Sexy, independent, and a contradicting makeup
SIFTING THROUGH THE RIHANNA DRAMA
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 02:02
Rihanna didn’t attend the 2009 Grammys; she had taken a beating from her boyfriend Chris Brown the night before.
After LAPD photos of the pop singer’s battered and bruised face were leaked on the internet and Brown was charged with domestic violence, the media latched onto the dramatic story, tying both artists to their then defunct dysfunctional relationship.
But just last month Rihanna was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, and in her interview she spoke about her reconciliation with Brown. The romantic rekindling has sparked another media frenzy around the two artists, and Rihanna has understandably garnered much criticism for her casual dismissal of Brown’s abuse.
Rihanna comes across like a tough lady. She’s got tattoos, edgy hairstyles, a spikey, leathery wardrobe, and bluntly sexual songs with titles like “S&M,” and lyrics like “I’m gonna make you my bitch.”
Despite her fiery image and dominatrix music persona, as a whole, Rihanna’s lyrics paint a picture that is confusing and contradictory.
In Rolling Stone Rhianna made comments about her newly restarted relationship with Brown: “I decided it was more important for me to be happy. I wasn’t going to let anybody’s opinion get in the way of that,” she said. “Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it.”
A closer look at her lyrics reveal a sentiment similar to the one she expressed in the interview. Lyrics to songs like “Talk That Talk” describe rather generic, submissive scenarios with Rihanna singing “Say what you want me to do and I got you,” and one of her biggest hits centers around the line, “We found love in a hopeless place.” On their own, there is absolutely nothing to be found off with these lyrics, but placed alongside Rihanna’s role in Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie,” and her toxic relationship with Brown they take on new meaning.
On Rihanna’s album Talk That Talk the title track is followed by “Cockiness (Love It)” and “Birthday Cake,” both songs that feature unusually direct and explicit references to female sexuality and have highly commanding, almost confrontational energy to them.
That’s the paradox of Rihanna. In her statements about Brown—and the fact that the two attended the Grammys together this year in an act that cannot escape comparison to 2009’s Grammy fiasco—Rihanna seems to be making the argument that her decision to get back together with Brown is a powerful, independent one. With Rihanna’s obvert sexuality, her drama with Brown takes on a sort of tragic-sexy-crazy-destructive artist appeal, a-la-Whitney Houston or Jim Morrison.
In response to criticism from anti-abuse groups, Chris Brown’s PR people made a statement advising the public to separate Brown the person from Brown the artist. It is certainly important to recognize that both Brown and Rihanna are human beings, and pop stars whose personas and music are largely created by other people.
This begs the question—should we view Rihanna as a reckless hypocrite, a strong individual, or a tragic victim still trapped in the cycle of abuse? At the moment, it seems like she is all three.