Tuesday, July 2, 2013

W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. Post 8: Rihanna

This is a series dedicated to women who despite success in the U.S. Music Industry, have est. a very complicated image for themselves.

[First thing's first, I apologize for not providing content since the Voice U.S. S4 finale recap. I just didn't know what I felt like posting next.]

Round 8 of this series goes to Barbados raised and now constantly blazed Pop sensation, Rihanna.
She grew up in Barbados' capital, Bridgetown, and eventually broke through to the U.S. market by way of Jay-Z signing her to Def Jam Records.

Cut to her initial debut effort, Music of the Sun, released in 2005. The album was an "Urban Dance-Pop" effort ("Urban" being pseudo racist code for black.) that played up Rihanna's island flair. Even though one single would go on to be recognizable from that album, it would be one of the biggest "earworms" of 00s music. "Pon de Replay" would be one of many successful singles she would unleash [peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100]. Although the song is annoying, in retrospect it sets the stage for Rihanna's eventual bitchslapping of the industry.

Her next effort, A Girl like Me, went more pop than its predecessor and it paid off; even if only 2 singles would be remembered from the album. The lead single from the album is the song that I sensed would make Rihanna's career lasting; "SOS". The song is the second major cover/remake of "Tainted Love" by Gloria Gaynor and sampled the background music of Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love". All that adding some scintillating video work, and "SOS" became her first #1 single on the Hot 100.
The next [and last recognizable] song from the album, "Unfaithful" was an effort co-written by Ne-Yo that while admittedly pleasing lyrically, never really did anything to justify her singing voice. Despite that, it became another top 10 song for her.

Somewhere along the line between the end of A Girl like Me and her next effort Good Girl Gone Bad, Rihanna embraced a standard move for pop singers in the U.S. Music Industry; reinventing the image. If you've ever been confused by this term, all this amounts to is tweaking the selling points of a music act [solo or group] for future albums after the first 2 or so efforts. In Rihanna's case, it involved adding sex appeal to her repertoire and a haircut.
The lead single from the album is one of the most successful and annoying "earworms" released to date. "Umbrella" ft. Jay-Z went to #1 on the Hot 100; had some admittedly nice video elements (That silver paint must've been a bitch to wash off) but still highlighted that the song is annoying as hell. However, the album would have 4 recognizable singles total [her highest by then].
The next single released is the wonderful (And blunt as hell innuendo wise) song "Shut Up and Drive". Kickass singing along with the least subtle "Drivers Ed." course (Over fucking!) alongside a video showing off her "Adorably Slutty yet Efficient Lady Mechanic" realness had it land #1 on the Hot Dance Club charts.
"Hate That I Love You" ft. Ne-Yo would continue the success of Good Girl Gone Bad. One of the better collaborative efforts of the 00s, the song reached #7 on the Hot 100. Then came one of Rihanna's most overrated efforts.
"Don't Stop the Music" kissed a little Michael Jackson fandom ass; it sampled the "Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa" line from "Wanna Be Startin' Something" and I'll be honest. I hated this song when released because I found it to be entirely mindless lyrically and the instrumental drowned her vocals. Anthology wise, it had been her most dance friendly track. It eventually peaked at #3 on the Hot 100.
Technically, her last song from the album, "Rehab" did have some success as it circulated on the music video circuit. However, the song isn't entirely memorable unless you or someone you know is a die-hard Rihanna fan.

After a "bonus follow-up" album, Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded and 2 more recognizable singles; "Take a Bow" and "Disturbia" ["Disturbia" being the better song of the 2], the GGGB era came to a close. By then her career had been at its highest point commercially. Her love life seemed like a stable and boring one when she and singer Chris Brown started dating.
Then one of the most sensationalizing and borderline tragic events happened in modern American pop culture; Chris assaulted Rihanna whilst leaving the pre-party for the Grammy Awards for that year. The photo TMZ released would be something of unwanted legendary status. The event displayed an ugly side to Chris that he hasn't been entirely able to shake off.

The dark aura around her lead to her most daring effort to date, Rated R. Another makeover of sorts happened as her look shifted to coincide with the dark aura of her personal life. The lead single released from the album, "Russian Roulette" and its music video was met with divisive reviews. Personally, I think it's one of Rihanna's best vocals on a song and the video was done masterfully. Despite the mixed reviews, the song peaked at #9 on the Hot 100.
That lead the charge of 4 recognizable songs from the album total. Next, "Hard" ft. Young Jeezy highlighted the grittier sex appeal Rihanna managed to fuse into her music at that point. Song wise, she had done much better up to then, but in retrospect it's a bright spot in her singles anthology. It would later peak at #8 on the Hot 100.
Her third major single from the album, "Rude Boy" would be her first #1 hit in years, but it was met with a little deserved derision. Lyrically, the song was praised for its honesty but also acted as reason to critique it; e.g. ...

"You like it boy,
I want want want
What you want want want.
Give it to me baby
Like boom boom boom."

(Holy eloquence, Sarcasta-man!)

The music video was also a little to reminiscent of "Boyz" by M.I.A. which had come out not that long ago at the time of release.
Finally, "Rockstar 101" would close out the Rated R era. Having guitar work from former Guns 'N Roses member Slash, the song would be another bright spot for her video and song wise but chart wise...while peaking at #2 on the Hot Dance Club charts, the song did dismal on the Hot 100, peaking at #64.

