At this point in her career, it’s safe to say that Rihanna could throw any curveball at us that she wants to, simply because she can. And tonight, she did.
Then again, it’s not as though she hasn’t caught us off guard when kicking off a new era in the past: Remember “Diamonds”? And “Russian Roulette”? But this time around, she’s really gone and veered left. Hard.
The Navy has thirsted for new music for well over two years since 2012’s Unapologetic, which she’s brutally, phucklessly dangled above our heads without even a shred of sympathy — until now.
This evening, Rihanna unceremoniously dropped a new song onto iTunes via her own company, Westbury Road Entertainment: “FourFiveSeconds,” a collaboration with Kanye West and Beatles legend Paul McCartney. And, lo and behold, she’s folked it all up.
“I think I’ve had enough/I might get a little drunk/I say what’s on my mind/I might do a little time,” Rih proclaims across a steady acoustic guitar strum, courtesy of Sir Paul. The track couldn’t be more of a departure from her usual brand of urban pop: This isn’t “Pour It Up” ratchetry, nor “We Found Love” EDM euphoria — and certainly no slice of “Birthday Cake.” In fact, this is nearly a country jam.
The song’s composer credits on iTunes include Kirby Lauryen, Mike Dean, Ty Dolla $ign, Dave Longstreth, Dallas Austin, Elon Rutberg & Noah Goldstein, which…damn, that’s a lot of input.
And yet, there’s really no trace of modern production on the track: These are rough Rih vocals up against the simplest and purest of guitar melodies. Mr. Kardashian-West comes in later with his own verse, sounding flat and rough (in the actual rough sense), until Rihanna brings it all home against a bit of church organ.
To her credit, she sounds great. And that chorus is catchy, indeed. (“Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wylin’ and we got three more days ’til Friday…”) It’s always nice to hear her do her thing (do ya thang, do ya thang…) and journey into previously uncharted musical territory. And sure, this would likely sound great as a final song to close out an album of blazing Rihanna smashes. After all, it’s really not a bad song…
But to say I was praying for a perfectly fine (at best), folky acoustic jam session to kick off the R8 campaign would be, well, a big phat lie.
Still. Taking a risk is better than playing it safe (musically speaking, anyway), and the new Rih era is only just beginning.
24 HOURS LATER: It’s a fine song, but it fancies itself much more interesting than it actually is. It’s absolutely not a lead single, though — especially for Rihanna. As PopJustice expertly points out, this is really just Track 9 from a P!nk album, and that’s truly the only thing that needs to be said.
But hey, at least she’s excited about it.
“FourFiveSeconds” was released on January 25. (iTunes)