The day is finally upon us: Rihanna is making her official comeback to music. Some might have marked her return with “Lift Me Up” and “Born Again” from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack, but consider that merely dipping a toe in the water—her fans know the real return is happening this Sunday at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. On Feb. 12, it will have been 2,572 days (or seven years, for the slightly less obsessive observer) since Rihanna has released any solo music (excluding those Wakanda Forever songs). There has been much speculation about when she will release her follow-up album to 2016’s ANTI. Variety VIP+ was not alone in professing “a hunch” that, given that Apple Music is now sponsoring the Halftime Show after a decade of Pepsi sponsorship, Rihanna could even be releasing her long-awaited ninth studio album streaming platform immediately following her live performance.
But there are also many questions floating around what her (presumably) iconic Super Bowl Halftime Show will look like, including the songs she’ll sing and which other artists she might bring out, which designers she’ll wear, all the way down to her hairstyle and makeup. Two TIME writers, Cady Lang and Moises Mendez II, predict everything that could (and should) happen at this momentous occasion in her career. Here are their best guesses for how the halftime show will go down.
Read more: The 10 Best Rihanna Performances of All Time
What songs will Rihanna sing?
If we base our predictions on the choices made by Super Bowl Halftime performers in the past, we can imagine exactly how this setlist might begin: With a big, recognizable hit to remind the crowd exactly why she’s there (think Beyoncé opening with “Love on Top” and going straight into “Crazy in Love” or Madonna entering on an extravagant chariot to “Vogue”). The last time we saw Rihanna perform a medley was when she hosted the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. If that night offers any indication of how she might arrange her Super Bowl medley, she may well start out with her most popular song to date, the oldie but goodie “Umbrella.”
Rihanna’s performances are known for starting off high-energy and then working to keep the energy up. Early songs might include “Only Girl (In The World)” or “Work” to get the crowd pumped. After that, she will probably venture into bad-bitch territory with a trap hit like “Bitch Better Have My Money,” “Needed Me,” “Rude Boy” or “S&M.”
We can also expect her to bring out one of the sultry hits she’s known for, like “Loveeeeeee Song” or “Love on the Brain,” probably around the midway point of her performance. Given that this is the biggest stage in the world and new music is anticipated, many may be wondering whether she’ll perform a new song during the performance. But playing new material on a stage like this is a big risk and one we don’t necessarily expect her to take.
To close out the show, there’s a good chance that Rihanna will turn to a ballad, as she has in many past live performances. If her Apple Music ad spots are any indication, there’s a high probability that that ballad could be “Stay,” which was used to great effect in a promotional video featuring NFL fans belting out the lyrics with vim. Other contenders for the close could be “Diamonds” or her latest song, the Oscar-nominated track from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, “Lift Me Up.”
Who will she bring out during the performance?
It’s customary for artists performing at the Super Bowl Halftime Show to bring out a surprise special guest or two. Beyoncé brought the other members of Destiny’s Child when she performed back in 2013, Katy Perry brought out Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez brought out Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and so on. In the case of Rihanna, the singer has had collaborations with some major stars, and almost every single one of those songs have been hits.
The most likely contenders are A$AP Rocky and Calvin Harris. The former, her long-time boyfriend and her baby’s father, appears on the remix to the 2011 crowd favorite “Cockiness,” on which the two deliver an energetic and sensual performance. Harris has two massive hit songs with Rihanna, “We Found Love” and “This is What You Came For,” both of which she has a high probability of performing.
She also has several songs with her ex-boyfriend, Drake, who is another top contender for special guest. Drake still speaks highly of Rihanna, but ever since she began dating A$AP, she hasn’t said much about him, so the likelihood that he would show up is hard to assess. (Fans may remember how he almost stole her spotlight back in 2016 when he presented her with the Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs, but she slyly rejected him on camera as he seemed to go in for a kiss.) The two have collaborated on “Take Care,” “What’s My Name?” “Work,” and “Too Good,” all of which she could theoretically perform alone.
Jay-Z is also in the running as a possible special guest, not only for “Run This Town,” but for Rihanna’s biggest hit, “Umbrella,” and the title track of her 2011 album Talk That Talk, which he’s featured on.
On the less likely side, there is Eminem, with whom she has three songs; DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller for “Wild Thoughts”; T.I. for “Live Your Life”; Shakira for “Can’t Remember to Forget You” from her 2014 album (this would be fun, but less likely); and Nicki Minaj, who is featured on “Raining Men” and who enlisted Rih for her song “Fly” more than a decade ago.
The least likely of all of Rihanna’s previous collaborators is Kanye West, with whom she did “All of the Lights,” “FourFiveSeconds,” and “Run This Town,” for obvious reasons.
What will Rihanna wear during her performance and who will be styling her?
Looking to Rihanna’s Apple Music Super Bowl teasers for clues, there’s a good chance that the bad gal will be working with her former longtime stylist, Mel Ottenberg, for her looks for the big show. While Rihanna in recent years has relied on stylist Jahleel Weaver, who was the deputy creative director of her one-time LVMH luxury line, Fenty, it was Ottenberg who styled her for the ad spot for her biggest stage yet.
Ottenberg, who is currently the editor-in-chief of Interview Magazine, began working with Rihanna in 2011, shaping her style for her Loud tour, kicking off a sartorial collaboration with the singer that has been nothing short of extraordinary. Ottenberg is the architect behind many of Rihanna’s most legendary fashion moments, including her show-stopping custom Adam Selman sheer crystal-encrusted dress and headpiece, which she wore to pick up her Fashion Icon award at the 2014 CFDAs, as well as her majestic (and highly meme-able) yellow Guo Pei cape for the 2015 Met Gala.
There’s also a high probability that Rihanna will tap Selman for some Super Bowl looks; Selman, who often created custom looks for Rihanna in the past, was recently named the executive design director of lounge and sport for the singer’s lingerie line, Savage x Fenty (he previously designed a capsule collection for Valentine’s Day for the brand in 2020). With Rihanna headlining one of the biggest sporting events in the world, it would just make sense that she debut a special sporty Savage x Fenty look for the occasion.
What will her hair and makeup look like?
Rihanna is known to be a trendsetter. When she dyed her hair fire-truck red during the LOUD era, so did everyone else. She was one of the first people to dye her hair gray a decade ago, and immediately after that, gray and silver hair was popping up all over Instagram and Tumblr. Trends look to Rihanna—not the other way around.
Her long-time hairstylist, Yusef Williams, is known for some of her most iconic looks from the Grammys, her Diamond Balls, various Fashion Weeks, red carpets, and more. He has yet to share any details, but if the Apple Music teaser and her recent appearance at the Golden Globes tell us anything, it’s that she will definitely be doing something bold.
Priscilla Ono, who has been Rihanna’s makeup artist for 19 years, told Page Six Style that she is hoping to create a “timeless makeup look.” She says, “On the day of, I’m only doing Rihanna’s makeup and I want her to look and feel her best. So I have a team of 25 makeup artists who are going to execute the look that I set for all the dancers.” This is Rihanna’s first performance in years, and her fans lie in wait to see what new trends she will surely kick off this time.
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