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‘Lift Me Up’ Review: Rihanna’s Return To Music After Six Years is Understated Artistry

Single cover for Rihanna's "Lift Me Up."
Single cover for Rihanna's "Lift Me Up." By Courtesy of Rihanna / Roc Nation / Westbury Road / Hollywood Records
By Monique I. Vobecky, Crimson Staff Writer

After six long years, Rihanna’s newest single “Lift Me Up” is the singer’s first solo song released since her last album “Anti” in 2016. The song was released as part of the soundtrack for the upcoming film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'' and was made in remembrance of the late Chadwick Boseman. “Lift Me Up” was co-written by Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems, Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson, and “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler.

Fundamentally, “Lift Me Up” is not attempting to be another high-energy Rihanna single. Instead, the song utilizes a slower tempo to set up an emotional tone of remembrance for the upcoming “Black Panther” movie. Rihanna’s ballad is beautifully sung, and its pace allows listeners to listen closely and reflect upon each lyric. Having this single predate the release of the film similarly allows for listeners to imagine emotional scenes of the upcoming film alongside the calming hymn.

Rihanna’s single also seems to reflect her since her recent entry into motherhood. “Lift Me Up” is the singer’s first musical release since having a child with rapper ASAP Rocky. “Lift Me Up” plays like a lullaby, with Rihanna’s vocals and humming lulling the song into a steady and calming rhythm. This new style could be emblematic of her experience as a mother to her son, who she gave birth to in May. Moreover, the soft string instruments add to this effect and highlight harp plucking emblematic of African harps, such as the kora.

The slow nature of the ballad is almost entrancing — ensuring that the song elicits more than one listen. In addition, the lyrics of the single pack a punch, as each line is hauntingly powerful and compelling. While upon first listen, the ballad seems short and sweet, each lyric of the song plays an important role in the goal of the single: to remember those that were lost.

"After speaking with Ryan and hearing his direction for the film and the song, I wanted to write something that portrays a warm embrace from all the people that I’ve lost in my life,” Tems said in an interview with Variety.

While some fans may be surprised at Rihanna’s return to music being a slow hymn, “Lift Me Up” plays an important role in establishing the tone of the upcoming “Black Panther” film and remembering the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. This single is also just the beginning of Rihanna’s return, as she is slated to headline for the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show in February of 2023. With the release of her new single that differs from her traditional image of a pop icon, only time will tell where the trajectory of Rihanna’s music is headed.

—Staff writer Monique I. Vobecky can be reached at monique.vobecky@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @moniquevobecky.

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