Don’t you just love feel-good stories? Stories where there is 100% chance of a happy ending? Stories where the protagonist or main person grows and learns from their mistakes and becomes just… you know, better in the end? I know I do. Over the years, I’ve watched almost every show of the Arrowverse (aside from Black Lightning), as well as every movie and TV show of the MCU. I’ve seen Once Upon A Time in the past almost religiously week to week; as well as binging on Nancy Drew, One Tree Hill and Hart Of Dixie in recent times (shows grounded in reality somewhat but set in fictitious towns). And in each and every show where there is a distinct good v evil concept, or at least a concept of one person versus another; I’ve always rooted for the hero, which is most of the time presented to us to be the underdog. You see, we all have our favourite books or movies or TV shows or comics or fables or other works of fictions; and we all have the people that we root for. The people that could do no wrong in our eyes, the people that we always know are going to make it, the people whom we aspire to be like, or even to be. Sometimes though, we as people can be lost in the idea of a feel-good story, and the idea of good overcoming evil with a click of a finger; that we sometimes forget that real life can be a real hard slog. We dream about the what-ifs and think about the worlds that we have immersed ourselves in. We think about Storybrooke or National City or Central City or The Enchanted Forest, or The TVA or Madripoor or Wakanda or Blue Valley or Horseshoe Bay or Tree Hill or Bluebell; and we wish. “What if I was there? What if I was living ___, being a superhero or a hero or a detective and doing something worthwhile with my life? It would certainly be more interesting than real life, than what I’m doing right now!”. And then we spiral. Now, before each one of you object and try to explain to me that there’s no way that you’d ever, ever have these thoughts about escaping reality and hoping to be existing somewhere else in the world, or in a fictitious world that is very much alive through a certain movie or TV show; well, let’s not kid ourselves, shall we? Because I reckon all of us, at one point or another in our lives, have hoped to be part of something bigger than the world we live in right now, and have latched onto the hope and the dream and the fantasy that these fictitious worlds bring. Am I right? Am I wrong? Too close to the truth?
I mean, is it ok, for us to think about our favourite TV shows too much, to the point of hoping that we’re there and not in the present and in the real world where we’re supposed to be? No! No, it isn’t. Watching a TV show and being invested in it and being a fan of it… I mean it’s ok to some extent and it’s ok on some level. But wishing your life away hoping for the next episode of ‘fill-in-the-blank’ or just wandering around in life until this movie or that movie releases in the cinema… well that’s not really an ideal way to live one’s life. Sure, with COVID and Omicron still lurking about, and restrictions still upon us like nobody’s business; the temptation is there to retreat into what we perceive as a good and healthy binge of a show or a movie series, until it is safe to reconnect with society. But there is a problem with this line of thinking, I firmly believe. With COVID already somewhat destroying 2020 and 2021 and possibly 2022; we are becoming more and more like hermits every day. Social media, I think probably more than ever before, combined with this ongoing pandemic, combined with streaming services, has eroded our ability to have intelligent conversations with people face to face. I think we on some level know this, know that our lives are becoming more and more like something that we don’t like, something that we hate. I think if we ourselves had our choice, we’d be the most confident person in the room, shaking hands with everyone, making intelligent conversations, and being incredibly popular. We’d be the life of the party, but for a variety of reasons- we’re not. And because of reasons x, y, z and every other reason, we’re mad or angry. At ourselves or at God or at our family or at our friends. Yet we still retreat. We retreat into the fictitious lands of what is on the TV because on some level, we prefer that world to ours.
But why should we prefer the fictitious worlds to ours? There really isn’t any logical reason! We have breath in our lungs. We have a heartbeat. Doesn’t that count for something? Sure, our lives probably aren’t like what we hoped they would be or what we envisioned as a kid. But life in the 21st century and life on Earth at the moment is still, nonetheless, pretty cool, even with all of the ups and downs. If you’re living in a developed country, if you have a roof over your head, if you have food, a bed, then you’re probably richer than you would think. I mean, even if you have a couple of cars, that puts you at maybe 5% or 2% from the top of my head, of richest people in the world… I don’t know if that statistic is accurate, and I don’t even know how I found it out. Maybe I dreamt it up, because I can’t really find the link for that statistic. Anyways, the number isn’t important. Because telling you all you’re wealthy and you are privileged, and that you all should be happy; probably doesn’t mean much to you, when all you’re hoping for is to immerse yourselves back in whatever TV world you’re immersing yourselves in. However, what if I were to tell you that even in your intense binge of TV shows, you can learn something useful that can be applied in the real world?
If you’re alive and you’re breathing, the chances that you have a skill or a talent or something useful to give back to this world; is pretty high. Whether it is singing or painting or playing an instrument or cooking or giving words of encouragement or caring for a foster child or showering love to pets or designing video games or building websites or giving advice to others; I guarantee that everyone has a talent or a skill. And I reckon it is this talent and this skill that will keep us in good stead for the foreseeable future. Whether it is used or not in our lifetime (and I hope it is!), is another story; however, I reckon some of us wanting to retreat into a fictitious world is probably a combination of our parents not understanding our gifts and talents, and us in turn feeling that Spiderman or Superman or someone like that understands us better. And on some level, that’s probably true. We’re dorky, we’re not that sociable, and our parents are confident and all-together. So we try to find someone who understands us, who seems to be like us, and lo and behold, along comes Clark Kent or Peter Parker or Loki or Nancy Drew or Emma Swan, or whoever you look up to; but these people, incredibly flawed people, speak to us. They give us wisdom and advice and they inspire us and they encourage us. They teach us right from wrong and they give us incredibly useful life lessons. They’re somewhat better role models than our parents. But what we need to understand here, and the crux of what I’m trying to say, is that these people who we look up to are fictitious. They’re not real. But before the penny drops and we surmise that we’re all alone in this world, what if I were to tell you that the heart behind these fictitious people is real? These people, and all of their problems and feelings and emotions and their world view; is probably linked to the creator of the show. So if you feel like Spiderman connects with you, chances are you’re connecting with Kevin Feige, if you’re watching the MCU instead of reading the comics. If you feel like Nancy Drew is the only person who understands you, well then guess what? Chances are you’ll find things in common with Noga Landau, Josh Schwartz and/or Stephanie Savage, creators of the 2019 TV show. There are people out in the world who can and do understand you, and there are people out there who support your talents and whatever it is you want to do with your life. Just because your life looks different from your parents’, doesn’t mean that people, your parents included, won’t love or support you. If you look around and ask the right people, I’m positive you will find a whole world of support. Be it your parents or friends or perhaps a mentor.
