February 15, 2009

Now it's raining more than ever

It should be no surprise that I love Rihanna. Thus, I am gathering a posse of angry pop kids to get on a bus and go to Hell Lay to go medieval on Chris Brown. But, no, violence should not beget violence. Maybe it would be better to take that bus to the media, which has created a cottage industry of speculation on what happened between her and Chris Brown. Did she do x, did he do y? MTV even has a tacky news special about it. A ratings$$$ bonanza.

What we do know is that Chris Brown is 19 - yes, 19 - and, as is de rigueur with hip hop stars, he's from Virginia. To some degree, he's a baby, and it appears he's from a violent home. Rihanna is 20, from Barbados and her first name is Robyn. She's loves Lily Allen and clothes. She too is really young. They both, along with their pal NeYo, represent the reemergence of pop melody into r'n'b after years of hip hop influence. See this clip of Brown and Rihanna together on MTV (check her shoes!). They are, like Britney, growing up with the media/tabloid eye focused on every move.

We ascribe a kind of decorum to older artists like Janet Jackson and Madonna because they did not get themselves embroiled in mugshot drama. But the fact is, there was no Internet when Madonna and Janet were at their chart peaks. What would have happened if Sean Penn had "trussed Madonna up like a turkey for nine hours" (as he's claimed to have done) and every media outlet and blogger was there to cover it? Outside their gates, inside their inner circle. I remember People Magazine being the main source of info at that time. And it died down quickly, in part because Madonna released her finest album, Like A Prayer, soon after.

Ironically and yet not surprisingly, this week Rihanna's label issued a Good Girl Gone Bad Remix CD. Forget Kylie's weak Boombox, Rihanna's mixes are truly sublime. Sure, most of the tracks were previously released, but this project truly betters the original CD. I still love the string quartet-laden Lindbergh Palace edit of Umbrella (hear it) and the K Klassic Mix of her NeYo duet, Hate That I Love You (hear it / see the lush video).

Hidden amongst the better known mixes
is a complete gem. The Wideboys Mix of Question Existing, which takes Rihanna back to the Diana Ross disco era. What tips the song into greatness is the lengthy spoken section at 2:20. She delivers it in that low, gravelly way all pop girls do a spoken bit - you know what I mean - but I love how her accent slips through: "Entertainin' is something I do for a livin'/ It's not who I am." It's hard to ignore the message of the song in light of the events this week. Listen...

Rihanna Question Existing (Wideboys Radio Edit):

In 2007, Rihanna put light into the world with Umbrella, the sweetest moment of zeitgeist I can recall.

When the sun shines, we’ll shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be a friend
Took an oath I'ma stick it out till the end

Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella


Tiff said...

Good golly!! This is one AMAZING woman/girl if for no other reason than she can sing, strut, walk down stairs, and look damn sexy in those crazy hot shoes! Top all that off with the fact that she appears to be walking on a mirrored floor that has to be slippery!! Love her voice and love her music and am sad that she is having to grow up and make stupid mistakes with stupid boys in the glare of the media.

Yuяi said...

Excellently stated, Xo.

I totally agree that had the Internets been around back in 1985, we'd have seen a very different picture of Madonna and Janet at their peaks. Great observation.

will said...

Actually, technically speaking, Chris Brown would be considered R&B versus "Hip Hop", I think.

Rihanna's remixes are sublime! What would take it to a new level is that they milk her album one more time and do a video collection .. get this.... of the remixes!

xolondon said...

True re hip hop. I will switch that. I was thinking really of how they are pop versus heavily rap influenced.

What would take it to a new level is a new album!

John said...

I am a full convert to Rihanna, after having despised her material from the first CD. Having said that, I wonder how much of this is her own vision, and how much of it is producers directing efforts. I suppose I shouldn't bother, but it matters to me for some reason...

...and then I get on the treadmill, and "Questions Remaining" comes on. Suddenly, I'm running through her Disco Wonderland.