The last time Justin Timberlake took part in a Super Bowl halftime show, things didn’t exactly go to plan. During a guest appearance with Janet Jackson, Timberlake ‘accidentally’ tore off part of the singer’s costume, exposing her breast. But you already knew that. Everyone knows that. Even mole people know that. What is now always referred to as the infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ essentially led to Jackson being blacklisted in the US where, until then, she had enjoyed huge mainstream success. After nipple-gate however, her music and her image miraculously disappeared from mainstream American culture.
Now I’m not saying Justin Timberlake’s 2018 Superbowl half time show is going to end another pop superstar’s career but, well, I certainly wouldn’t want to be filling that guest spot.
But aren’t we overlooking the real issue here? Surely Timberlake will put on a fine show, but why, in the year of our Lord 2017, has Rihanna, currently the best pop star on the planet, never been asked to headline? This is the question we should be asking.
It seems incongruous that while the likes of Beyoncé, Madonna and Katy Perry have all had the honour of cramming a lifetime of hits into twelve minutes of medleys, Rihanna has yet to do so. But imagine how incredible that would be. She’d ride onto the playing field atop a hot pink army tank – just as she did on her 2011 Loud tour – wearing that iconic Micky Mouse helmet from the ‘Hard’ video. From there, she’d bash through a quick verse and chorus of ‘Only Girl In The World’, backed by dancers and pyrotechnics, before segueing seamlessly into a rendition of ‘Work’ accompanied by a full steel pan band.
Imagine. Just imagine how good it would be. A rocky restyling of ‘Umbrella’, featuring someone like Slash on lead guitar. A burst of colour for ‘We Found Love’, with the dancers spraying each other with water pistols loaded with neon paint. An earnest (but not too earnest) finale of ‘Diamonds’ to top things off, inspiring a lighters-in-the-air, mass singalong.
And the featured artists. With a little black book like Rihanna’s, no one is really off limits. Maybe Jay-Z to introduce ‘Umbrella’, and naturally Drake will have to show up for his guest verse on ‘Work’. But she might choose to throw in a curveball. Maybe an appearance from Kendrick or Kanye or Nicki? Calvin Harris will probably want a few seconds of screen time for ‘We Found Love’, but we shouldn’t let that detract from things.
So why hasn’t this happened already? Rihanna has been at the top of her game for so long it feels criminal she hasn’t been approached. It’s such a shame, because there’s no doubt it would be something spectacular. The tunes, the costumes, the choreography, the headlines, all condensed into a neat twelve-minute package of excellence. It would be great, wouldn’t it? I guess, anyway. I really haven’t thought that much about it.