Last night, Missy Elliott won the Super Bowl. And rightfully so. After nearly 10 years away, the icon busted out “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It,” and “Lose Control,” upstaging the evening’s real headliner, Katy Perry, with three decade-old songs. With our recent obsession with nostalgia, we shouldn’t be surprised. Elliott’s 1997 debut, Supa Dupa Fly, not only included jams like “Sock It 2 Me” and “Hit Em wit da Hee,” it went platinum, challenged gender convention, and ushered in one of the most commanding voices in hip-hop. Then, she dropped Miss E...So Addictive four years later, Under Construction one year after that, and collaborated with Timbaland to up the genre’s experimental ante. Yet we’ve forgotten to pay homage to a true queen amidst all our ‘90s over-romanticization. We actually don’t need to romanticize Missy Elliott, though. She’s a musical force, as evidenced by upstaging the world’s biggest sporting event in a less-than five minute showcase. She’s strong enough to deliver a live performance with energy and talent, and she’s confident enough not to have to differentiate herself from her backup dancers. Elliott didn’t — and doesn’t — need the bridesmaid effect to be a star; she is one, regardless of her wardrobe or anybody else’s. This also helps explains why, despite eclipsing Katy Perry, Elliott included her. They may have shared a stage, but we knew (along with Perry, no doubt) that Elliott’s talent was above that “Teenage Dream” world. What she’s done for hip-hop — and for music in general — is a realm far, far away from shark costumes and "The More You Know" aesthetic. Yet Elliott performed next to Perry generously, throwing smiles and looks of support, and not ones of shade. Class is something you cannot fake.
You also can’t fake talent. Elliott’s song choices resonated in 2015 because their beats, lyrics, and the way she presented them still falls in step with the music we’re consuming now. Elliott’s musical experimentation in the early 2000s still seems modern, fresh, and interesting 10 years later — because it is. She’s never been trendy; she’s been an original. Thanks to the work she’s done, we’ve been treated to artists like Nicki Minaj and Angel Haze who’ve emerged in her wake and built (and are building) careers based on smart lyrics, solid beats, and great collaborations. The time for a Missy Elliott comeback is now. While part of her choice to step out of the spotlight was due to her 2008 diagnosis with Graves Disease, last night’s reception was proof that there’s an audience ready and waiting for the woman who penned biting tracks like “Gossip Folks.” In fact, according to Spotify stats, Elliott’s streams increased by 676% between 11 p.m. and midnight last night, and she has three songs in the top 10 downloads on iTunes today, leaving her Super Bowl costars in the dust. It also left us wondering if this performance is to help usher in a new album or any more music, in any capacity. Based on an interview with Timbaland back in July, it could be. Her long-time collaborator told Rolling Stone that Elliott had the first single down (and that it “sounds today, but the future”), and he also emphasized Elliott’s preference to do things herself. “I’ve never watched her record, never in my whole career,” he said. “I do it, she be like, ‘OK, I got it,’ and I leave the room. She kicks us out. That’s how she do it: She does everything herself.”
It’s not like Elliott’s been completely tucked away, refusing to create. In 2012, she released of “9th Inning” and “Triple Threat,” which were sharp, Elliott-esque tracks in their own right. They were good songs, but they weren’t an album. But since Elliott works relatively on her own, we might be treated to a Beyoncé-style surprise. What better time to release a full-length album than on the heels of an awe-inspiring Super Bowl performance? What better time, after roping in a newer, younger generation to show them what else this lyrical queen is capable of? Or, more specifically, what better time is there for us to recognize the power of Missy Elliott by revisiting her old albums, her old collaborations, and championing her legacy as one of hip-hop and pop’s most important artists in hopes it will manifest into a triumphant return? Missy, if you can read this, please call it a comeback.