Rihanna Live Debuts ‘Lift Me Up’ from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ at the 2023 Oscars

As Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel made clear during his 2023 Oscars opening monologue, Rihanna was in the building (as was her nine-month-old son, who Kimmel also said had pooped backstage during rehearsals).

Thanks to the stunning ballad “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the superstar scored her first Oscar nomination alongside Tems, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Göransson. For the song’s live debut, Rihanna — whom actress Danai Gurira introduced as “royalty in her own right” — delivered a soaring performance.

Surrounded by a full band, string section and backup vocalists “Lift Me Up” came to life as Rih sang with palpable passion to honor the late Chadwick Boseman. Standing on a center platform draped in diamonds, when she declared “Lift me up… I need love” the stage obliged, elevating her a few inches into the air (nothing compared to her sky-high Super Bowl performance).

“Lift Me Up” marked Rihanna’s long-awaited return to music and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. As Göransson previously told Billboard, speaking of the film’s final scene in which the song plays: “When you hear her voice and the lyrics, that’s the point where you finally take it all in. You can see what a great filmmaker [director] Ryan [Coogler] is because in the scene right before you hear the song, it’s absolute silence. You see all these flashbacks, all these memories, and then you interrupt that [with] a song honoring Chadwick and [his character], T’Challa.”

The performance was celebrated with a standing ovation while the camera panned to A$AP Rocky, who lifted his champagne flute to the sky.

Lyndsey Havens