“Rude Boy” by Rihanna

It seems that from 2009 to 2011, every song Rihanna released or appeared on seemed to be of two kinds: ultra-serious songs that were actually about abusive relationships in some form or another (“Russian Roulette”, “Love the Way You Lie”, Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”, “We Found Love”), and raunchy, increasingly masochistic sex jams. The former are perfectly understandable…after the well-known domestic abuse scandal she had been involved in early in ’09, it’s natural that she would want to express her feelings about it in her art, and even if Rihanna isn’t really a singer-songwriter, she seems to have found the means to select songs that conveyed her emotions on the subject. But the same factors that make those attempts laudable make the songs where she sings about how she likes to get tied up and beaten…uncomfortable, to say the least. After this song became the only hit from her largely confessional and serious Rated R album, either she or her record label apparently decided that trying to milk what had happened to her for masochistic sex appeal sold more records than seriously addressing her story (which probably says something very disturbing about popular culture at the time, but I digress). Her next album, Loud, consisted almost entirely of these songs, which is why it’s still probably her worst album. I will reluctantly admit that “Rude Boy” is the best of a bad bunch, despite its dubious status as the song that launched the trend in the first place, mostly because it’s tamer and goes less far than later songs such as “S&M”. That said, like all of these songs, it’s still loud, abrasive, and would come off as more creepy than sexy even without the added real-life baggage. Given the utterly ridiculous furor the internet raised over “Blurred Lines”, I imagine that, had “Rude Boy” come out a few years later than it did, the reaction to it would probably have been much harsher. In any case, this is a bad song as well as an offensive one, and I have no patience with the few die-hards who are still trying to defend it.

Verdict: Bad.

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