For it [the kingdom of God] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
I think we’ve all probably heard the saying of it’s not what you’ve got, but how you use it. And like what I reckon society tells us, the Bible reaffirms this fact, as it reminds us in the Parable of the Talents, that we all need to steward and use what we’ve been properly given. The concept of ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ is engrained into practically all of society; and quite possibly us sitting on our butts and watching TV all day and being enamoured by TV characters that seem to be braver and more courageous than us, seems to be the outcome of us not being sure of our gifts and unsure of how to use them or whether us using them will make our parents and our family proud of us or not. It’s this unspoken fear that has probably crippled a majority of the world’s population, and has us taking the easy way out and instead burying our head in the sand, or in this case into our fictitious TV and movie worlds. But coming into this next blog post, this next artist that I’m talking about, whom is as popular and influential as anyone I’ve discussed on this list; I’ve realised that we need not be afraid in terms of using our gifts and our talents. If we just step out in faith, we can in fact accomplish what we believe we’re put on this earth to do. If we step out with no apprehension and with the sense that it may not matter if your parents or family approve or not, but it matters more that we feel a sense of satisfaction and peace about ourselves; then I reckon what we can do is limitless. Limitless in the sense that God can and will direct your path and will guide your steps until you’re where you need to be, and not limitless in the sense that you will want to do something beyond your capabilities. Now that we’ve got that out of the way… how about we immerse ourselves in the music and in the discography and in the life of Barbadian singer, actress, fashion designer, and businesswoman Robyn Rihanna Fenty? Or in the case of how we as people call her- Rihanna.
I never used to be this way [being focused on work]. It’s only the last couple years that I started to realize that you need to make time for yourself, because your mental health depends on it. If you’re not happy, you’re not going to be happy even doing things that you love doing. It’d feel like a chore. I never want work to feel like a chore. My career is my purpose, and it should never feel like anything other than a happy place. I’ve made little things a big deal, like going for a walk or going to the grocery store. I got into a new relationship, and it matters to me. It was like, “I need to make time for this.” Just like I nurture my businesses, I need to nurture this as well. I’ll shut things down for two days, three days at a time. On my calendar we now have the infamous “P,” which means personal days. This is a new thing.
I don’t have a sleep pattern. I have sleep pockets. I fit it in when I can. That’s why I take those personal days so seriously. Because it’s like, “You had all of me. I gave you the answers.” It’s the reason why an album isn’t being spat out like it used to. I used to be in the studio, only the studio, for three months straight, and an album would come out. Now, it’s like a carousel. I do fashion one day, lingerie the next, beauty the next, then music the next. It’s like having a bunch of kids and you need to take care of them all.
I had one dream [when I was young] and that was for my music to be heard all over the world. I didn’t even think about the fame part, and then that came, and I was like, “Oh, shoot. Do I really want to do this?” But the thing that keeps me alive and passionate is being creative. With every business outlet, I’m making something from a vision to a reality, and that’s the thing I really enjoy. Music had led me to these other outlets, and to things that I genuinely love.
Rihanna, the person, the musician, the singer, the actor; I reckon is the perfect person to listen to and dive deep into and immerse ourselves in, given that we’re all surrounded by COVID-19 still, and we’re all trying to navigate our new normal. We have all of these skills and talents and dreams and hopes and things we want to do in the future; but we don’t know how to utilise these different elements of our lives together- we don’t know how to marry together, say our love for music with our love for cooking. We don’t know how to marry our love for cars with our love for caring for foster kids. While some jobs only allow us to incorporate one skill or talent or thing we love to do; Rihanna’s life and ‘ministry’ if you want to call it that, reminds us that it’s never too early or late to start doing something special with your life and to start integrating different parts of your life together, so that you can change the world you live in for the better. When you read Rihanna’s accomplishments on Wikipedia (well, maybe you wouldn’t read it, because it’s so, so long. Maybe you’d just skim read it!); then you’d find out that Rihanna’s achievements stretch past music. Back in the day in the 50’s or 60’s or 70’s, I’m only guessing, but I’d say that if you have a killer voice, then you’d probably have it made. There’s a list of 50 iconic, legendary artists that Jon and I are going to be writing about soon, but artists like Elvis, The Beatles, Queen, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Celine Dion, ABBA, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac and Aretha Franklin (to name a few); I mean I’m no expert, but their achievements were predominately in music and with their voice and their song writing and their instruments. That was enough back then, for the public to be enamoured over and for people to be a fan of someone. Currently though, people like Rihanna show us all that, partly because of our own innate desires to be doing so many things and to make a positive difference in the world in many different ways, and also partly because we strive to marry together our different talents with each other and be successes in many different things because we believe that it is expected that we multitask because somehow, someway people think it’s cooler now; mixing together your many different passions is now somehow the new normal. Music and fashion and advertisements and being the ambassador for all of these brands and acting. Well they didn’t used to go hand in hand, but Rihanna, like heavyweights Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez, reminds us that it is possible to be impacting and successful and happy and influential and popular in a whole lot more areas than before. Sometimes it’s implicitly expected.
I’ve said earlier in this blog that everyone loves a great success story, where the underdog overcomes adversity. Like in comic books and TV shows. So now, I’ll go deeper this time. Everyone loves a rags to riches story. Whether it is fairy tales and folklore like Cinderella or Aladdin, or feel-good ‘inspired-by-a-true-story’ movies like Slumdog Millionaire, The Blind Side, The Pursuit of Happyness or even the most recent American Underdog; I firmly believe that true stories about rags to riches are something that we can always relate to, because we wish it to be us. People like Oprah, Sean Connery, Jewel, Michael Jackson, Chris Pratt, Stan Lee, Susan Boyle, Eminem, Cher and Cardi B to name a few; these are people that the world respects, and sometimes when you see people rise up from the ashes and be something big, you wish to be that person in that situation. We become envious for no reason… but what we really should be is admiring the other person. Be thankful that God has allowed them to rise to the top and be thankful that they are paving the way for the next generation of people who will change the world. Who knows, it could be you. So for Rihanna, for anyone who is more successful that yourself, who rose up from harder circumstances; let’s not be envious of these people. Let’s shower them with congratulations, and let’s sit back and watch God move. And then let’s call upon the same God to move in our lives, in whatever way He sees fit, in whatever timing He deems is best.
To tell you the truth, I’m not really an avid fan of R&B music. Pop music, that was fine for me to blog about, and that genre is so, so broad that I could find artists within that genre that I connected with more than others. Country music… yep I could relate to that, for similar reasons. Gospel music was pretty awesome, because these people were basically praising Jesus anyway. But R&B? Where relationships were at the forefront and some songs were about the physical aspects of a relationship, sometimes sung in an explicit way? That…was something that I couldn’t really understand. Sure artists like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez were all artists that I listened to for my reviews and blogs, and yes, I did enjoy these artists. However, I firmly believe that it is Rihanna and her music that has reshaped my way of thinking, and has inspired me to branch out even further into what God wants to speak to me through many times of music… although I won’t touch metal music, not one bit! Rihanna wasn’t originally part of my list, but throughout all of the refining, she landed on there permanently in the end, and I’m very glad that she did. With an astonishing number of sales worldwide (250 million!), the stats say that Rihanna is one of the best-selling music artists of all time; having earnt 14 number-ones and 31 top-ten singles in the US, and 30 top-ten entries in the UK. Rihanna has also garnered (or maybe I should say accomplished, collected?) nine Grammy Awards, 13 American Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and six Guinness World Records. Time Magazine also named Rihanna one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2018. Forbes also ranked her among the top ten highest-paid celebrities in 2012 and 2014, and also listed among the Top 100 most Powerful Women of 2019. Also, just as of last year, Rihanna is the wealthiest female musician, with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion. Just… think about that for a second. That should blow your mind, don’t you think?
