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OPINION: Rihanna’s long-awaited return to music may be on pause

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After not having performed publicly since the 2018 Grammys, Rihanna came back with a vengeance as the sole performer for the 2023 Super Bowl Halftime show. Her setlist included many of her hit songs, such as “Rude Boy,” “Work,” “Umbrella,” “Only Girl (In the World)” and others.  

As a Rihanna fan, I was waiting at my computer with anticipation to see her perform. While there were mixed reviews on her performance, I thought it was iconic. Not only did she come back to performing for a Super Bowl-sized audience, but she also revealed her baby bump. She still had the same powerhouse vocals as before, and her background dancers were incredible – not to mention that they were performing on floating platforms.  

Was Rihanna’s energy a little low? Maybe. But try performing for the Super Bowl after a five-year break from performing while also being pregnant with your second child. Given these circumstances, her performance deserves commendation. But what Rihanna fans are really wondering is if this performance will lead to more music.  

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Rihanna’s last album, “Anti,” was released in 2016. Since then, the world has patiently waited for Rihanna’s epic return to music. But is that return coming? 

Well, we have gotten a taste of Rihanna’s new sound through a new single titled “Lift Me Up,” which was released in October 2022. The song was part of the soundtrack for the Marvel movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”  

While the song performed well on the charts, the reaction from the fans, similarly to her Super Bowl performance, was mixed. Some thought that the song was a beautiful ballad that showcased Rihanna’s vocal talent while others remarked that the song was so far from her usual sound that it seemed more like a cash grab rather than a true artistic venture. 

Either way, one song is not exactly the comeback I was hoping for. I, along with many Rihanna fans, am left wondering if there is an album to look forward to in the near future. 

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Rihanna said that her Super Bowl performance was not a promise for new music. However, Rihanna told British Vogue that she hopes to release an album in 2023. 

“I want it to be this year,” she said, unaware that she was pregnant again. “Like, honestly, it’d be ridiculous if it’s not this year. But I just want to have fun. I just want to make music and make videos.”  

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Rihanna’s second pregnancy has fans questioning if her return is still forthcoming. The public was unaware of Rihanna’s pregnancy until her Super Bowl performance, and so that has not been considered a possible obstacle in the way of new music. Balancing a family, a pregnancy, a business and music is difficult, and it may just lead to a delay or possible discontinuation of a new album. 

So, while there have been many theories as to if or when Rihanna will come back to music full-time, I don’t think anyone can know until it comes from Rihanna herself. Selfishly, I would love a new Rihanna album in 2023. But, if Rihanna wants to focus on her pregnancy and her business, then all power to her. We can only hope that Rihanna will one day be able to come back to music when she feels ready for it. And no matter how long that may take, I will be waiting. 

Ravana Gumm (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism.

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