Rihanna has released her first solo single in six years, a song taken from the soundtrack of the forthcoming Black Panther sequel.
Lift Me Up was released on Friday after the singer teased her return to music on social media earlier this week.
The song will appear in Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which is set to be released in November.
Director Ryan Coogler said Rihanna’s involvement in the project was to honour the late actor Chadwick Boseman.
“Honestly, I think it was Chad,” he said. “A lot of improbable things needed to happen for it to come through and Rihanna was very clear that she did that for him.”
Boseman starred in the first Black Panther film and also appeared in Da 5 Bloods, 21 Bridges and the James Brown biopic Get On Up.
He died in 2020, four years after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Last year, Boseman was posthumously nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Coogler added: “We knew [Rihanna] was at a point in her life as well where she was focusing on different things – focused on business, motherhood, which is a big theme in our film. We were holding out hope that maybe it could work out and boy did it for this song.”
Lift Me Up has been co-written by Rihanna, Coogler and Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems, who has previously worked with Drake, Justin Bieber, Future, Wizkid, Beyonce and Khalid.
The song is produced and co-written by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson, who scored the first Black Panther film as well as Creed, Venom and Tenet.
It is downtempo but uplifting, and sees Rihanna’s distinctive vocals projected over a smooth accompaniment of delicate keys and strings. The singer is accompanied by a subtle backing choir as the atmospheric song builds to its climax.
She sings: “Lift me up, hold me down, keep me close, safe and sound / Hold me when you go to sleep, keep me in the warmth of your love when you depart, keep me safe and sound.”
Fans warmly welcomed the release of the single on social media, with many joking via a string of memes that the song was making them levitate, but others described it as a “disappointing” comeback and “definitely a movie soundtrack song”.
Lift Me Up is the first solo single from Rihanna since the release of her album Anti in 2016.
Since then, she has collaborated with other artists such as PartyNextDoor and N.E.R.D., and appeared on the hugely successful Wild Thoughts alongside DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller.
But the singer has largely stayed quiet on the music front in recent years, as she focused on expanding her fashion, lingerie, skincare and cosmetics brand Fenty, as well as recently having a baby boy with rapper A$AP Rocky.
She also appeared opposite Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett in 2018’s film Ocean’s 8, an all-female reboot of the Ocean’s 11 franchise.
Rihanna will headline the prestigious half-time show at February’s Super Bowl in Arizona, her first live performance in over five years.
Her involvement in Wakanda Forever will increase fans’ anticipation for the sequel to Black Panther, which was a huge box office success and scored a best picture nomination at the Oscars.
The movie, released on 11 November, will see stars including Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o reprise their roles as the kingdom of Wakanda fights to protect itself from invading forces in the wake of King T’Challa’s death.