Listen: Does Rihanna's 'Russian Roulette' spin you around?
Is the song irresponsible or is it art?
Follow HitFix: Follow @hitfix
Good lord, has Rihanna really not gotten enough publicity the last several months that she needed to release something so provocative that it will certainly create a new controversy?
Rihanna’s new single, the Ne-Yo-penned “Russian Roulette,” seems to be exactly what the title says. Although it very well may be a metaphor for love or life or how she felt about her abuser Chris Brown -- and I’m sure that is how her handlers will spin it -- any such subtlety will be lost on many listeners since the lyrics play out like the final three minutes of someone’s time on earth. Or, as Rihanna sings, “it’s too late to think about the value of my life.”
The grinding, dark ballad closes with Rihanna shuddering in an almost sexual way, the spinning of the pistol barrel, and a gun blast (which we’re sure most radio stations won’t include).
Will Rihanna, who solemnly sings the song in her very limited range, have blood on her hands if some kids decide to try this at home? We’re sure the chilling song has already been vetted by a phalanx of lawyers. Plus, the courts have come down squarely on the side of the artist that lyrics do not incite action in a landmark case in the ‘80s brought by parents against Ozzy Osbourne after their child committed suicide after listening to his “Suicide Solution” over and over.
I firmly believe an artist should be able to say whatever he or she wants to, but with that freedom comes a responsibility. Rihanna’s average fan is probably about 14 or 15.. It’s a tender age when girls are grappling with tremendous peer pressure and learning how to stand up for themselves. In the story’s drama, a man, who clearly has never lost at this game, as Rihanna point out, hands her a gun and, although “terrified,” she’s not leaving because “she must pass this test.”
Rihanna knows violence up close and while she has no responsibility to release a song about domestic abuse or how she feels about Brown (he certainly didn't address the issue in his new single), to release a song that puts her under the power of another man in some sick psychodrama as it plays out here, is truly frightening. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Rihanna is so eager to be seen as a dark, serious artist and not the little “ella, ella, ella, Umbrella” girl that she feels she needs to go to these extremes. Many people will no doubt intepret it as a brilliant depiction of what it feels like to have no choice when under the spell of an intoxicating lover.
We’re sure it will shoot up the charts… with a bullet. Controversy aside, the song is seductive and flinty in a James Bond-theme kind of way. Plus, there’s so much curiosity about her right now, whether it’s over what she wears or how she styles her hair or what she sings that she'd make headlines no matter what the song was about.
As for the rest of the album, “Rated R,” comes out Nov. 23. We’re seeing an interesting phenomenon happen that day, which is the Monday before Thanksgiving. Because it is the week of Thanksgiving, which kicks off the traditional holiday shopping season, we’re seeing all major releases moved from the traditional Tuesday release date to Monday. Adam Lambert will also come out that day, as are all major titles.