Rihanna is returning to the stage this evening (March 12) as she performs “Lift Me Up” for the first time at the 95th Academy Awards. The career milestone also marks her first time as an Oscar nominee and her first time delivering a live performance since revealing her second pregnancy at the Super Bowl last month.
The emotional ballad featured in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was co-written by the singer Tems, who is also featured on the record, the film’s director and producer Ryan Coogler, and composer Ludwig Göransson. It is nominated in the Best Original Song category. Dave Jordan, the Marvel executive who oversaw music contributions for both Black Panther and the 2022 follow-up, told Forbes in an interview published Saturday (March 11) that he is still pinching himself over the nomination and landing the pop superstar.
“Whenever you go after big artists, it’s not going [to] happen in a week. It always takes months because there’s layers of people you have to go through,” he said. But Jordan and those involved, such as Coogler, were convinced that Rihanna would be on board to return to her music roots once she saw the vision for the film. “We knew that we had something very special,” he said. “By the time we showed her the movie, it was pretty clear what the vision was… [She] was all in immediately.”
Rihanna’s record is going up against Sofia Carson’s “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman; Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick; Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski’s collaboration “This Is a Life” for Everything Everywhere All at Once; and Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj’s Bollywood-infused “Naatu Naatu” featured in RRR. However, if the powerful song is victorious, it will mark the first Oscar win for Rihanna, Tems and Coogler.
Göransson said the track is a mixture of African and Mexican cultures, a direct play on the fictional Wakandans and Talokan, the latter of which drew inspiration from Mesoamerican heritage. “We wanted all the music to be as connected to the story and the movie as possible,” he explained to ABC News last month at the Oscars Luncheon. “Lift Me Up” also pays homage to the late actor Chadwick Boseman. “Thinking about Chadwick and loss, you know that eventually people who matter a lot to you leave you, but you want to keep them,” Coogler added.