I have always had a hard time accepting Rihanna’s extreme popularity. Her music, to me, is bland, and she’s not a good performer. The fact that she is a victim of extreme domestic violence who has since climbed back into the arms of her abuser, fellow pop star Chris Brown, sets a terrible example for others in her situation and actually upsets me.
I’ve never had a way to explain these confusing opinions until Sasha Frere-Jones apparently climbed into my head, organized my thoughts and wrote them for me in the New Yorker’s Dec. 24&31 issue.
He nails the social impact with this:
“With all this drama, it is difficult to think of Rihanna’s stated version of independence, of being a ‘Good Girl Gone Bad,’ as the title of her biggest-selling album would have it, is being the object of badness, being subjugated… What makes this attitude even more disturbing is that it seems to have served only to make Rihanna more popular.”
Without missing a beat, Frere-Jones flings more thought-goo from the cauldron of my stewed brain and it sticks on the wall in this elegant, concise phrasing: “She has an exceptional physical beauty married to an unexceptional, almost disengaged sense of performance–she may be the most successful amateur ever.” I’ve already applied this lightbulb concept to other pop stars that suck, like Lana Del Rey, Ke$ha and Nickelback.
And, as a good critic should do, he calls out the pop star for what should be an obvious “phone-it-in” moment, her “performance” last month on Saturday Night Live. “She moves, in Timberland boots and a fatigue jacket, as if she had perhaps beard the song a few times before. There was one bit that reminded me of dancing.”
Unfortunately the article is paywalled, only available with a subscription or by purchasing the whole issue. But it’s a luxury worth paying for, if for nothing else than Frere-Jones’ music columns.