Rihanna will perform at the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 12 as the N.F.L. enters the first year of a new deal with Apple Music as primary sponsor of the halftime show, replacing Pepsi.
It is the first scheduled return to the stage for an artist who last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in early 2018, and whose most recent solo album, “Anti,” was released in January 2016.
“We’re excited to partner with Rihanna, Roc Nation and the N.F.L. to bring music and sports fans a momentous show,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president for Apple Music and Beats.
The announcement is an about-face for the singer, who was among the artists who rebuffed invitations to perform on football’s biggest stage in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who has been unable to find a new team since he became a free agent in March 2017. Kaepernick accused the league of blackballing him because of his kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality toward Black people.
Facing player protests and an impending loss of cachet for the show, the N.F.L. in 2019 signed on Jay-Z and Roc Nation, the rapper’s entertainment and sports company, as “live music entertainment strategist,” to consult on the Super Bowl halftime show and contribute to the league’s activism campaign, Inspire Change.
Rihanna is both managed by Roc Nation and signed to its record label, according to the company’s website.
Last February’s halftime show in Inglewood, Calif., was the third under Roc Nation’s guidance. The hometown rap icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar and the singer Mary J. Blige delivered well-regarded performances which book-ended that of the rapper Eminem. In what appeared to be a reference to Kaepernick’s protest, Eminem knelt after performing “Lose Yourself” in a move that was anticipated by N.F.L. officials who had seen him do it in rehearsals.
In the years since Rihanna’s last album release, she has appeared as a guest on a small handful of singles by other artists — including DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 2017 — and intermittently teased new music of her own, though none has materialized.
As a result, what would be Rihanna’s ninth studio album has taken on a near-mythic quality among fans — who regularly refer to it as “R9” — even as the singer has focused instead on her business empire, which includes the Savage x Fenty lingerie brand and skin care and makeup lines that have contributed to her $1.7 billion net worth, as estimated in 2021 by Forbes.
Earlier this year, Rihanna had her first child with the rapper ASAP Rocky.
In a 2019 interview with T Magazine, the singer of hits like “Umbrella” and “We Found Love” said the new album would, as long rumored, be a reggae project, while joking about the fan-given name. “I’m about to call it that probably, ’cause they have haunted me with this ‘R9, R9, when is R9 coming out?’ How will I accept another name after that’s been burned into my skull?”
More recently, Rihanna told Vogue, “I’m looking at my next project completely differently from the way I had wanted to put it out before,” adding: “It’s authentic, it’ll be fun for me, and it takes a lot of the pressure off.”