Cut to around late 2010, a hair dye to a vibrant cherry red and her effort, Loud. The album spawned 6 recognizable songs. The lead single, "Only Girl (in the World)" would be molded in the same style as "Don't Stop the Music" though the former dropkicks the latter down a fucking flight of stairs. Its music video was also a sight to behold (Especially when you spotted the O'Keefe sized flower and noticed all the hills were pink...O_O). The song would be another #1 single on the Hot 100.
Next, the song "What's My Name?" ft. Drake would also go to #1 on the Hot 100, but personally this song is just horrible. Although someone gets credit for a lyric most critics misinterpret...

"The square root of 69 is ate something, right?"

In its correctly written form, the lyric is just a crude reference to the oral act of 69; most critics write out the lyric like this...

"The square root of 69 is 8 something, right?"

Written like this, the lyric suggests oral sex but also that someone doesn't know how to use a fucking calculator.

Moving right along, the next major song released would be "S&M". The song would be another #1 song from the album, though this song was asking for a bit of shit when released.
First it is called "S&M"; meaning sadism and masochism ["S&M" named after French pervert, Marquis de Sade] and is a part of BDSM [Bondage Discipline and Sado Masochism]. Censors were sweating like Jan Brewer at a LULAC convention.
Second, the video was too raunchy to last forever on YouTube [it lives on VEVO where all the other good stuff resides] because Rihanna at one point in the video fellates a banana [meaning she pretends like she's sucking a dick] and is tied up in some wacky bullshit apparatus. Bonus points for her humiliating famed gossipy bitch, Perez Hilton and a cameo by future RuPaul's Drag Race first disqualified contestant and NewNowNext whorespondent, Willam.
However, despite the confession to slut-hood that is the song, it's actually meant to confront every aspect that makes her one of many W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. but more on that later.

After that came the song "Man Down". It's memorable only because of needless controversy that stemmed from it [at one point a guy gets shot in the video]. It went to #9 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
After that was the tacky ballad, "California King Bed". Recognizable? Kind of, but the song kind of did dismal peaking at #37 on the Hot 100. Finally, "Cheers (Drink to That)" closed out the Loud era. It peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 and annoyed me only because this is an example of Rihanna not trying.

Cut to her next effort, Talk That Talk. The album was more dance-friendly as opposed to the pop-friendly sounds of her past albums GGGB onward but before this effort. The lead single, "We Found Love" went to #1 on the Hot 100 and in a way made Calvin Harris a bigger noun in the music industry than he had been before. The video for it was met with derision regarding the drug use and the gritty sex parlayed in a bad way.
Then, "You da One" was released and peaked at #14 on the Hot 100. The video for the song was kind of...what's the term...crotch grabby? Yeah, she grabbed herself and had A Clockwork Orange realness going on makeup wise. O_O
Next, a collaborative effort with Jay-Z and title track "Talk That Talk" was released to mediocre chart success. It's an OK song, but she's done much better.
Finally her last recognizable song from the album, "Where Have You Been" was the other Calvin Harris produced song for Talk That Talk. Peaking at #5 on the Hot 100 was more than enough to say it ended on high note.

Cut past her much maligned acting debut in the much maligned movie Battleship, to her most recent effort the apropos Unapologetic. By now Rihanna has been living up to her lovable bad girl image [on and off relationship with Chris Brown; very blatant affection to weed and bitchslapping people on social media] and anything she did next was up for fifteen times the scrutiny.

The lead single from the album, "Diamonds" is a mid-tempo electronic pop ballad co-written by Sia [the one who sang on "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida and who's like an Australian version of Robyn.] I think it's one of her best songs ever, but the song was read to filth for its cover art and inferred meaning. The cover art is weed paper with tiny little diamonds in it; the inferred meaning is that she's high whilst smoking said joint with ecstasy [the inferred "diamonds"]. Considering Rihanna didn't write the song, I call bullshit on the inferred meaning theory of the song. The song peaked at #1 on the Hot 100.

The next major song released was "Stay" ft. Mikky Ekko. While one of her better showcases of singing ability, Ekko ruins the song for me. Still, it made history when this became her 24th Top 10 single beating Whitney Houston's record 23. The song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 but went to #1 on the Pop Songs chart. By the way; the video for the song is pretty much Rihanna being vulnerable in a tub showing off her neck/upper back tattoo.

So after 7 albums, 10 number 1 singles and doing the "reinvent your image to be successful" thing what makes Rihanna one of many W.W.C.I.T.M.I.? Well, this is when I remind you of "S&M" and its actual intent to take on the elements of her complicated image. Like Beyoncé, Rihanna has been accused of being part of the illuminati [mainly 'cause of her connections to Bey and Jay-Z] something that was sprawled across the backdrop of her video for "S&M" [along with other headlines as "Red-headed slut who can't sing" along with other bullshit laden things]. The video also highlights her just as volatile relationship with the press and social media sites; e.g. an actual exchange between gossip site CELEBUZZ and her...

C: "Dear Rihanna, you've gone a little too far with this 'outfit' [link to their site RE: this] May be time to class it up and put some clothes on?"

R: "@CELEBUZZ your pussy is way too dry to be riding my dick like this."

*Fun fact! She also uses the words "bitch" and "c**t" very freely on Twitter (Remember; I don't use the word unless I'm talking about Ann Coulter)*

Her general aesthetic from her debut to now has also been under fire, but it is rather subjective. Pop stars are sort of expected to keep things interesting and for all the flaws Rihanna seems to have...bitch is self aware of these and has a cheeky sense of humor about it. Keep in mind; this is the only artist I've covered to have 7 real albums to her name (Sorry Christina Aguilera; no Christmas album or Spanish language album counts).

All in all, needless criticism of an image she perpetuates to fuck with people and sell albums with, justifies Rihanna's place as one of many W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I.

Next up, there's at least 1991 reasons this woman is one of many W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I.

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