“Lift Me Up,” Rihanna’s Melodious Love Letter to the Black Panther Universe

Thrumming into the headphones of Black Panther fans everywhere is “Lift Me Up,” a single released as a part of the upcoming Marvel sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Released on October 28, this song marks the end of Barbadian artist Rihanna’s six year hiatus from music since her 2016 album Anti. She wrote the song alongside fellow artist Tems, Oscar-winning producer Ludwig Göransson, and returning director Ryan Coogler. “Lift Me Up” is the first of several songs that will be featured during the film’s release on November 11, 2022. 

In a heartfelt tribute to the widely beloved Black Panther lead actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer in August 2020, the song centers themes of loss and embrace in a way that promotes vulnerability among its listeners. With lyrics delivered gently against a melody almost reminiscent of a lullaby, Rihanna’s song has opened a conversation about the emotional baggage of grappling with the loss of a loved one:

“Drowning in an endless sea

Take some time and 

Stay with me

Keep me in 

The strength of your arms

Keep me safe, safe & sound


Lift me up

Hold me down, hold me down

Keep me safe, safe & sound


Burning in a hopeless dream

Hold me when you go to sleep

Keep me safe

We need light, we need love”


Situated during the sweeping loss of life confronting African Americans today, exacerbated by surging rates of police brutality and COVID-19, “Lift Me Up” holds resonance among a much broader community of those seeking to heal. Yet in creating this project, Coogler found it important to emphasize that “Rihanna was very clear that she did that for [Boseman].”Beyond the somber tones that “Lift Me Up” works to establish in light of Boseman’s passing, the song serves as the heartbeat for this upcoming film while providing audiences with a look into what is to come. 



There is no doubt that as audiences are transported into the fictional nation of Wakanda on November 11, they will be met with the cross-armed salutes and afrofuturistic environment that have distinguished the fictional African nation from other Marvel settings. Furthermore, it has long been confirmed that in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, fans can expect to be reunited with the treasured ensemble of actors that composed the prequel’s original cast. Expected performances include Leitia Wright, Lupita N’ynongo, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Michael B. Jordan, and various others. Both the film’s trailer and promotional flyers have gone on to display several new additions to this cast, including actresses Dominique Thorne and Michaela Coel. 

Coupled with the teaser clips included in Rihanna’s beachside “Lift Me Up” music video, it has been made clear that the female protagonists’ narratives will be seated at the forefront of this film in the place of King T’Challa (formerly played by Boseman).

Alongside stunning cinematography of a fire’s ashes floating gently around Rihanna, who is pictured against a deepening sunset, the video features flashing clips of the Black Panther actresses portrayed atop thrones, wielding spears, and gracing the screen in various shades of melanin. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will provide much-needed representation for Black women, who Basset hopes will leave the theater feeling “more empowered to do the possible, as well as the impossible.”



Just as opening night tickets have sold out in theaters across the globe, the Internet has flooded with rumors about Rihanna’s return to music. With “Lift Me Up” serving as a love letter to Wakanda and the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, fans have speculated that Rihanna is projected to receive an Oscar in the near future. In an exclusive interview with Good Morning America, Boseman’s widow Simone Ledward made her first public appearance to express her emotions surrounding his loss, which she describes as having been “the most challenging two years” of her life. Her inspiring words capture the feelings of Boseman’s family, friends, and fans across the globe who continue to carry the sting of his absence inside, while still radiating with hope for this highly-anticipated film: “I think [Coogler] really has done a beautiful job of reflecting what the reality of grief is, and that it doesn’t leave, but other things happen in the world and we can’t just lay down and stop our work.”