Rihanna's newest video was released last night, and I don't know why, but something about it just entrances me completely. I've watched it about 5 times in a row, and I still can't get enough. I genuinely think that this is one of her best efforts to date, and I'm probably going to break my own rules and buy this on iTunes.
That being said, there is a lot of.... questionable content in the video. I have a ton to say about it, but I'm hopped up on red bull at the moment and I can't keep everything in order in my brain, so I'm going to break it down into sections:
I love the look of this video. It reads to me like an indie movie montage set to a soundtrack. The feel of everything is just so authentic, and the chemistry between Rihanna and model Dudley O'Shaughnessy is pretty tangible and it makes the entire thing a lot more interesting to watch. There are a lot of the little things: Her inhaling the cigarette smoke that he blows out, and him tattooing "MINE" on her ass (which in itself is problematic, but that's another story), and all of the face sucking. Separately those elements seem mundane, but taken together, you realize that these are actually the important things. These are the little pieces that make up any relationship; that inside perspective that only those two people are ever privy to. It's positively genius. Cinematically, there is a lot going on that speaks to what the message is, and what we should be taking away from the video, but I'll address that in more detail a little lower down.
One of the reasons I love this video so much is because it shows a different side of Rihanna than I'm accustomed to. I'me very familiar with dolled up, sexed up Rihanna, but this new fresh-faced, casual, friendly and dare I say it, ordinary Rihanna is very refreshing. In this video, she comes across as one of my reckless friends. She's someone I want to hang out with. Someone I want to get into mischief with. I really liked that because it had this "celebrities are people too" quality about it that I found very arresting.
This kind of lends itself to what I said about attitude above. Because this is regular girl Rihanna, we get a lot of regular girl clothes. And not just regular girl clothes, but "girl in a relationship" clothes. There is a lot of wearing of boyfriends clothes including his jackets and boxer shorts. I love it. It plays perfectly into the whole picture that she's painted about this relationship and the two people whose lives revolve solely around it. Their actions tell us they are each other's whole world, and the styling choices reflect that very well and very cohesively.
Similarities to other Work
On my facebook newsfeed, someone compared this video to Cee Lo's video for No One's Gonna Love You. As far as I'm concerned, the videos are no more similar than Dudley and Chris Brown are similar for both having cropped blond hair. To me, the videos are similar in the sense that they explore the same themes, but if Rihanna copied this video, then she also copied every indie movie ever put into production. The "reckless couple on a road-trip of self destruction" trope is a well trodden one. This is different than say the S&M video where the references to David La Chapelle's work were much more overt, direct and obvious.
I'm always a big proponent for celebrities who reject the "role model" label simply because I think that an entertainers role in the market is to entertain, and not to teach become a poster child for any particular issue. However, at this point I think Rihanna is actively trying to piss off the PTC. And on the one hand, I'm totally with her. It's not her job to raise anyone's child. But I do think that when you know that a large portion of your fanbase is not in the demographic that can responsibly interpret the message that you're sending in your craft, you do have a bit of a duty to tone it down a bit, or at the very least say that the material isn't suitable for consumers under a certain age.
I'm oddly very concerned that there will be a lot of young girls who will come away from this video with an entirely wrong message, and completely miss the actual point that's being made. Teenagers just don't have the maturity to process the fact that not everything is literal. In this ONE video, there is tons of smoking, allusions to heavy drug use, shoplifting, and the implication of a highly combustible relationship. While none of these things is bad in itself (in fact I think they contribute significantly to the video's authentic feel) I guarantee that at least 100,000 young girls are going to leave this thinking "I will start smoking and find a boyfriend. Then I will be as fabulous as Rihanna."
I've rambled on about what the video isn't about. Here's what it is about:
"This is probably one of the deepest videos I've ever done. Its all about love and love being like a drug... you definitely get that from this. The good feeling of it and the dangers of it. That's what this video is about."
Oddly enough, I think that the message is actually very clear. When I watch this I see the story of two people who are deeply in love. Two people who revolve entirely around each other. They're so consumed by each other's presence that it borders on destructive. Every day is a whirlwind for them. They're reckless and irresponsible but that's what keeps them together. What we start to see by the end though is Rihanna recognizing after a particularly rough night out that they can't continue down that road, getting out before they destroy each other. As to the perceived references to Chris Brown... steups.
I honestly love this video and I think it's positively mesmerizing. There's a great message in there if you're paying attention enough to find it, and it suits the song well. This is a side of Rihanna that I hope we see more of. A+