With Rihanna also involved in humanitarian causes, entrepreneurial ventures, and the fashion industry, as well as being the founder for the Non-profit organisation Clara Lionel Foundation, cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty, and fashion house Fenty under LVMH; Rihanna is also the first black woman to head a luxury brand for LVMH. Rihanna also tried her hand at acting. She appeared in major roles in Battleship (2012), Home (2015), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), and Ocean’s 8 (2018). Personally, I’ve only seen Home, and not anything else from the superstar, however venturing out into the unknown is scary, and Rihanna deserves all of the praise and accolades. Rihanna was also appointed as an ambassador of education, tourism, and investment by the Government of Barbados in 2018. And get this! Since 2008, Barbadians have celebrated ‘Rihanna Day’ in honour of the pop/R&B icon. Yet all of these interesting facts and well-known achievements mean nothing… if the music isn’t uplifting or encouraging and moving and honest and vulnerable and life-changing and world-changing. And let me tell you- Rihanna’s music certainly is. I’ll admit, there are some songs that I lyrically do not agree with, and I will only be glossing over these. However by and large, Rihanna’s discography, which I will be going over somewhat in depth here, reminds us that anything is possible and if you shoot for the moon, you can land amongst the stars. Thematically she has addressed some pretty intense, personal, honest, emotional and harrowing material; and for those of you who want to dive into Rihanna’s psyche and state of mind and her emotions, well you can; and then afterwards let’s be in awe at the bravery of someone willing to share their story and the courage of someone willing to stand up for those who do not have a voice.
I’ve always had pretty tough skin—even as a little girl, which was completely due to my parents. They never sheltered me in any way. They would tease me, and I would tease them right back. By the time I got to school, I always had this feeling like the kids were stupid. Maybe that was God’s way of preparing me for what my life was going to be like. I don’t feel any way about people’s comments. I remember being a kid and being like, “Wow! I’m in a chat room. I can say whatever I want. They don’t know how old I am. They don’t know who I am, or where I am.” There’s that idea of being a child behind a screen and having that feeling like you can say anything. That child is who I imagine behind a comment every time I see one. They would never say that to my face. They probably wouldn’t even say hello.
It’s an amazing feeling [loyalty], because I started off as a kid, so I know my fans were kids, too. We’re all growing up together. It’s crazy to see where our paths are taking us, and how our journeys are evolving at the same time. I feel like they’re completely responsible for who I am, and where I am at in my career. God got me to a place, and they supported me and got me to where I am now. I feel really indebted to them.
[The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is pray]. I always want to start my day with a little devotion. I buy these devotion books and they’re dated, so you just pull up the date and that devotion is for that day. My first time praying and fasting was when I was 7 years old. I did that on my own, because I wanted to go to New York, and I knew that this was a sacrifice I had to make in order for God to make sure I could get there.
[There wasn’t a time when I felt like God abandoned me], but I have been in a place where I felt like maybe I had disappointed God so much that we weren’t as close. Actually, that happened to me while I was making Anti. That was a really hard time, but, thank God, I got through it.
The devil just has a way of making you feel like you’re not good enough, and that you’re not worthy of God being close to you. It’s really not the truth, but you wind up feeling like that. My grandmother was the one who started me on this. She gave me a devotion book, a physical one. It was the last thing she gave me before she passed away. It got left on a plane and stolen, so I just said, “You know what? Somebody else is going to gain from that.” And then I bought the same book on my iPhone. The only sad part was that her handwriting was in it, but someone is going to be blessed with it, so it’s fine.
Growing up in Bridgetown, Rihanna sold clothes with her father in a stall on the street before she made it big time. Coming from an abusive family, this makes Rihanna’s rise to fame all the more remarkable. You can read more on Wikipedia about Rihanna and how Jay-Z and L.A. Reid found her (because I won’t be going that much into her background- simply because it is a rags to riches story and you all know those kind of stories, don’t you?); but the stark contrast to what came before to what immediately came after; well it makes Rihanna’s debut album Music Of The Sun, although not that commercially successful, still poignant, emotional, powerful and probably the album I most connect with. Debut single “Pon De Replay” is a fun, poppy, R&B dance anthem, with Rihanna relaying to us all that we can dance to the beat and the rhythm of the music, and dance so that we don’t have to worry about our troubles and our issues. It’s a fun 3-minute song that entertains you and makes you forget about the world for a minute; and though at first I found that this song was extremely superficial, a deeper listen revealed to me that a song that can make you forget about the world, is a very smart song indeed. Lyrically, “Pon De Replay” isn’t saying anything deep, but from a business standpoint, this song is extremely creative and what the world needs. Well maybe not what it needs, but what it needs for a certain point in time. We all want to be reminded of good times and fun moments, and “Pon De Replay” does that. And so credit has to go to Rihanna where it is due.
“If It’s Lovin’ That You Want”, the powerful, sassy, no-nonsense second single, is directed to a guy, with Rihanna letting someone know that she should be their girl if they want. It’s a flirtatious song about chasing after who you want, and though the song isn’t deep like how “Pon De Replay” was, the confidence that Rihanna exudes reminds us that we can go after what we want (within reason), just with a little bit of self-belief and faith, as well as courage and bravery. There is a fine line between confidence and over-confidence, and thus hopefully if you listen to this song, you don’t take things too far. But I firmly believe that it is Rihanna’s hope that this song boosts your self-esteem, and encourages you to get out of your shell just a bit. None of the other songs on Rihanna’s debut 2005 album made the charts unfortunately, but there’s still something special about this project that makes it… innocent? Child-like? Untainted by the world? The title track is similar in theme to “Pon De Replay”, and features Rihanna encouraging us all to let go of our troubles and ‘…close your eyes, let the rhythm take you there, doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, come and dance to the music of the sun…’; while the strong, fierce and independent “That La La La” is about the persona’s partner, with the song being a takedown of people wanting to steal the partner from Rihanna. It’s a song that speaks about confidence in who you are and the knowledge that the person is in love with you and not anyone else… so in the sense that this song is about celebrating your partner and letting the world know that you’re happy, this song is inspiring and powerful; although if you’re just trying to savagely take down someone and to cause division, then that’s not how someone should use this song at all.
“Now I Know”, an emotional and heartbreaking ballad outlining the downfall of a relationship and Rihanna’s acceptance of it, is a piano prominent melody whereby Rihanna passionately and fervently creates one of the highlights on Music Of The Sun, and is vocally one of the most inspiring melodies I’ve heard from her; while “Should I?” speaks about the dilemma going on in Rihanna’s head about relenting and giving into a guy’s romantic advances or not- it’s a song that we as people should hear and really hear, as we all strive to be as kind and reasonable and treating people with dignity. Given that the world has turned on its head with #metoo recently, a song like this about the struggles of someone being pressured to do something they may not agree with, should be able to open our eyes and our ears to the realities of how we should really act around people- with kindness, love and respect. The ballad “The Last Time” encourages us all to take a stand against abusive relationships and to make the hard choice but the better choice in leaving a relationship that is bringing you down; while Rihanna also shines vocally in “Willing To Wait”, a melody about knowing your boundaries and knowing you limits in how fast or slow you can go in a relationship, and letting the other person know everything you can handle. With Rihanna exploring themes that probably are ‘too mature’ for a debut album, and in my mind excelling at them; this makes me love Music Of The Sun all the more, and is THE album I’d encourage you all to start off with first, in the musical experience of diving deep into Rihanna’s discography.
