New Music
Sonically, Rihanna's "Lift Me Up" record imitates a church prayer and weepy lullaby.

Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” Is One Hell Of A Cathartic Return To Music

“Lift me up. Hold me down. Keep me close. Safe and sound.”

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After a six-year hiatus from the music scene, Rihanna has returned. On Oct. 28, the singer released her ballad, “Lift Me Up,” which appears on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. This release isn’t just a comeback. It’s a moving sermon, fitting for both its intended remembrance of the late Chadwick Boseman and its cathartic, communal release after years of grieving, well, just about everything.

There’s a reason Rihanna is music’s “pope,” as confirmed by her papal look at the 2019 Met Gala. Her vocals on “Lift Me Up,” which sonically moves as a church prayer and weepy lullaby, are her most raw to date. She’s always had a distinct voice, with her tone mostly swimming in lower registers. Thankfully, her deeper octaves on full display here perfectly carry the song’s message.

“Lift Me Up” is a comforting memorial — a church service, even — for Boseman, who died in August 2020 after a four-year battle with colon cancer. His glorious portrayal of King T’Challa in the franchise had such a global impact, and that impinging force can be seen in the sequel’s trailer where the people of Wakanda memorialized him at an all-white funeral.

Alongside Rihanna, “Lift Me Up” was co-written by singer Tems, composer Ludwig Göransson, and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. In a press release, Tems described the song as a warm embrace from loved ones who’ve passed on.

The hymn opens with faint strings and solemn humming, a sound Rihanna initially used to tease the song’s release on Oct. 26. Those layered hums slowly culminate in the chorus, where Rihanna richly begs her lost loved one to comfort her. “Lift me up / Hold me down / Keep me close / Safe and sound,” she purrs.

That concept steadies throughout the first verse where Rihanna yearns to feel safe. “Burning in a hopeless dream / Hold me when you go to sleep / Keep me in the warmth of your love / When you depart, keep me safe / Safe and sound,” she cries.

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The plucky strings from the beginning flourish in this section. There are several enrapturing highs in “Lift Me Up,” but the most unforgettable moment lies in the outro. There, the final chorus swells and she sweetly recites pleas like, “Lift me up in your arms,” and “Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me.”

As “Lift Me Up” reportedly plays at the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it’s clear the song is more than just Rihanna’s return to music. It’s a robust, heartwarming melody that encapsulates grief in such a powerful way. It’s a needed homily for our worrisome times.

Check out the full lyrics for “Lift Me Up” below, via Genius.

Chorus

Lift me up

Hold me down

Keep me close

Safe and sound

Verse 1

Burning in a hopeless dream

Hold me when you go to sleep

Keep me in the warmth of your love

When you depart, keep me safe

Safe and sound

Chorus

Lift me up

Hold me down

Keep me close

Safe and sound

Verse 2

Drowning in an endless sea

Take some time and stay with me

Keep me in the strength of your arms

Keep me safe

Safe and sound

Chorus

Lift me up

Hold me down

Keep me safe

Safe and sound

Verse 3

Burning in a hopeless dream

Hold me when you go to sleep

Keep me safe

We need light, we need love

Chorus

(Lift me up) Lift me up in your arms

(Hold me down) I need love, I need love, I need love

(Keep me close) Hold me, hold me

(Safe and sound) Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me

(Lift me up) Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me

(Hold me down) Hold me, hold me

(Keep me safe) We need light, we need love