When Rihanna was announced as the headliner of the Halftime Show of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, fan speculation immediately spread across social media into both what could comprise the performance, and what it might mean for Rihanna’s return to music. Which songs will she play? Which guest stars could she bring out? And, after several years of inactivity, is new music (and a tour to coincide with it) finally coming?
In the modern era of pop and hip-hop Super Bowl halftime shows, it’s rare for a headliner to be dormant for years prior to taking the stage. Artists like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd have all entered their respective shows on the strength of recent hits. (Last year’s West Coast hip-hop halftime show, led by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, is a bit of an anomaly, but still included artists like Eminem and Mary J. Blige that have been active as recording artists.)
And while it remains to be seen whether Rihanna will precede her Feb. 12, 2023, performance with new music to at long last follow up 2016’s Anti, the chart data suggests that it doesn’t really matter. Rihanna still has enormous listenership, across eras and platforms, keeping multiple hits in rotation and her profile top of mind as she approaches halftime.
Here are five key stats that demonstrate Rihanna’s staying power during her time away from music:
1. She’s among the biggest streaming artists every year.
Although it’s been over six years since releasing a proper album, Rihanna remains a superstar on streaming platforms as fans continue to rack up plays of her back catalog. So far in 2022, Rihanna ranks 34th on Luminate’s year-to-date most streamed artist list, a tally based on streaming totals for songs on which the act is a lead artist. That’s thanks to the 1.67 billion on-demand streams that Rihanna has accrued so far this year, which also includes user-generated content that does not factor into Billboard chart ranks.
But that rank and billion-plus streaming total isn’t an outlier — Rihanna has been one of the top 50 most-streamed artists every year since Anti was released.
In 2016, Rihanna finished second on Luminate’s most streamed artist list thanks in part to the release of Anti, with 3.22 billion on-demand streams that year. Here’s where she ranked for every year after that:
2017: 14th – 2.10 billion streams
2018: 28th – 2.35 billion streams
2019: 30th – 2.65 billion streams
2020: 49th – 1.72 billion streams
2021: 35th – 2.08 billion streams
Although new Rihanna music has been scarce for a half-decade, her catalog continues to accrue billions of streams every year and keep her front of mind on streaming platforms alongside other stars with new releases.
2. Her biggest hits still get millions of weekly streams.
Instead of having a discography that’s bolstered by one mega-hit drawing most of the streaming attention, Rihanna boasts multiple hits from different eras of her career that are logging seven-figure streams every week. Here are her five most streamed songs for the week ending Sept. 22:
1. “Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem featuring Rihanna – 2.96 million U.S. on-demand streams
2. “Umbrella” (feat. Jay-Z) – 2.6 million
3. “Stay” (feat. Mikky Ekko) – 2.6 million
4. “Needed Me” – 2.5 million
5. “Run This Town” (with Jay-Z and Kanye West) – 2.1 million
Impressively, the five songs are all from different years and projects, and the most recent one, “Needed Me,” is over six years old. While those top five songs and their respective streams fluctuate week to week, Rihanna consistently has multiple songs cross the million-stream mark on a weekly basis, nodding to the fact that she has plenty of hits to choose from for the halftime show.
3. Those hits still reach millions of radio listeners, too.
Rihanna launched to stardom in the mid-2000s thanks to pop radio support for early hits like “Pon De Replay” and “SOS,” and program directors continue to spin the many smashes she’s earned in the years since. Here are Rihanna’s five biggest radio hits for the week ending Sept. 25, based on airplay audience, according to Luminate:
1. “Umbrella” feat. Jay-Z, 4.92 million in airplay audience
2. “We Found Love” feat. Calvin Harris, 4.43 million
3. “Only Girl (In the World),” 4.42 million
4. “Stay,” feat. Mikky Ekko, 2.96 million
5. “Diamonds,” 2.66 million
Millions of radio listeners are hearing Rihanna’s voice each week (although like her streaming hits, that list of top five and their respective airplay audiences changes from week to week). And while there’s some overlap between her biggest streaming songs and radio songs during the most recent chart week, the fact that Rihanna has multiple hits that thrive in one medium and others that perform better in another speaks to the breadth of her discography. She could lean on her radio hits during her halftime show, or her streaming hits; most likely, she’ll play a mix of the two and cater to all types of listeners.
4. Anti is one of the steadiest commercial albums of the past half-decade.
In February 2016, Rihanna’s eighth studio album became her second to top the Billboard 200 chart, earning 166,000 equivalent album units in its debut week, according to Luminate. Anti endured on the chart as Rihanna scored more hits from its track list — “Needed Me” and “Love on the Brain” joined lead single “Work” as a top 10 hit from the project. But then, something interesting happened as the album’s promotional cycle came to a close: Anti kept going on the Billboard 200, racking up weeks on the chart in the years that Rihanna’s focus has been away from music.
To date, Anti has spent a whopping 332 weeks on the Billboard 200, and has earned 5 million equivalent album units, according to Luminate. Since the release of Anti, very few other albums have demonstrated such staying power. Dating back to its arrival on the Billboard charts on Feb. 20, 2016, Anti is in 10th place for the most weeks spent on the chart in that span.
So, even though it’s been nearly seven years since Rihanna released a new project, a whole lot of people are still listening to her last one on a weekly basis. Anti is up four spots to No. 142 on this week’s Billboard 200, with its songs earning 12.2 million on-demand U.S. stream in the week ending Sept. 22, according to Luminate. Those numbers were finalized before Sunday’s announcement — as we approach the Super Bowl, expect those Anti plays to keep coming.
5. She’s a regular presence on the Artist 100.
The Billboard Artist 100 — which measures artist activity across key metrics of music consumption, blending album and track sales, radio airplay and streaming to provide a weekly multi-dimensional ranking of artist popularity — launched in July 2014, and Rihanna has been inactive from music for the majority of the chart’s existence. Even so, Rihanna spent 234 weeks on the chart to date — for context, that’s more weeks than artists like Beyoncé (221), Harry Styles (169), Dua Lipa (229) and Kanye West (184). It’s also, oddly enough, the exact same number of weeks on the chart as Bad Bunny, also at 234.
Rihanna’s longevity on the Artist 100 chart speaks to her multi-quadrant appeal as a radio-friendly hitmaker, major streaming presence and an artist whose most recent album remains in heavy rotation, even as multiple years have passed since its release. If anyone was doubting her current appeal ahead of the Super Bowl halftime show, these numbers should summarily make those doubts disappear.