Music Of The Sun wasn’t that critically acclaimed, but the second sophomore album A Girl Like Me reminded us all what a force Rihanna was to be reckoned with, and what a special musician and a special artist she was, is and would be. Lead single “SOS”, a danceable, powerful, poppy, EDM melody, has Rihanna crying out for help, expressing that her intense feelings for a boy aren’t natural, and asking someone, such as God or a friend, to come and help her with these confusing feelings. A song that is about the infant stages of a relationship, Rihanna isn’t necessarily relaying that the relationship is wrong, but she needs advice because she is head over heels, and this song reminds us that it’s ok to ask for help in whatever circumstance- it’s ok to admit that we can’t go through life alone, and it’s ok to have people on your side to help us make sense of our own struggles and situations. “Unfaithful”, the album’s biggest hit, depicts the persona cheating on her boyfriend, and the emotions she feels knowing that he knows about her affair and that it is killing him inside. The song, thought heartbreaking and emotional, reminds us that nothing is ever black and white, and though we cannot fully empathise with someone who cheats on another, the melody reminds us that feelings are complex, and many justifiable or unjustifiable reasons can result over a union having conflicting expectations and assumptions that neither person can adequately meet.
“Unfaithful” peels back the layers of cheating and makes us examine our own hearts so that we do not become like the people in the song; and for a song that is about opening our eyes to the realities of what can happen to a relationship when we don’t sit with it, cultivate it, and respect it, I’d say “Unfaithful” has done its job and Rihanna is a genius, don’t you reckon? “We Ride” a melody that is from the other view and the flipside of “Unfaithful”, fervently and passionately speaks about the people that cheating obviously affects- case in point, it affects the ex-partner and the friends and family of both parties, and as we listen to this powerful and poignant melody; we are encouraged to be truthful and honest with our words- to mean what we say and say what we mean. “Break It Off” with Sean Paul, a somewhat explicit melody about the action of having sex, is much deeper lyrically having listened to “Unfaithful” and “We Ride”, and reminds me to always treat people with respect, love and dignity. On face value the melody is about nothing deep, and about having a casual good time with someone; however, if this song makes me look in the mirror and reminds me of how not to act, well the song can’t be that bad, can it?
The title track, an acoustic guitar led ballad, is probably one of the most underrated gems on the sophomore album, with Rihanna powerfully outlining and beautifully expressing her individuality and uniqueness. A song that speaks about standing up for what you truly believe in and never being the same as everyone else; the title track reminds me of Romans 12:2, about not being conformed to the patterns of this world. “Dare You To Move” from Switchfoot comes to mind when I listen to this song as well, and though Rihanna’s song is probably directed to girls who are discovering who they are and who they’re meant to be; I for one find this melody refreshing, as it encourages us to never back down from our beliefs and to always be headstrong and steadfast and firm- unwavering but respectful of everyone else, in a way that doesn’t disrespect people who don’t share the same views as us. “A Girl Like Me” celebrates uniqueness, and also reminds us all that everyone else can be on different pages, and we all can still get along. “A Million Miles Away”, another heartbreaking ballad, speaks about the complexities of any relationship, and the fact that breakups can occur for a myriad of reasons, and also speaks about the fact that you shouldn’t be in a relationship that has run its course. Now Rihanna isn’t really advocating that we break up with someone at the first sign of trouble. But this song does remind us that we must fight for our relationships, yet when all is said and done, sometimes the best course of action is to amicably part ways. With again a myriad of topics explored on this album, Rihanna once again proves that she is the real deal, and that she is willing and unafraid to speak her mind- A Girl Like Me was a hit with the public, as the album became Rihanna‘s first to be certified Platinum by the RIAA.
Yet for the uneducated casual Rihanna listener, it is the third album Good Girl Gone Bad and its expanded edition that released a year later, that really affirmed Rihanna’s stardom and her bonafide pop/R&B status. Lead single from the 3rd album “Umbrella”, was sung with Jay-Z, is probably Rihanna’s biggest hit ever, with the melody being an inspirational melody of sorts- the highly popular and recognisable tune relaying to us that Rihanna wants to be a shelter and a place of security for her partner, that ‘…when the sun shine, we shine together, told you I’ll be here forever, said I’ll always be your friend, took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end, now that it’s raining more than ever, know that we’ll still have each other, you can stand under my umbrella…’. And as Rihanna has mentioned how iconic this song has become and how positively the song has been received: I definitely knew that it was one of the most original sounds that I’d heard for a while. But a lot of people didn’t really understand it. They thought the repetition was annoying. But I knew that was what people would catch on to right away, because that’s what stuck in my head. People didn’t get the lyric either. An umbrella is protection, it protects you from rain. The rain in this case is negativeness and vulnerability. [The weather] definitely helped the song stay there for so long. People hate the rain, but here was this song that speaks about the rain and makes you feel great. Even if the weather is horrible; this right here is what Rihanna is known for, if only this one song.
Still, as powerful and as legendary as “Umbrella” is, so too are many others on Good Girl Gone Bad. “Shut Up And Drive”, a fun, high-octane, energetic rock song that was featured in 5 movies, has Rihanna celebrating her favourite cars with her man (although the song could be read as a sexually explicit song but with car innuendos!); while “Hate That I Love You” features Ne-Yo on guest vocals and hammers home the notion and concept of being stuck in a toxic relationship that isn’t good for both people. It’s a song about a vicious cycle of hurt and heartache; and as Rihanna reminds us of the fact that we need to take care of our own well-being for once, the melody also encourages us to make the hard choice of cutting someone loose if it is the right thing to do. “Don’t Stop The Music”, a party song, is a let-your-hair-down summer jam that is essentially about being carefree and not letting the troubles of this world affect our outlook on life; however the flipside to this sunny and jovial demeanour Rihanna is displaying to us is the vengeful and psychotic persona she reveals in the intense “Breakin’ Dishes”, a melody about her emotions and feelings just before she confronts her cheating man. A melody about how we as people aren’t supposed to let people fool us and walk all over us, “Breakin’ Dishes” to me is about empowerment and standing up for what you believe is right.
“Rehab”, with Justin Timberlake, again is a relationship style ‘woe-is-me’ type of song, and by this point you all might be sick and tired of this way Rihanna is painting relationships; however, this to me reminds us that people still fall into the trap of being stuck in abusive relationships. And thus, this song is needed, as it is another reminder that we all need to immerse ourselves with people who will build us up rather than people that will tear us down; while the title track itself speaks about Rihanna’s more risqué side- her more confident side and her sassy no-holds-barred side: The title of the album represents my liberation. Being able to break out of the innocent image I was forced into. Now I’m just being me. I’m a little more rebellious. On the record you hear that I have a lot more attitude. So it matches the new sound, the new image, the new haircut… the new everything. “Take A Bow”, a hard-hitting confronting yet powerful melody about Rihanna kicking her ex to the curb, celebrates the moment we leave a toxic relationship or a toxic friendship, knowing that we aren’t the person’s prisoner anymore; and though this song is liberating in a sense, it is a tad emotional as it means cutting ties with something familiar even though it is destructive. “Disturbia”, the harrowing, haunting and mysterious powerful song, is a track that hits home on many levels. The song is about mental health and coping (or not coping) with the pressures of fame and stardom; and though the music video was pretty chaotic and all over the place, how Rihanna showed us her state of mind at the time as well as the state of mind of maybe many other singers, was pretty revealing and vulnerable, and definitely made me think about whether the music industry and big gigantic labels as a whole are beneficial or detrimental to singers who are just starting out.
