Rihanna is arguably one of the biggest names in music today. He has achieved more at the age of 35 than most people do in a lifetime. The Barbadian powerhouse has the third-most No. 1 hits on the Hot 100, behind only The Beatles and Mariah Carey. He’s sold millions of albums, toured the world, headlined the Super Bowl (just last month, actually) and won nine Grammys. And now, she might just add an Oscar to her long list of accomplishments.
The singer, songwriter and business mogul is currently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The chart-topper sings the tune, but she also co-wrote it with Ludwig Göransson (who composed the score), up-and-coming African musician Tems and the film’s director Ryan Coogler, all of whom are potential winners.
When it was announced that Rihanna had recorded a song for them Black panther then it seemed like everyone in the world was freaking out. Not only was it a chance for an Oscar nomination – which came true – but it was billed as something of a comeback. The artist has been relatively quiet on the music front and fans have been begging for something new for years.
But how did the team fall behind Black Panther: Wakanda Forever sign one of the most popular music stars on the planet, bring her back from semi-retirement and win an Oscar in the process? Well, it wasn’t easy.
“Whenever you go after big artists, it’s not going to happen in a week,” explained Dave Jordan, Marvel’s music executive and the music supervisor for both. Black panther films during a recent interview. “It always takes months because there are so many layers of people you have to go through.”
Rihanna is hard to come by. Yes, he’s a star, but there’s more to him than that. Simply put, she is BUSY. She’s not focused on music right now, but it’s not like she’s relaxing. She maintains a billion dollar business with Fenty Beauty. She has the Savage X Fenty underwear line. Oh, and shortly before she recorded “Lift Me Up,” she became a mother for the first time.
Jordan says he and his team, along with Göransson, started the conversation with Rihanna’s people early on, though for months there was no word. But against the odds, they persevered.
“We knew we had something very special and if we could show her the film,” Jordan began. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened. when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever it was almost over, the singer saw it and that sealed the deal.
“By the time we showed her the film, it was pretty clear what the vision was,” Jordan recalled. He says it was helpful that the original Black panther was already a beloved title, as it meant Rihanna wasn’t walking away from a treatment, a conversation, or even a script, which can often happen with musicians asked to create original songs for movies. “He saw the movie in New York, if I remember correctly, and he was all in, right away,” Jordan revealed.
Surprisingly, Rihanna didn’t end up recording one song on her comeback, as originally predicted, she created two. “Lift Me Up” was the pair’s smash — it hit No. 2 on the Hot 100 — but shortly after it dropped, she also released “Born Again” as she enjoyed the process. Both pieces are beautiful, but the main piece, which receives most of the attention and love, is especially restrained and soft. It works great in the film as a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, the original Black Panther.
Jordan explained that Rihanna stayed up all night in the studio recording the soundtrack’s lead single. “Lift Me Up” was partially written by Coogler and Göransson as they traveled to Nigeria to work on the music, but Tems and Rihanna later added their own contributions, completing the track. The singer even had her newborn by her side as she completed the hit, balancing being a music star and mother. The song has meaning for the film, sure, but also for Boseman’s fans, and for Rihanna herself as a new mom.
While she eventually landed the song, Rihanna was never sure and there was a real chance she wouldn’t make it. I asked Jordan if there were any names that were considered as backups if Rihanna eventually came through, but he said it was all about her no matter what. “We’re just going to make it happen. It just has to happen,” he insisted the thought was advanced at the time, adding, “It’s just destiny.”
Now, the four talents behind “Lift Me Up” are waiting to see if they will win an Oscar. Touching on his thoughts on how Marvel movies aren’t often contenders at the world’s biggest awards show, Jordan says, “I can talk forever about how superhero movies don’t get the respect they deserve,” before let that idea go. . He ended his thought with a simple statement: “All we can do is our best work.”
Describing his disbelief that he and his bandmates were able to not only get Rihanna, but that the song turned out so spectacularly and then earned an Oscar nomination to top it all off, Jordan was almost speechless. “I’m just pinching myself,” he admitted, adding: “These things just don’t happen.” But for Rihanna, Coogler, Tems, Göransson and Jordan, they do.