Rihanna’s long-awaited return to music is officially over as she announced the release of ‘Lift Me Up’, her first new song as a lead artist in six years, as part of the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack on Friday.
The song was co-written by Nigerian singer, Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems. Other co-writers are Ludwig Göransson, Robyn Fenty and Ryan Coogler. It was produced by Göransson.
The raw, poignant ballad — co-written by Rihanna, Tems, Ludwig Göransson, and the film’s director, Ryan Coogler — is a tribute to the life and legacy of late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020.
“Lift me up / Hold me down / Keep me close / Safe and sound,” she sings in the track, a stripped-down affair anchored by piano, strings, and harp. A choir surfaces to back her delicate vocals at the song’s halfway mark. Its simplicity is striking for Rihanna, who’s become famous mostly for her sexy, defiant dance-pop bangers, EW reports.
Grammy-nominated Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems explained in a press release that the inspiration for “Lift Me Up” came from a heartfelt conversation she had with Coogler.
“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,” she said. “I tried to imagine what it would feel like if I could sing to them now and express how much I miss them. Rihanna has been an inspiration to me, so hearing her convey this song is a great honor.”
While on the purple carpet for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Wednesday, Coogler revealed what inspired the creative team to reach out to Rihanna about appearing on the film’s soundtrack. The singer is releasing two songs for the album: lead single “Lift Me Up” and the upcoming “Born Again.”
“When we realized what this film was going to be about, we were looking for artists who can embody it thematically,” Coogler told The Hollywood Reporter. “We were taking a different musical approach with the film. Ludwig Göransson, who’s our composer, and myself, we were looking to make the film and have actual songs that were incorporated into the score throughout the movie.”
The director noted that they were able to “thread the needle” with Kendrick Lamar on the first film’s soundtrack but were on the hunt for a new artist whose overall message felt aligned with the sequel.
“Rihanna was at the top of that list,” he continued. “We knew she was at a point in her life as well where she was focusing on different things — you know, focusing on business, motherhood, which is a big theme in our film — so we were holding out hope that maybe it could work out and, boy, did it.”
In addition to dominating the Billboard charts, Rihanna is also a successful business mogul and, more recently, a mother, having welcomed a son with partner A$AP Rocky back in May.
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