Confection Corner: “Disturbia,” Rihanna Tuesday, July 29, 2008Posted by Andy Hutchins in Confection Corner, Rockabye.
The reason I’m posting at dark ‘o clock? I think it’s the life-threatening case of earworm this song’s given me.
There were probably psychotropics involved in the making of the video, and I don’t actually think I’ll ever watch that again. Or should.
I’ve been of the opinion that Rihanna’s career was based on the same arc as Beyonce’s solo career for a long while, and mostly because the parallels are very, very good. Bey’s biggest hit, a song to rule a summer, “Crazy in Love,” had a Jay-Z assist; “Umbrella” has an abysmal Jay verse he probably wrote/thought when he was 11, and it still dominated the balmy months of 2007. Ri-Ri’s big emotional/relationship plays have been penned by Ne-Yo (“Unfaithful,” “Take a Bow”); same for Bey-Bey’s “Irreplaceable.” And both came from their roots, for Ms. Knowles, Southern-fried girl-power stuff, and for Rihanna Robyn Fenty, Caribbean dancehall, to pop stardom by way of the same tried-and-true formula: Make loud, vibrant summer music, look attractive, and profit.
But now, with “Disturbia,” all snappy electrothump bass, liberal use of AutoTune to flatten out one of the flatter pop singers working today, and nonsensical, vaguely paranoid lyrics, it’s clear Rihanna’s at her best as the anti-Beyonce. This is a song that works as an echo of emotion, not one where the emotions echo; there’s too much soul to Beyonce’s voice for this to be merely the wafer of catchy pabulum it’s supposed to be. And, yes, it’s that “bum bum BEE dum, bum bum bee dum bum” that seals it as a great pop song; the Rockette, whose pop sensibilities I’ve come to trust, as a sometime iTunes consumer and a Top 40 listener, started bum bumming along midway through her first listen, a rarity even for a sing-a-longer like her.
This a vibe the Barbados beauty would be wise to milk: The idea of a three-diva pop landscape with the piano melodies of Alicia Keys, the bombast of Beyonce, and the head-bobbing synthpop of Rihanna is a mighty fine one, indeed, and it means Madonna can go back to adopting Malawians and Britney need not try to top Blackout and torpedo her career once and for all.
And, well, in the Era of Katy Perry, the world could use more brilliantly stupid and harmless pop. Rihanna does that very well.