You can read more about Good Girl Gone Bad on Wikipedia (which has a whole lot more information that I can’t really unpack here, such as “Umbrella” topping the charts and being the longest running No. 1 UK single since Wet Wet Wet’s single “Love Is All Around” spent 15 weeks at the top in 1994; and Rihanna being named Diva Of The Year in 2008 for her “newfound staying power”!), but it was really 2009’s Rated R that made Rihanna into one of today’s most popular R&B/pop stars and someone that we all respect. For that was the album, if we take away all of the expletives (and there were a lot of them… but I listened to the clean versions in case you all wanted to know!), that perhaps was Rihanna at her most vulnerable. She spoke up about Chris Brown assaulting her and preying on her, and though the track list was controversial and intense; I firmly believe it was and is an album we all need to hear, so as to know how not to treat women and the pitfalls that may come when people are stuck in situations that they see no way out of. Lead single “Russian Roulette”, the piano led heartbreaking ballad, is extremely intense lyrically, with gun references littered throughout. Thematically, this powerful, no-holds-barred melody, highlights Rihanna’s past struggles and abuse issues with Chris Brown, and with this song being vulnerable and honest about Rihanna’s hurt and the feelings during that time; no doubt this song needs to be heard by all of us so that we all can understand and know and grasp the enormity of how some other people, and not just Rihanna, feel. Sometimes when someone is trapped in a relationship that is unhealthy and also in a relationship when they see no way out; they feel like they’re playing Russian Roulette with their lives, and they’re resigned to this fact. But if more of us hear this song and know that that is what people feel… then I guess there is hope. Hope that these people overcome their adversity and their struggles and rid themselves of all that is toxic in their lives. Russian Roulette may be a scary thing, but with this song and with more of us being aware, hopefully there will be less and less people feeling alone and feeling like they’re on the edge of their rope.
“Hard”, a high octane, energetic summer jam featuring rapper Jeezy, is a melody that I didn’t really fully understand from first listen (and still on some level am confused by what the melody is trying to convey), and while the music video contains army references, to me the song feels like a statement and declaration from Rihanna that she will be hard in her stance on work ethic and hard in the decisions she makes in order to stay on top of the music business. The song could also be seen as something of a sexual euphemism, but the music video doesn’t really portray the song like that in my opinion. It’s not my favourite melody, but it is catchy, so… points for being captivating and appealing? “Wait Your Turn”, a reggae style inspirational melody, as Rihanna imparting wisdom to the next generation, letting us all know that if we want to be successful and popular like her, we can just wait our turn and show the world what we’re made of when the time comes and when the spotlight is on us. It’s a powerful, explosive melody that is one of my favourites from Rihanna from any album; however, on the flipside, “Rude Boy” is a melody I didn’t care for not one iota, despite the melody being the biggest song on Rated R. The song is about sex (I don’t think there’s any other meaning behind it!), and though Rihanna sings to perfection here, there’s unfortunately little redeeming qualities about a track that little kids won’t be able to hear.
“Te Amo”, another supercharged melody NSFW, is a melody whereby Rihanna questions her sexuality. It’s a powerful, compelling melody, and a track that is indeed mesmerising to hear and to watch in the pulsating music video; and though not a track I would immediately seek out, I do see the merit in a song like this, as Rihanna brilliantly conveys the struggles of people nowadays in the 21st century, as feelings about love can be complicated indeed, specifically love in same sex relationships. “Rockstar 101” with Guns’N’Roses guitarist Slash, another intense track that brings the energy and anger, is a rock melody that Rihanna hasn’t recorded before up until this point; and features her bringing forth her messy feelings surrounding the Chris Brown assault situation. It’s a melody showing Rihanna being confident and secure in who she is, and as a song and an anthem for being sure of yourself; “Rockstar 101” is one of the most underrated hits that Rihanna has ever recorded, in my opinion. Topics of suicide and depression (“The Last Song”) and unrequited love (“Photographs”) are also explored; and signify Rihanna growing up a lot. While this album as a whole being so controversial and unlike anything Rihanna has recorded; it shows us all her willingness not to conform to what the music society expects of her. The album is unapologetic and reminds us to stand firm in a world telling us to do something else; and in this vein, Rated R is probably one of the most powerful and impacting Rihanna albums ever! Even the Rolling Stone magazine stated that Rihanna “transformed her sound and made one of the best pop records of the year”.
The journey’s been incredible. It’s a lot of hard work and just being true to your brand. I’ve always tried to stick with things that I enjoy doing and that I’m passionate about. Fashion, being creative, that’s one of those things — it doesn’t matter the outlet, I always enjoy it. Fashion comes naturally, because of the industry that I’m in. It’s a part of my visuals, it’s a part of my videos, so it’s always been something that I’ve been interested in. To have this opportunity to do a Fenty brand with LVMH is special. It makes me feel validated. It really shocks me, the people that reach out. I feel so, like, ‘Wow!’ Even Teyana Taylor! She’s like, ‘I want those Wasabi pants!’ And I’m like, ‘I got you, girl!’ And to see the celebrities that didn’t reach out to ask for stuff, but went to the store, or went online, and bought it — it makes me feel really, really great. Because I’m one of those celebrities that when I see something I like, I just go buy it. So to feel supported by my peers, it’s a big deal.
Rated R was an album that stylistic changed everything we thought about Rihanna the music artist. Right now, Rihanna’s main point of focus is her fashion and her beauty lines (as evidenced in the interview quote above!); however, that doesn’t mean her music isn’t valid anymore. Far from it. Rated R is I reckon one of the few albums from Rihanna that define her as a singer, while in 2010, Rihanna released another album that cemented her firmly in the pop/R&B world. Loud is an album that, though not as popular as Rated R, still packs a punch- around this time, Rihanna set a record as the solo artist with the fastest accumulation of 10 chart toppers in the Hot 100s history. Before in the 2000’s, she was trying to find her footing amongst her peers, and in the 2010’s, the roles were definitely reversed. The lead single off Loud, “Only Girl In The World”, is a heartfelt, moving and compelling love song at its core, with Rihanna declaring that she wants ‘…you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world, like I’m the only one that you’ll ever love, like I’m the only one who knows your heart, only girl in the world…’. a desperate plea to be reassured of her partner’s love for her, the song reveals to us someone in need of acceptance and validation; as we are presented with a melody that we can all identify with, as we all would like to know if we are loved by our friends, family and others around us whom we value and cherish.
