Rihanna treated her loyal fans with a new single and music video titled “Lift Me Up” which debuted on Oct. 28. The day before the release, she teased new music on her Instagram account for the first time in six years with a clip that sparked major excitement.
The song is featured on the soundtrack of the much anticipated sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which was released in theaters on Nov. 11.
Artists releasing music specifically for films is not a new concept. For the 2002 film “Spider-Man,” Chad Kroeger, frontman of rock band Nickelback, released the hit single “Hero.” Of course, who could forget Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” for the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”
That said, Rihanna released a vastly different track from previous musicians. Her song not only encapsulates the spirit of the film, but also that of the beloved actor, Chadwick Boseman.
A recent press release revealed that the song was written as a tribute to Boseman, who was globally known for his portrayal of T-Challa in the first “Black Panther” film installment in 2018. He passed away in 2020 after a private four-year battle with colon cancer at the age of 43.
The song was co-written by Rihanna and singer-songwriter Temilade Openiyi, professionally known as Tems, director of the movie Ryan Coogler and composer Ludwig Göransson.
In the same press release, Tems shared her thought process of writing the lyrics.
“After speaking with Ryan and hearing his direction for the film and song, I wanted to write something that portrays a warm embrace from all the people that I’ve lost in my life. I tried to imagine what it would feel like if I could sing to them now and express how much I miss them,” she said. “Rihanna has been an inspiration to me so hearing her convey this song is a great honor.”
After her eighth studio album “Anti” and the recent birth of her child in May of 2022, Rihanna has refrained from releasing solo music and instead focused on her successful entrepreneurial pursuits.
When she finally announced her return to music, the anticipation could not be contained.
Though she has dabbled in a variety of genres, Rihanna decided to make a statement with her comeback by serending listeners with an emotional R&B ballad. To tease the musical direction, the snippet of audio the star provided on her social media was her humming along to a melancholic tune.
In the music video directed by Autumn Durald Arkapaw, she is seen singing alone on the beach while the sun sets and clips of the movie are intermittently displayed. The characters of the film are seen in anguish over the loss of their leader as Rihanna sentimentally sings to the sky.
When she sings, “Drowning in an endless dream / Take some time and stay with me,” the star effortlessly conveys the devastation of losing someone abruptly. On the other hand the lyrics “When you depart, keep me safe / Safe and sound,” reassure listeners that our loved ones are always with us one way or another.
As the video continues, the beach gets darker and darker while a bonfire is seen lit in the back. With the night progressing, the light becomes a manifestation of someone passing away with the lyric “Hold me when you go to sleep” resonating profoundly.
In juxtaposition, the burning embers reflect how one’s spirit is felt forever as Rihanna sings “Keep me in the warmth of your love.” The fire continuously burns, never ceasing throughout the video.
Through her rich vocals and acute attention to detail, Rihanna provides a proper salute to Boseman and his character. Although the song was written specifically for him, the message of losing someone dear is a universal experience.
For some, “Lift Me Up” is by no means Rihanna’s true comeback. Critics such as Shaad D’Souza of “The Guardian” find that her recent work is “light and frankly anonymous, a far cry from the brilliant, world-weary and starkly emotional lyrics of Anti.”
However, the simplicity of the composition of the song and video does not negate the intensity of the track. Rather than filming a huge spectacle to illustrate the severe grief felt when Boseman passed, she chose authenticity.
Those who partook in the creation of this tribute distinctly cared more about respectfully honoring the late actor than producing a viral music video. For this reason, their sincere contributions are evident in the final product.
Rihanna’s newest single is a reminder that she is a musical force to be reckoned with. Her dedication to the song prompts listeners to cherish and appreciate moments with loved ones. Time is fleeting, so society ought to understand what is truly important in life. As Rihanna so ardently sang, “We need light, we need love.”
Julissa Ramirez is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.