While her tightly synchronized comeback offered no surprises (okay, maybe one), it did serve as a dazzling reminder why the pop star and beauty mogul has earned a victory lap.

Rihanna returned for her first live performance in five years Sunday night, descending upon the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show with a very special guest: not Drake, not SZA, not Jay-Z, but a baby on the way. Yes, she is pregnant with her second child, her representative confirmed.

This was the only real surprise of RiRi's 14-minute set at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., which flaunted 12 prime cuts from her formidable catalog and an impressive fleet of hooded, marshmallowy dancers, but lacked any real "wow" moments. That is, if you don't consider the sheer force and impact of the disco, reggae-pop, and electro-house songs she powered through dazzling enough. In her 17-year career, Rihanna has racked up 14 No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100, and 63 of her tracks have charted. In 2011 — when she released her sixth album in as many years — she set the record for the solo artist to most quickly notch 10 No. 1 singles (she's second only to the Beatles in that feat). At this point, does she have anything to prove?

Rihanna performs onstage during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Rihanna performs at the Super Bowl LVII halftime show
| Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Maybe not. And yet, when you go from being one of the most prolific pop stars — and hands down the most dependable hit maker — so far this century to all but disappearing from the music landscape, you do leave fans in anticipation for precipitation. You may have come to the Super Bowl LVII halftime show thirsty for a duet featuring one of Rihanna's countless collaborators. SZA — who showed up on her lauded last record, Anti — seemed a likely candidate given that she kicked off the year with her No. 1 album, SOS, a genre-blurring, single-shunning collection clearly following in Anti's cherished footsteps. You may have come for a cutesy, social media-baiting Tom Holland cameo (imagine!). You may have — okay, you did — come for a tease of even a sliver of fresh material from a national treasure who hasn't put out a full-length studio effort since January 2016.

What you got was a slick, chic, serviceable survey of some of pop's best offerings of the past two decades — which was as warm and cozy as those puffy white ski suits must have felt on Rihanna's very mobile, heartily memed backup dancers. Her own fashion was "mechanic moonlighting as superhero": The 34-year-old singer wore a fiery red bespoke boiler suit, zipped down to reveal her bump and a red bodysuit and breastplate by Jonathan Anderson. The choreo was tightly synchronized, varied, and genuinely funny: a little strip-joint thrust here, an Oompa Loompa headstand there. The bops ranneth over: "Only Girl (In the World)," "We Found Love," "Work," "Umbrella," "Where Have You Been" (which has taken on new meaning as the Navy pines for the highly anticipated R9). RiRi's entrance and exit were regal and dramatic: She and members of her troupe dropped down on elevated platforms for sneering opener "Bitch Better Have My Money" and then she wrapped the spectacle floating back up to Diva Olympus, donning a floor-length puffer with matching gloves from Alaia, fireworks bursting behind her, as she sang an orchestra-backed rendition of "Diamonds."

Rihanna performs onstage during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Rihanna performs at the Super Bowl LVII halftime show
| Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Any one of those numbers might sound like highlights, but the show's apex arrived eight minutes into the set, as those spry little Stay Puft dancers came galloping down the field, arms outstretched and heads turned toward the heavens, to Kanye West's "All of the Lights," a 2010 track Rihanna guested on that after this Super Bowl officially belongs to her. Its trumpety fanfare swirling around her, the singer, flanked by her disciples, stopped to plug her cosmetics brand, dabbing some Fenty Beauty Powder on her face before snatching the mic.

In addition to all those hits and her nine Grammys, Rihanna now has three beauty and fashion companies. She is Barbados' first billionaire and the youngest self-made female billionaire, Forbes reported last year. Pausing during one of the most important live performances of her career (an opportunity she previously turned down) to suavely flash a small piece of her empire before launching into a fallen king's song with him nowhere in sight is a special kind of flex. Take your time, RiRi. We'll be here waiting.

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