with music.”
The Fenty mogul later had fun answering questions from young fans, one of whom asked what her favorite album or song to record was. After much deliberation, she answered, “ANTI, for sure, top favorite album I’ve ever made,” and joked that her last studio album “was the first time that I took my time making an album while not being on tour, and that frustrated my fans a bit and here I am doing it again to them.”
Rihanna also shared some advice about staying humble to another young girl in the audience.
“My humility came from my childhood, growing up in the Caribbean, growing up in my household with my mom. She’s a very humble woman, her mom was a very humble woman. And I’ve never lost sight of that,” she said. “I often fear the pedestal that the world can put you on, and I always want to feel my feet on the ground. That makes me feel safe.”