“What’s My Name?”, with Drake, isn’t a song that I would normally listen to (because I simply don’t connect with Drake’s music at all!), and listening to this melody and watching the music video confirms what I already know- that I don’t connect with Drake’s music. The lyrics here also aren’t edifying, and is about two people coming together to sing about sex and the physical nature of their relationship. I’ll admit, there’s a sense of confidence in this song that is probably the only redeeming factor here, along with Rihanna’s stirring and professional vocals. However, the melody isn’t my favourite and will only serve best as background music. The same goes for “Raining Men” with Nicki Minaj (maybe I just don’t like mainstream rappers!)- it’s a track that feels surplus and out of place within the rest of Rihanna’s discography. “S&M” (yes, the track means what you probably think!) is a melody showing off Rihanna’s confident, sassy and secure side, and this is a melody that has her singing what she believes in and what she holds dear. It’s not what I would listen to in a million years, but kudos does have to be given to her for recording a song as out there as that, and filming a video as intense as that! “California King Bed”, fortunately, brings the album back to that ‘Rihanna-of-old’ feeling, as this acoustic guitar led power ballad features Rihanna lamenting and bemoaning about not being close enough to her partner as she wants to be. The notion of physically being close to someone yet far away from them in every other way (emotionally, spiritually), is a notion that isn’t new; but it’s all so poignant here in this recording, as Rihanna’s vocals soar once again, and reminds us that we need to stay close to our partner in every facet for the relationship to work.
“Man Down”, probably the most intense and powerful melody on Loud, is a song that every one of us needs to hear- it’s a song about the persona breaking someone’s heart, but the song is sung against the backdrop of Rihanna killing someone and ending his life. it’s obviously a metaphor, and reminds us all, that what we do has consequences, and our actions can affect more than just one other person but a family and a community as well. It’s a melody that is in fact a bitter pill to swallow, but Rihanna beautifully reminds us that we all need to think about what we do before we do it; and we need to see things from others’ point of view before just acting out on emotion. “Cheers (Drink To That)”, a party song at its core, features Avril Lavigne on backing vocals, and is just a let-your-hair-down and party-all-weekend type of melody, that brings a smile to your face (like it did to mine!); while “Fading” is an emotional melody about the reality of a relationship that is fading away (no pun intended!). Yet for me it is the Eminem collaboration and the immensely popular “Love The Way You Lie Part II” (also recorded as a piano only version) that breathes life into Loud many times over. The sequel song to Rihanna and Eminem’s smash hit “Love The Way You Lie” from Eminem’s own album; this sequel version is more intimate and personal, as both artists perform with raw emotion and hurt towards their partners who have cause them pain and abused them. A song that doesn’t have a clear-cut happy ending, we are met with a track that encourages us all to look inwards, and to figure out if our specific choices affect only ourselves or also the people around us, and thus which choice to take. It’s a song sung from the female point of view and delves deep into people in a destructive relationship. In some ways, “Love The Way You Lie” is ‘the step before “Russian Roulette”’ and is a melody that we need to hear, so as to notice the signs of a ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ abusive relationship, and thus we can act with caution and firmness.
Vulnerability, honesty, raw emotion, and authenticity has been what has kept Rihanna interesting and relevant all these years, with many songs being inspiring because Rihanna has been truthful to her situations and the heartbeat behind the songs. Holistically, this trend of vulnerability and being open in the songs carries on, on many anthems and ballads in the 2011 album Talk That Talk. Released around about a year after Loud, which in turn was released about year after Rated R; one could say that Rihanna was rushing things and capitalising on the moment. While that could be true, the reality was that Rihanna was riding the wave of popularity. And I guess… when inspiration strikes, it strikes in spades! “We Found Love” with Calvin Harris is the lead single from the album, and is just a fun, jovial, joyful and happy melody that is fit for the dance floor. Similar in theme to “Cheers (Drink To That)”, and “Don’t Stop The Music”, “We Found Love” is a celebration of love and the fact that people can find it with that special someone and can keep it for as long as they can. “We Found Love” isn’t lyrically that deep, but with COVID-19; this song lifts our spirits and that’s all we can ask for, don’t you think?
“You Da One”, a carefree, free-spirited pop melody about Rihanna finally finding the special someone for her to spend the rest of her life with, is a sweet melody that also lifts our spirits; while the title track is recorded with Jay-Z, and is intentionally one of few tracks that I avoided. After reading the lyrics, I said ‘No way, I don’t want to be filled with that kind of music at all!’, and as much as I could spin it, I couldn’t say anything positive about this melody. That’s where I stand, and it’s definitely a line that I cannot cross in good conscience. Thankfully, “Where Have You Been”, a fervent, passionate, powerful, and thought-provoking melody, has Rihanna asking her partner where he has been all of her life. it’s a rhetorical question, that translates to ‘I have never met anyone as brilliant, as loving and as special as you’, and reminds us all, that we will feel like Rihanna in this song when we find our special someone that God has ins tore for us in the near or far future. “Cockiness (I Love It)” and “Birthday Cake” are both melodies similar in theme and lyrical content to “S&M”, and like the title track, are both typical Rihanna- in the respect that she has indeed recorded many explicit songs throughout her career. And though I do not like these tracks and what they promote, kudos still needs to be given to Rihanna for sticking to her preferences and singing about something she believes in and sees value in. I for one though am not promoting these tracks in a positive way (this is where I draw the line), and I do prefer songs from Rihanna of substance instead, of which there are some- and these are pretty awesome, powerful and compelling. Either way, Talk That Talk isn’t my favourite album (even though it is popular!), and I do prefer Good Girl Gone Bad, Rated R and Loud, however it is still vintage Rihanna being her playful and sassy self, and it’s good that she’s being consistent in her approach. Fun, joyous, passionate, powerful, confident, sassy, spirited and determined. All the great hallmarks and qualities of a legendary and iconic artist!
Being present and active in the moment, being confident, assured and positive in your stance in whatever it is you believe in, and being firm and unwavering; … well I’d say they’re all welcome signs of being unapologetic. Usually that word has negative connotations, but Rihanna and her overflowing positive sense of worth and her strong identity is well on display for the whole world to see throughout her entire discography. But I reckon that her 2012 album Unapologetic (yes, her 4th album within 4 years!) reminds us that this confidence and knowing herself inside and out; is definitely a good thing. With Rated R being more mature in sound and lyrics, Loud being more anthemic and musically loud in a good way, and Talk That Talk returning to the playful and sassy roots we’ve all been accustomed to hearing; Unapologetic is a mix of all three albums- and certainly is a highlight amongst Rihanna’s 8 album discography and counting. In the U.S., Unapologetic debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, marking Rihanna’s first No. 1 album in the country; so shouldn’t that capture my attention and draw me into this album in particular? Given that no other album in her career up to this point has had the success that this album has?
