Rihanna’s ‘Lift Me Up’ for ‘Black Panther’ sequel marks return to music

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Rihanna made a grand return to music on Friday, releasing “Lift Me Up,” an original song for the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack that marks her first single as a lead artist in six years.

Co-written by Rihanna, singer-songwriter Tems, composer Ludwig Göransson and director Ryan Coogler, “Lift Me Up” was described in a news release as “a tribute to the extraordinary life and legacy of Chadwick Boseman,” the star of the first Black Panther film, who died of colon cancer two years ago.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” explores how the fictional East African nation fares after the death of King T’Challa, Boseman’s character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Lift Me Up” resembles a lullaby, with Rihanna singing soulfully at a low tempo over the dreamy sounds of strings and light strumming. The single was released alongside an instrumental version of the track.

Though she has since collaborated with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled and N.E.R.D., Rihanna last released solo music in 2016. Her single “Sledgehammer,” released in June of that year to promote the film “Star Trek Beyond,” landed roughly five months after “Anti,” her eighth studio album. The record ended up on numerous lists of the decade’s best music and earned her six Grammy nominations. (She has 33 total nominations to her name, including nine wins for both solo and collaborative work.)

Over the past several years, Rihanna has pivoted her attention to her Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty brands, both of which significantly contributed to Forbes naming her a billionaire last year. She was worth $1.7 billion at the time, according to the magazine, which described her as the richest female musical artist in the world and the second-wealthiest woman in the entertainment industry after Oprah Winfrey.

So much time passed without Rihanna releasing solo music that even her most loyal fans began to joke that she would never put out her ninth album, deemed “R9.” For her part, Rihanna denied stepping away from the craft; in 2019, she told Vogue that music was “the weird language” that connected her to her fans.

“Me the designer, me the woman who creates makeup and lingerie — it all started with music,” she said in an interview for the magazine’s cover story. “It was my first pen pal-ship to the world. To cut that off is to cut my communication off. All of these other things flourish on top of that foundation.”

The rest of the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack is set to drop Nov. 4, while Göransson’s score will be released a week later on Nov. 11, the day of the film’s theatrical release. Göransson won an Academy Award in 2019 for his work on the first film. Rihanna’s single would be eligible for best original song.

Regardless of whether she performs at the Oscars next year, Rihanna will sing for a nationwide audience while headlining the Super Bowl LVII halftime show in February. She announced the news on Instagram last month, sharing a photo of her hand holding a football against a plain white background.

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