She’s one of the highest-selling female artists of all time, an accomplished entrepreneur, and she’s gearing up to perform the halftime show at next year’s Super Bowl—so it’s no surprise that when the biggest movie of the year needed a hit promotional single, they turned to Rihanna.
“Lift Me Up,” written for Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is a song about finding comfort from loved ones in times of hardship. It’s a fitting theme, since the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe also deals with grief in the wake of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman’s tragic death (and, therefore, that of the hero he plays). Through simplistic yet potent lyrics, Rihanna expresses the pain of the film’s characters while appealing to an ambiguous loved one for support.
Because the lyrics are fairly vague, the specific meaning of “Lift Me Up” is left open to interpretation—which is both a good and a bad thing. The lack of context within the song itself means that the listener can apply it to their own experiences with grief and potentially find comfort in it.
“Lift me up/Hold me down/Keep me close/Safe and sound,” Rihanna sings in the chorus. The song emphasizes the importance of seeking out support in times of difficulty (“We need light, we need love”) rather than dealing with it on your own.
While the generic nature of the song’s lyrics might be comforting for some, it could also easily lend itself to negative interpretations. It’s unclear who exactly Rihanna is singing to in search of comfort in her grief; it could be a friend or family member, but it could also be a significant other, in which case the lyric “Hold me when you go to sleep/Keep me in the warmth of your love” could have some adverse implications.
In the music video, which features Rihanna singing on a beach, the singer wears a revealing top. A few scenes from the movie are also shown, one of which includes dancers in midriff-revealing outfits.
“Lift Me Up” is a song that gives a voice to those struggling with loss. Because the lyrics are somewhat generic and don’t reference a singular situation, they can be interpreted to apply to the listener’s personal experiences—for better or for worse. Parents should be aware of a few very vague references to intimacy, but overall, Rihanna’s contribution to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a touching tribute to anyone in the midst of mourning and a reminder that there are always those around us we can look to for support.
Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.