“Diamonds”, a powerful, anthemic ballad written by Sia, is Rihanna at her vocal peak in my own honest opinion, with the surefire hit firing on all cylinders, and pumping us with heightened emotions. With the track being a positive anthemic ode to love and the fact that Rihanna has found someone that she wants to ‘shine bright like a diamond’ with; this optimistic melody puts a smile on my face, and no doubt it will put a smile on your face too. With the dark nature of many tracks from Rihanna in Rated R combined with the sexually explicit ones in Talk That Talk, a song that is wholesome is a nice change of pace. “Stay”, the haunting, mysterious and emotional piano ballad, with Mikky Ekko on guest vocals, is one of the highlights from the 7th album; and as Rihanna beautifully and skilfully shows her vulnerability and her weakness; we are met with a song that reminds us of two people at a crossroads in a relationship, and the complex yet real emotions of love that come with making a decision to end the relationship or to keep it going further. Rihanna sings in the song that she wants the other person to stay; and as we travel along the journey with Rihanna and her partner, we are encouraged to root for the relationship. And we do. But this song also reminds us that love is messy and sometimes things end through no fault of the people in the relationship; and this is shown powerfully and confidently in the music video: The video was really, really simple. I pretty much stayed put in a bathtub, and we shot it really tight, really close. There’s Mikky Ekko in the video as well. This is the first time I’ve ever collaborated with him, so I’m excited about that because he’s actually the one who wrote the song and I kinda just fell in love with it so much and in love with the tone of his voice and we wanna keep him a part of it, so you’ll see him in the video. It’s a very emotional song and it’s personal, so you just think about, it’s almost like telling a story, and when you tell a story, even to yourself – if you’re saying it out loud and expressing how you feel – it needs to be powerful because it needs to be authentic.
“Pour It Up”, a really unnecessary track but extremely catchy and poppy, has Rihanna basically declaring that she has lots of money, and that she will spend it abundantly on whatever she wants because she will always make more of it. It’s a song that is puzzling, because we all know that Rihanna is better than this in performing and songwriting… but I guess when that market demands a superficial pop song, you write a pop song, am I right? “Loveeeeeee Song” with rapper Future on guest vocals, is a sweet ballad about the simplicities of love, and the fact that two people need love and affection, and have finally found it in each other. Yet the pacing is all off here, and Future can’t really sing. The song is 10/10 for effort, and it really is something to listen to… but I’m sorry, this melody really is a trainwreck; in the ‘can’t take my eyes and ears off it’ kind of way. Rihanna’s part in the song is still on point though, so I guess the song is still solid, don’t you reckon? “Right Now”, with David Guetta, is a poppy danceable EDM club song fit for the dance floor; and with the lyrics being on point as well, don’t you reckon this is a solid anthemic melody? Rihanna passionately sings about how we as people want to control our future or look back at our past or both, but she also reiterates in this track that all we have is the present, so we need to stay present in the present, otherwise we lose out and we become a shell of a human being. It’s an introspective melody wrapped up in the guise of being a dance song, and I reckon this is a clever ploy by Rihanna, so that people can listen more and pay attention to lyrics of poppy songs they wouldn’t normally listen to. “What Now”, quite possibly one of the most vulnerable songs from Rihanna’s career, and my favourite song from Unapologetic, has Rihanna at the end of her rope and feeling low, defeated, vulnerable and out of options. An honest prayer to God, Rihanna asks desperately ‘…what now? I just can’t figure it out, what now? I guess I’ll just wait it out…’; and though there is no easy answer, we are nonetheless met with a powerful ballad that I’m sure will connect with many and will heal and comfort probably all who listen as well! With “Jump” being the obligatory and requisite ‘sex’ song that Rihanna records every album, and “Phresh Out The Runway” being a musical chaotic melody that lyrically champions Rihanna for who she is and the fact that she is a star at the moment; Unapologetic is in fact,,, unapologetic. And that certainly is a good thing on a well-rounded album from someone at the top of her game.
It’s tricky [being a billionaire] because it’s hard to even accept that’s where you’re at because I know where I’ve come from. At the same time, it feels good to be able to inspire young women and boys, who like me, come from humble beginnings, who come from parents who are immigrants or who are immigrants themselves, to be able to do this. You know, it was real weird getting congratulations texts from people for money… I never got congratulated for money before. That s*** is crazy. I get scared when the pedestal comes into play and people put you up there and keep wanting to put you up there. I wanna feel my feet on the ground because I know it’s not gonna be a fall at all if anything, right? [But] God is good.
With all of Rihanna’s hit songs climbing to stratospheric heights, what was left for Rihanna to accomplish in terms of music? She released 4 albums in 4 years, with immense success statistics and numbers-wise. She also skilfully and cleverly expanded genres, with all of us not even noticing. The expansion from R&B to pure pop, and later on dance, while still holding onto her R&B roots; was pretty smart indeed, as Rihanna captured many music markets that we all never really thought that she would. She became a music phenomenon throughout the 2008-2012 period, and as Rihanna ventured into acting, fashion, beauty, cosmetics, and the like; it seemed as if the music portion had reached its peak. Was there anything left to do? Yes, yes there was. The answer to what would keep the fans happy, was 2016’s ANTI. An album that celebrates chaos and the disorder and the rebelling of the establishment, Rihanna released her album exclusively through the streaming service Tidal at first. I don’t know if this was a kind of a deliberate statement or something or some kind of rebellious act, to ‘stick it to the man’ or something like that, but ANTI did peak at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200, becoming her second No. 1 and eighth top 10 album on the chart. So I guess the ploy to release an exclusive album worked? And so… how about the songs? Could they ever reach the heights of what came before- hit songs like “Umbrella”, “Diamonds”, “We Found Love” and “Only Girl In The World”, and other underrated hits?
Personally, I haven’t really had the pleasure to sit down and really sift through ANTI, like I intentionally did with the rest of Rihanna’s discography. I mean, I did, but I myself didn’t really feel connected to the album as opposed to other albums from Rihanna, when I listened a few days ago. And that’s just the way it is. Someone else may connect with ANTI more than me and that is more than fine. If that’s your jam, then more power to you! I’m all for that! Yet even though the album to me didn’t really feel cohesive, there are still some solid melodies and deep lyrical themes explored here. “Work”, with Drake, is a bit of a mixed bag; as for me Rihanna is at the top of her game vocally here, with R&B meshed with dance and pop to perfection. However lyrically, the song reminds me of “What’s My Name?” with Drake from 2010; and it’s a song that, though catchy, does not connect with me at all. It’s poppy and instantly danceable, but… it kind of gets old pretty quickly. “Needed Me”, an intense savage takedown of an ex who is still in love has Rihanna powerfully admonishing, rebuking and belittling the other person, claiming that she was only in the relationship for sex. It’s a pretty brutal melody no matter which way you slice it; and though the melody seems to have no redeeming qualities, a deeper listen reveals someone who is hurt who deeply loves, but tries to act tough and unfeeling because of a persona they want to convey to others. That’s not to say that Rihanna is definitely putting up an act to the media and to her fans, but to me, in this song she is playing the part of someone putting on a brave face and saying that they only feel someone because of sex. Rihanna shows us in this song that there are people out there who feel but can’t convey it to others in a constructive way; and though this song overall is… meh, the message is profound, and we can further identify with those who probably need all the help with their feelings that they can get.
