Why Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” is the perfect tribute to late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman

As poignant and as symbolic as tribute ballads come, Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” is a song cry befitting of a hero’s farewell; now Boseman’s memory will live with us in two worlds.

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Rihanna marked her long-anticipated return to music with “Lift Me Up” — a ballad in tribute to late actor Chadwick Boseman, which will form part of the album score for the upcoming Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” If not for the cold sting of death, Boseman would have most likely returned a second time, to portray the titular character Black Panther (T’Challa), which he embodied and became synonymous with after the first movie in 2018. However, to preserve his legacy, Rihanna has been recruited alongside Nigeria’s jewel of a musician, Tems to curate a song befitting of a hero’s send-off.

With its re-imagination of Africa, home to Wakanda, the most civilized and technologically advanced country in the world, BP became more than just a movie. To Black people, it is now the symbol for “the Africa that could still be.” After his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”, BP became a part of Boseman’s life. His portrayal earned him plaudits, and it was clear he was de rigueur for the character. His tragic and painful death-forced exit from the franchise is a huge loss; to us, to Wakandans (as the film has teased), and to his many real-life connections, friends and family. We needed this song after all, to pay our last respect to a hero.

“Lift Me Up” arrives as a pantheon. Add that to the fact that it’s Rihanna’s first music in nearly six years, then you may realise the extent of its symbolism. From welcoming her first child with partner ASAP Rocky earlier this year to being listed among Forbes Magazine’s richest women, Rih’s affiliation with headlines has been nothing short of glorious. After her Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show confirmation, it became obvious that the first-time mum would be returning to the studio. But even her most loyal fans would not have anticipated it would come in such majestic fashion.

Rihanna Lift Me Up

It’s a great time to be a Marvel fan, and a Rihanna fan. But it’s even a greater time to be loved. You see, fleeting life emphasizes the mantra to “make every second, every minute, every time” count. But without love, even all our struggles, triumphs, successes, go to wasteland. The cruel paradoxical nature of love and death is that while people need more love and support in life, they usually get it in abundant supply after their death. But of what use? Boseman felt the harrowing sting of the first part of this paradox, roasted on the internet for merely sharing a picture-depicting his ailing self-alleged to have been shot during his final days.

Helplessly fickle, life darts away like waves on the beach. The picture backlash probably proved Boseman’s last interaction with the larger world, and, I wonder if it shaped, in any way, the events that led to his death. It brings me to these questions: What do souls do when they gape over earth and see how quickly the world moves on from them? Do they let it rain tears or do they balk, and sob into dark and empty spaces? Two years, three, maybe five; it doesn’t matter, we eventually return to reality, 6 AM alarms, and nerve-wracking deadlines. Because in the end, the show must go on.

However, departed stars, heroes may find consolation in tributes like “Lift Me Up” and well executed storylines like we expect in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

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

Those are the first lines of the song, hook too, brought to life by Rihanna’s impeccable, silky, flawless, and pungent high pitch.

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”

This stanza takes us back to my imaging of souls and how they react after their demise when they observe how the living transitions. Again, it puts emphasis back on love; because in genuine love, there is an owed obligation to remember, to keep our loved ones close; in life or death, to hold memories dear; in happy times and in good. Boseman would certainly want this. And now his memory will carry on in two worlds.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens in theatres worldwide on Friday, November 11. But first, check out video and lyrics for “Lift Me Up” by Rihanna below.

“Lift Me Up” Lyrics

Lift me up
Hold me down
Keep me close
Safe and sound

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

Lift me up
Hold me down
Keep me close
Safe and sound

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

Lift me up
Hold me down (Hold me down)
Keep me safe (Keep me close)
Safe and sound (Safe and sound)

Burning in a hopeless dream
Hold me when you go to sleep
Keep me safe
We need light
We need love

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 down (Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me)
Keep me safe
We need light
We need love

What do you think?

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