Rihanna, With Halftime Pregnancy Announcement, Bucks Industry Expectations

For months, the music industry has wondered whether Rihanna would use her widely watched Super Bowl halftime performance to announce a new tour, a residency, an album—anything.

Not so fast.

The pop star Sunday night gave fans what they were expecting—a barrage of hits that celebrated her legacy and reminded everyone of her formidable hold over 21st-century pop music—but she also revealed a pregnancy that has implications for her future touring and music plans.

For Rihanna fans, the biggest question going into the Super Bowl was the potential for an announcement of the star’s first concerts in seven years. But now that she is pregnant, such a heavy commitment seems less likely. (The reveal, later confirmed as a pregnancy announcement by her representatives, made Rihanna the first expecting woman to headline the halftime show.)

So far, Rihanna hasn’t announced any long-term career moves. By comparison, Beyoncé used her Super Bowl performance in 2016 to announce a world tour, via a commercial that aired just after the halftime show. Still, there’s another question afoot: What about new music? Rihanna’s fans have been eagerly anticipating her long-in-the-works ninth studio album, dubbed “R9.” Rihanna last year released two tracks, including the Oscar-nominated “Lift Me Up,” for the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack—suggesting a thawing in her recording freeze. In the coming weeks, music fans could be in for yet more surprises—or nothing at all.

The 34-year-old Barbadian pop star kicked off her performance around 8:28 p.m. ET with the song “B— Better Have My Money.” During the 13-minute performance, she was dressed all in red, looking relaxed, loose and happy, standing on an elevated rectangular platform and flanked by white-clad dancers on six other platforms. Her set list included her hits “Diamonds,” “Only Girl (In the World),” “Umbrella,” “We Found Love” and Jay-Z’s “Run This Town,” on which she is a featured guest artist.

For many, Rihanna’s suspended-stage production recalled Kanye West‘s 2016 “Saint Pablo” tour, which also used an elevated platform. (She also performed “All of the Lights,” a Kanye West song on which she is featured as a guest vocalist.) In other ways, especially in the decision to do a solo performance without guests, her show resembled R&B-pop star The Weeknd’s 2021 halftime appearance. “Thank you Arizona,” she said at the end.

“She killed it,” said Jennifer Olney, a 37-year-old fan by email. “I thought she sounded amazing, loved the red.” At the same time, Ms. Olney said she was surprised that there were no guest stars; many fans were likely expecting a cameo from Jay-Z or Drake, with whom Rihanna has collaborated. “A little bummed,” Ms. Olney said.

As soon as Rihanna took the stage, speculation was rife online about a potential pregnancy. At one point at least, she appeared to be rubbing her belly, with a red jumpsuit unzipped. Even before Sunday’s show, some Rihanna fans had speculated that she seemed focused on expanding her family. When the show ended, a spokeswoman for Rihanna confirmed that she is pregnant with her second child.

Source: The Wall Street Journal