Ready for Rihanna's new sound, culture

Ready for Rihanna's new sound, culture

Noah Huguley

In the past two years, only one musician has released no album but has gained significant cultural cachet: Rihanna. After a year between the last single of “Unapologetic” and the debut single of her upcoming album, Rihanna has mastered the woman behind the music. She has been signed as the face of Dior, becoming the first woman of color to serve as the face of the brand. She lent her voice to the animated film “Home,” her first gig as a voice actress for a major motion picture. She also reopened her Instagram page, which gives a glimpse behind the scenes of the pop star’s life. Upping the ante for her next album, her latest singles demonstrate her aim for a new audience while showing her fan base another side to the artist.


Rihanna’s deepest single to date succeeded significantly due to the collaboration between her and two of the most iconic men in music: Paul McCartney and Kanye West. Lines like “All of my kindness is taken for weakness” strive for a confessional interpretation of the song, adding a layer of meaning behind lyrics like “I say what’s on my mind.” The production of “FourFiveSeconds” also reaches for this serious tone, offering the listener a refreshing acoustic landscape to Rihanna’s and Kanye’s vocals. But her double-tracked vocals in the chorus and the loudness of the track in general harm the performance. Nonetheless, one should look forward to live performances – Rihanna concerts will never be the same.

“Bitch Better Have My Money”

This could be considered the single that Rihanna’s rock-oriented 2009 record “Rated R” was sorely missing. With a confrontational attitude like a rapper’s, the artist takes a page from producer Kanye West’s techniques. Rather than attempt a new genre like she does for “FourFiveSeconds,” Rihanna performs in a new vocal style – that is, new to her fans: her Barbadian accent steals the show. Commanding the listener “Don’t act like you forgot, I call the shots, shots, shots,” Rihanna paves her way back to the club after her hiatus from the radio. This single proves that fans of the singer don’t have to worry about her losing the bombastic attitude often showcased in her hits.

“American Oxygen”

The latest single from her still-untitled upcoming album moves the spotlight off of the artist herself and more onto a community. Nevertheless, the song’s immigration storyline serves as a key reference to Rihanna’s backstory before coming to the U.S. Released on Tidal, a new streaming platform with backing from major names like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Madonna, the single aims for greater territory than the dance floor. The singer’s chants of “Breathe in this feeling” and “We are the new America” give the listener chills and provokes more introspection than “FourFiveSeconds.” However, one gets the feeling that the calls of “American Oxygen” for unity and progress won’t inspire listeners as much as the swagger of “Bitch Better Have My Money.”