Rihanna delivered an electrifying and hit-heavy half-time show at Sunday’s Super Bowl, but social media went into meltdown when the singer revealed an unexpected special guest.
In an interview last week, the Bajan singer was asked if there would be any surprises during her performance at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium.
“I’m thinking about bringing someone,” she replied. “I’m not sure, we’ll see.”
Naturally, fans assumed she was talking about one of the many artists she’s collaborated with during her illustrious career. A guest spot from Jay-Z, Drake or Eminem seemed both likely and in keeping with the half-time show tradition of surprise duets.
But Rihanna wasn’t referring to any of them. Although nobody twigged at the time, she was in fact hinting that she was pregnant with her second child.
The singer may have failed to debut any new music during her performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl, but the baby bump she debuted instead almost broke the internet.
The audience went wild as the singer launched straight into Better Have My Money – a somewhat ironic opener considering she is not being paid for her Super Bowl performance.
As the 34-year-old dazzled the crowd from on high, her dancers performed beneath her at breakneck speed, in a display of razor-sharp choreography which they would maintain throughout the whole performance.
The singer rattled through several recognisable hits, front-loading her set with some of her most danceable and up-tempo numbers including Only Girl (In The World) and the excellent Where Have You Been.
Wearing an all-red custom jumpsuit by Loewe, Rihanna appeared on one of several floating platforms which soared high above the crowd, as a swarm of energetic dancers, all dressed in white, gathered below.
It was a half-time show not short on spectacle, even once she had been lowered to the ground. Fireworks were let off above the stadium as she launched into the euphoric We Found Love.
While rumours that the star might take the opportunity to perform new music failed to materialise, the decision to rely on her extensive back catalogue, one of the strongest in pop, was a sensible one.
The singer packed a huge number of hits into a tight 14-minute set, only performing the first verse or chorus of certain songs. But monster hits such as Rude Boy were balanced with the somewhat harder-edged and lesser-known Pour It Up.
Somewhat disappointingly, the set list took advantage of some of her best-known collaborations – without any of her collaborators actually joining her on stage.
As she performed Run This Town, All of the Lights and Wild Thoughts, there were no appearances from Jay-Z, Ye (formerly Kanye West) or DJ Khaled, who normally feature on those tracks. But their absence didn’t matter. By this point, everyone’s attention was firmly on an entirely different, and very visible, special guest.
Confusion initially permeated social media as fans rushed to share their theories about Rihanna’s apparent baby bump. Many pointed out the singer is known for her body positivity and could well have just been showing off her curvier figure following her previous pregnancy.
Although the star’s bump was on display throughout, Rihanna did not draw attention to it quite as explicitly as Beyonce did at the MTV VMAs in 2011, where she memorably dropped her microphone, unbuttoned her jacket and rubbed her belly. But as Rihanna’s set progressed on Sunday, viewers became increasingly confident she was pregnant again, nine months after she and her partner A$AP Rocky welcomed their son.
Within an hour of Rihanna’s performance drawing to a close, as her fans debated exactly which trimester she might be in, her representatives officially confirmed the singer’s good news.
While some fans admitted to a tinge of disappointment that this will likely mean yet another delay to Rihanna’s much-anticipated ninth studio album, the reaction on social media was overwhelmingly joyful.