Rihanna opened the Super Bowl LVII halftime show in a glossy-red, custom-made Loewe and Alaïa getup, defiantly staring into the camera on a floating platform while her 2015 hit “B—h Better Have My Money” blared through State Farm Stadium in Arizona this past Sunday.
The Super Bowl halftime show is among the most polarizing performances of the year. Rihanna’s performance was no different, drawing mixed reactions from UB students.
According to some, Rihanna failed to bring that “wow” factor, often comparing her halftime show to Super Bowl predecessors such as Katy Perry, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.
“It felt kind of underwhelming,” Sebastian Zeman, a junior exploratory major, said. “I feel like the choreo could have been a bit different from what it was. To compare it, Katy Perry’s show had a lot more and [Perry’s] set was just better made for all the songs that she performed.”
But not all students felt the performance was a bust. Many were excited to sing along and see Rihanna’s first live performance since 2018.
“I honestly loved it because after so long, it’s seeing her perform and do all of her hits. It wasn’t even half of her hit songs,” Supreme Gurung, a junior biology major, said. “I know it wasn’t a lot of what we expected seeing Shakira or JLo’s. But I loved it because, I don’t know, I think I just love her.”
“She killed it. Honestly, I didn’t see anything wrong,” Steven Le, a senior business administration major, said. “I give it 100 out of 10.”
Because of Rihanna’s pregnancy, which she confirmed after her performance, most students — even those who didn’t vibe with her set — commended the Grammy-winner for performing and embraced the elusive singer’s long-awaited comeback to the spotlight.
“Maybe [her pregnancy] made her less able to do crazy stunts,” Allie Cavino, a freshman finance major, said. “But I think it’s awesome that she [performed while pregnant].”
“I think if she wasn’t pregnant she definitely would have danced and done a lot more actively, but I think for what it was, obviously she couldn’t control that situation,” Ally Hurwitz, a junior economics major, said. “I think she did a really good job.”
Many memes were shared online in regard to Rihanna’s set, which featured floating platforms that fans compared to those seen in Super Smash Bros.
“There were a lot of memes about how she looked like Super Mario,” Cheng Lin, a senior information technology and management major, said.
Nothing in Rihanna’s show was safe from criticism — her singular outfit and those of her white army included. Her red getup drew praise from some, but others felt the lack of wardrobe changes hurt the performance
“I wish she changed [outfits] a little more. I liked her outfit though. I thought it was really cute,” Kayleigh Baynar, a freshman biomedical sciences major, said. “But it could have been flashier.”
Even her blizzard of all-white backup dancers caught strays from UB students.
“They looked like marshmallows,” Kaylee Ellis, a freshman psychology major, said.
Even though Rihanna was the subject of criticism for some, many viewers were understanding of the fact that her pregnancy contributed to a less flashy performance than those seen in recent years.
“The set was OK considering Katy Perry’s set, she had like a lion and everything one of those years,” Angela Cai, a sophomore computer science major, said. “But she is pregnant. The lion was also moving. I’m sure it's really hard to keep your balance on that while singing and dancing.”
Others celebrated how Rihanna represented the capabilities of pregnant women. Just because she’s expecting doesn’t mean that she can’t continue to “Pour It Up.”
“More power to her. I think she’s representing women everywhere,” Julia Shavuo, a freshman psychology major, said.
“Rihanna is amazing. She did all that while being pregnant. She’s a queen,” Samantha Polanco, a junior criminology major, said.“That was really good women empowerment to see her do it by herself solo and pregnant.”
Although some believe that Rihanna delivered a fumbled performance, others clearly admire her ability to take the stage while carrying her second child.
With such strong opinions from UB students, whether or not Rihanna “shined bright like a diamond” or left viewers with “Wild Thoughts” is up in the air — much like the floating platforms that dominated her Super Bowl halftime performance.
Alex Novak is an assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Novak is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.