Rihanna’s Oscar Performance Had Me Crying All Over Again
The first time I cried at “Lift Me Up,” Rihanna’s Oscar-nominated song, was after the final scene in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In that scene, Shuri visits Nakia in Haiti, and brings her funeral garments. It’s Wakandan tradition to burn the garments as a way of letting the deceased loved one go, and Shuri, who’s been holding onto her grief for T’Challa and Queen Ramonda throughout the entire movie, finally feels ready to take that step.
Usually, Marvel credit sequences are an opportunity to highlight moments from the movie, revisiting scenes and characters in a stylized way, but director Ryan Coogler decided to focus on the funeral garments themselves, showing the fabric burning as “Lift Me Up” plays. The sequence is a beautiful and loving tribute to both King T’Challa and Chadwick Boseman, who died before he was able to step back into the role of the Black Panther for Wakanda Forever.
Rihanna, who hadn’t released a single as a lead artist since 2016, recorded the song especially for Wakanda Forever, as part of the film’s tribute to Boseman. Tonight, at the 95th Academy Awards, she performed it again, and suddenly I was crying all over again.
Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye in the Black Panther series, gave a brief prologue to the performance, explaining the tribute. She ended her speech by saying, “Thank you, king” in Wakandan.
The original version of the song is quiet, contemplative, and tender. The version Rihanna performed at the Oscars was larger scale, with her vocals soaring over strings. Usually I get annoyed at the way that the Oscars tends to ramp things up for the sake of spectacle, but everything about this performance worked. Rihanna captured all the love and heartache felt by Boseman’s fans around the world.
Although “Life Me Up” didn’t win for Best Song—that honor went to “Naatu Naatu” from RRR—it’s a gift to Marvel fans whose hearts are still hurting from the loss of a king.
(featured image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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