Rihanna returns with ‘Lift Me Up’ ballad from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’
RiRi season is upon us.
Rihanna dropped a new song, “Lift Me Up,” on Friday, the pop superstar’s first single as a lead artist since 2016. A lush ballad long on fluttering string instruments – and with a movingly tender vocal performance – “Lift Me Up” is from the soundtrack to the highly anticipated new Marvel movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and arrives months before Rihanna is due to play the halftime show at Super Bowl LVII in February.
The song was co-written by Rihanna with the Nigerian singer Tems (she of the sinuous “Essence” and the woozy “Wait For U”), “Wakanda Forever” director Ryan Coogler and composer Ludwig Göransson, who also produced the track. In a statement the artists described “Lift Me Up” as “a tribute to the extraordinary life and legacy” of actor Chadwick Boseman, who played the title role in 2018’s “Black Panther” before dying of colon cancer in 2020 at age 43.
“Burning in a hopeless dream/ Hold me when you go to sleep,” Rihanna sings, her voice darting in all kinds of unexpected directions, “Keep me in the warmth of your love when you depart/ Keep me safe, safe and sound.”
“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 the statement. “I tried to imagine what it would feel like if I could sing to them now and express how much I miss them.” She added: “Rihanna has been an inspiration to me, so hearing her convey this song is a great honor.”
“Lift Me Up” comes nearly seven years after the release of Rihanna’s most recent studio album, 2016’s wily and soulful “Anti,” which spun off a Hot 100-topping single in the dancehall-inflected “Work” – one of her 14 No. 1 hits – and earned Grammy nominations for urban contemporary album and record of the year (for “Work”), among other awards.
Since then the 34-year-old has collaborated with the likes of N.E.R.D., Kendrick Lamar, PartyNextDoor and DJ Khaled and focused on her hugely lucrative fashion and cosmetics brands. In May, the singer gave birth to her first child with rapper ASAP Rocky.
Though few details have been announced, the “Wakanda Forever” soundtrack is due Nov. 4, a week ahead of the movie’s opening on Nov. 11. The first “Black Panther” film was accompanied by an album curated by Kendrick Lamar with songs by the Compton-born rapper – including his and SZA’s Oscar-nominated “All the Stars” – as well as the Weeknd, Travis Scott, James Blake, Vince Staples and South Africa’s Babes Wodumo and Yugen Blakrok.