Album Talk that Talk
directed by Dave Meyers
“Is that Gaga?”
That question was put to me as I was blasting Rihanna’s new video. No, friend, that was not Gaga….but I can see where you might get confused. Rihanna’s voice here is at least reminiscent of Gaga’s electro-pop style. Not to mention Rihanna manages five costume changes throughout the four minutes. And the frantic editing, which employs split screens, ghosting effects, and duplicate Rihannas, flirts with ridiculous. In fact this video is so excessive, I had fun. If nothing else, she’ll get your attention with moments like this:
Meet Rihanna, the crocodile. To give credit, I actually enjoy this much more than if she had worn a full crocodile skin bodysuit. This is a bit subtler, and I still get the idea: she’s a hunter, a predator. Her prey is the perfect guy, if we go by her lyrics. In these opening swamp shots, I think she largely succeeds at promoting herself as powerful yet attractive.
Another surprising positive I found was the choice and arrangement of dancers. Rihanna dances separately with both an all-male and an all-female group.
Yes, I had beautiful male dancers to watch! I felt like there was a sense of cooperation in the group dance scenes, especially in the moment where the female group forms an eye and blinks. That takes coordination and a sense of the other members in the group. It seems intimate, as opposed to everyone dancing in their own three feet of space.
Really, movement is the key to understanding this video. This is a celebration of energy and rhythm and the ability to express those with your body. There is no example of a guy dancing to seduce a girl. There is no example of a girl dancing on a guy. You could maybe make the argument that Rihanna is dancing for her yet-unknown lover. But, he’s never shown in the video itself. She’s in a position of control and power over her body. We, the anonymous viewers, are the sole audience to her performance.
Power and prowess are continually shown; the dancers even seem to shake the frame itself, as it pulses with their movements (around 2:06). They gaze out at the viewers, as if to say bet you can’t move like this.
And then we get this:
Shiva-Rihanna. Destruction, transformation, rebirth. Shiva, a Hindu deity who is referred to as male. Rihanna makes herself Shiva, defying that masculine pronoun.
This feeling is echoed in her voice as she asks for, “someone who can please me, love me all night long.” She knows her own sexual appetites. Knowing what you want….that’s power!
I think she’s on to something here.