“Kiss It Better”, the R&B/pop mashup, is a slow-jam breezy anthem, that is similar to “Needed Me” but from the other perspective. Rihanna takes the perspective of someone still pining for their ex, and she tells them to just man up and take her back. It’s an intense, direct melody that conveys to the other person that she still feels for them, and feels love extremely deeply; however compared to other songs Rihanna has recorded with a similar theme (like “Stay”, “California King Bed” and “Only Girl In The World”), this melody unfortunately falls flat. “Love On The Brain”, another song about two people in an abusive relationship that cannot be apart from each other even though their relationship is destructive; reminds me of both “Hate That I Love You” and “Love The Way You Lie” thematically (and I thoroughly enjoy both of these melodies infinitely better than this!), while the unnecessary “Higher” speaks about becoming high on weed and other drugs. In fact… I’ve read the lyrics and listen to a number of tracks on ANTI, and though you can spin each melody to sound positive, I for one didn’t find something overly joyful or happy or celebratory or just plain edifying. Everything was dark and gloomy and moody and angsty and angry. Maybe that was the point of ANTI, to cater to those who are in a funk. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t spend enough time with this album. However to me, I would recommend any other Rihanna album for you all to listen to- because there is at least one or two songs there that is food for the soul. On this album, sadly it’s just there, and there’s nothing that’s instantly likeable. Technically and objectively, Rihanna is still amazing vocally here and as an entertainer, but ANTI is instantly forgettable, sorry to say.
When someone hears about the person of Rihanna nowadays, music may not be all that they think of. It’s been 6 years since Rihanna has released an album… and I guess we all are becoming restless. She has repeatedly mentioned that she is working on her album (you can read about the news here, here, here, here, here, here and here!); and for those of us who are still hanging out for the release (I am slightly intrigued but I’m not really a super fan so… whenever it releases it ok I guess!), you might be a tad annoyed or perplexed as to why Rihanna is branching out into fashion, beauty, acting, being an ambassador for all of these organisations, instead if working on her music. But… maybe slowing down on music is maybe the right thing, so one’s sanity and well-being and mental health. Hear me out. I know we as people want everything in our laps instantaneously. We want to consume our music and our movies and our TV shows and our computer and online games and our theatre productions… right now. After we’ve listened to a new album, we want the next one now. After we’ve watched a movie, we want the sequel or spin-off now. It’s the case of being restless and not being content with waiting; but if I were in the shoes of Rihanna, and having released 8 albums in just over 10 years… I’d want a break too and probably a sea change (work sea change?) as well! Rihanna expanding (or possibly pivoting, if the elusive R9 album doesn’t eventuate!) into another work sector, shouldn’t scare you nor should worry you. Rihanna loves fashion, from what I’ve read. I’m not that much of an expert at fashion or beauty to talk about it intelligently, but she is raking in the millions (billions as of last year!) because of her fashion. She is loving life at the moment, so why should she change something just because we demand it. It’s true, 6 years between albums is a tad on the long-ish side. But if ABBA can come back after 40 years, then I guess anything is possible, don’t you reckon?
I think I’m like most people — we fear the unknown and the things that have yet to come to pass, which are the very things that don’t deserve to be feared. When you give God complete control, it’s very hard not to be fearless. This skin has been developing since my first day at school. It didn’t happen after fame; I couldn’t survive fame if I didn’t already have it. So sometimes the toughest thing in life is to be vulnerable. I’m not generally a sensitive person, but I tend to be more sensitive toward others and what they’re going through. I don’t know if that’s the healthiest thing, but it’s the truth. Remembering what’s important in life and understanding that we are individuals with our own relationship to God. When that’s clear, it’s difficult to be bothered by what people think.
It [COVID-19] impacts everything. It impacts the timing for a lot, it impacts touring, it impacts how feasible is it to travel or have people you want to work with travel to you. It forces you to figure it out and I’m that type of girl. I just want to figure out a solution. I don’t want to stay stuck on the problem. I’m like, ‘OK, so what do we do about it?’ With COVID-19, every day has been, ‘So what do you do about it?’ Because there’s always a challenge. Every day there’s something different, and so the ‘what do you do about it’ aspect has come into full play during this quarantine. It’s helped a lot and it’s forced me to figure things out and get creative and clever about it.
I’ve been just sitting in robes with no makeup and whatever my hair does that day. There’s a lot happening always and when I get into those little crevasses of those huge moments, I just try to think about what I really love to do. Like, what truly makes me happy, and it’s really the littlest things. It could be cooking, it could be walking, it could be biking. It’s all of these little tiny things that you just do for fun that in the moment they just make you feel great. I don’t have a license, so I can’t really drive, but driving is also one of those things that is therapeutic.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rihanna is influential. And so should it be in your minds as well. The rags to riches success story that we all have been a part of since 2005, brings such a joy and a smile to my face. The fact that Rihanna has overcome many challenges, released profound, impacting, encouraging, moving and thought-provoking albums, ventured out into fashion (something completely different to music!), and also has tried her hand at acting; well that is something to be in total awe of. With Rihanna’s voice being a mezzo soprano, and with her music being influenced by Madonna, Bob Marley, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child (to name a few); I’d say it’s anyone’s guess as to what her music will sound like in the future. Will it stay the same or will Rihanna venture out into a completely different genre like country? Ummm…. That might be a stretch though, but Rihanna is Rihanna, and I actually wouldn’t put it past her to do something completely left field like that. With the media also describing Rihanna as a sex symbol, as well as a pop and fashion icon; I’d say that there is pressure to be a role model to young girls and young people everywhere. The media watching your every move and all that. But Rihanna has certainly taken everything in her stride, and the fact that she is releasing music on her terms, despite what us listeners may want, and branching out into everything she wants to; is all the more remarkable.
We may never know when Rihanna is releasing her new album. She is busy doing her fashion and her acting and her beauty lines and everything else that is taking up all of her time. But there are still 8 albums, and for that, we should be grateful. Rihanna also has unveiled multiple stand-alone collaborations; with songs like “Princess Of China” (Coldplay), “Can’t Remember To Forget You” (Shakira), “FourFiveSeconds” (Paul McCartney and Kanye West) and solo songs “American Oxygen” and “Sledgehammer” being the personal standouts. Oh, and every song from the Home Soundtrack, of which Rihanna starred in as the lead role. For Rihanna should be praised and congratulated and spoken about in the same breath as Taylor Swift and Beyonce– trailblazers in their craft within their own genres of pop/country and R&B respectively. Likewise, Rihanna is reminding us all, that it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. All it matters is what you do next. You may be downtrodden. You may feel like you’re the scum of the earth. You may feel like no one understands you and you may feel like you won’t amount to anything. Maybe your parents do not support your dreams. Maybe you aren’t sure how to marry your talents. Maybe all you want to do, like what I mentioned at the start of this blog, is to retreat into fictitious worlds of TV and movies and comic books. However, if Rihanna has taught us all one thing, it is this. That when we have a dream, we should go for it. It doesn’t even matter if we fail. We just need to try. And thus, if Rihanna teaches us to stand up and do something rather than just stay at home… then her music is worth it. Her music is worth it nonetheless because it touches upon a myriad of relevant and relatable issues; but for the reason alone of us all changing our lives around; Rihanna is influential. Sure, there’s still Omicron. It may cripple us. But let us see beyond the pandemic and see what God is saying. Do we have talents? If so, then let’s not let us be like the person with one talent. Let us strive to chase our dreams and let’s wisely invest. After all, our talents are supposed to bless the world, aren’t they? Well done Rihanna for a varied and equally profound discography! Maybe a Christmas album down the line?
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Does Rihanna make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of all Time’ list? Is there any song (other than “Umbrella”, “Take a Bow”, “Russian Roulette”, “Only Girl In The World”, “We Found Love”, “Diamonds”, “What Now” and “Unfaithful”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!