Pink Friday is nearly a year old, and its biggest single, “Super Bass,” was a bonus track, but the Nicki Minaj album still has legs. Witness “Fly” (featuring Rihanna), the newly minted single whose video just premiered during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards pre-show. A late-breaking entry in the “Music Video with a Message” pantheon (whether that brand-new VMA category will return in 2012 remains to be seen), “Fly” witnesses Minaj, first in her Bride of Frankenstein guise, then with a pink pixie haircut and white-rose-print-and-chiffon dress, then with leopard-print hair, and finally suited up in padded white garb to fight off hater-ninjas. The all-grey-everything airplane-fuselage landscape feels a little unreal, like she and Rihanna have wandered into the Resident Evil town somehow. Worry not, though: it gets better, as evidenced by the vines and flowers blooming by video’s end.
Remember when Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty was an innocent girl standing underneath an umbrella, before she was hollering at a “Rude Boy” to join her in some “S&M” on her “California King Bed”? Yeah, our memories of those days are getting fuzzier, too, especially if the rumors of a new Rihanna/J. Cole sex tape are true!
“We have seen it and we do not know what we are going to do with it yet,” said a rep from the Hustler empire told Radar Online. Odd J. Cole didn’t mention it when he played us his album last week, but the 26-year-old protege of Jay-Z will certainly benefit from this tabloid circus since Cole World: The Sideline Story drops next month.
Rihanna is, unfortunately, no stranger to scandal, accustomed to fending off rumors of secretly dating mentor Jay-Z and canoodling with Drake, not to mention having to endure the embarrassment caused when naked photos she sent to then-boyfriend Chris Brown were leaked. Like many stars in the public eye, the Barbadian pop star wears a target on her back for this kind of negative attention, and her music, as we jokingly alluded to in the beginning of this post, might make it easier to assume that the sex tape exists. But in all fairness, just because her songs can be boldly sexual in nature doesn’t mean we should jump to conclusions, even when taking into account that the Roc Nation-managed artists have toured together and are known to be friendly. Developing!
Hustler Insist They Have a Rihanna and J-Cole Sex Tape [Radar]
Funny?we just told you about a provocateur of a previous generation taking issue with one from the current generation, and here we are again, telling you about a provocateuse of a previous generation taking issue with…you get the idea. Mel C, formerly of the Spice Girls, told The Daily Mirror yesterday that “Women in music, very successful women, are extremely sexual and they have young fans. It is inappropriate.” She singles out Rihanna (whom she considers “a f–king brilliant artist, with great songs [and] a great record”), probably because of controversy in the UK about “S&M,” and particularly its video.
Even on this topic Mel C can’t seem to make up her mind. She’s not clear on what makes the current controversy any different than those that surrounded the Spice Girls a decade and change ago, saying only that “although culture?s always changing, it?s changed too much.” She also says both that “Rihanna has responsibility” and that “Rihanna?s free to do as she pleases.”
We do understand and share Mel C’s concern regarding “over-sexualisation of young children” (she cites her daughter Scarlet as the motivating factor of this criticism) but we don’t believe that the buck necessarily stops with the pop stars themselves. Rihanna, in particular, seems very thoughtful about these issues, as she demonstrated in her Glamour interview. Even still, no parent can protect against everything in a hegemonic patriarchy.
Rihanna Is ‘Inappropriately Sexual’ According to Former Spice Girl Mel C [AOL Music]
[Image: Getty Images]
2009 Glamour Woman of the Year Rihanna returns to the magazine’s cover for Glamour‘s September 2011 issue?and she’s got plenty to say about today’s pop landscape, judging by the pullquotes that accompany the photo gallery on the magazine’s website. “There?s a pack. It?s me, Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyonc??who else? Ke$ha, for sure. Women are definitely dominating music right now, and that?s because we are competitive beings. I feel like music hasn?t been this exciting in a while.” She’s certainly not wrong about the female domination of pop, and aside from Britney, who guested on Rihanna’s “S&M” remix (and whom we’re sure Rihanna already regrets not mentioning), and Adele (who stands apart from the “pack” Rihanna describes) she pretty much has the usual suspects nailed down.
Speaking of “S&M,” Rihanna is also far enough in her career to speak to concerns of representation (particularly of sexuality) in public. “I want to set the right example and, at the same time, live my life,” she tells the magazine, possibly punning on “Live Your Life,” the T.I. song for which she provides the hook. “Pop stars can?t be rock stars anymore because they have to be role models, and it takes the fun out of it for us, because we just want to have fun with art.” And with fans, as our meet-and-
gropegreet gallery illustrates. Clearly these playful interactions are just a small part of the ways in which Rihanna enjoys (and tests) the freedoms she enjoys at this stage in her life and career. Things weren’t always so carefree. She explains to Glamour: “In the beginning of my career, it was really strict for me. I couldn?t wear pink or red lipstick; it was just bizarre. We had a young fan base, and they were trying to keep me fresh. But I just really wanted to be myself. I wanted to be sassy, the attitude, all these things that I am.” Even now, a mild uproar over the not-actually-that-scandalous imagery in the video for “S&M” caused a bit of controversy for the artist, who felt that her expression was still being censored. (The copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by David LaChappelle is another matter entirely, and we don’t anticipate that she opened up to Glamour about that.)
50 Cent’s “I’m On It” Premieres; 50 Cent’s Tweets Confuse
“Man I’m not releasing a album i can’t believe interscope is this f?ked up right now. I apologize to all my fans,” 50 Cent tweeted late last night, before “I’m On It” surfaced on Soundcloud, ostensibly uploaded by 50 himself. But when he threatened to leak a Dr. Dre single (he didn’t) and then tweeted this afternoon, “I don’t know how I can record 41 song for my album and the one song I give interscope leaks,” he completely turned us around. Is it damage control for his self-leak? Is he throwing his weight around for a release date? Is this all a worked shoot? Who can tell? [Twitter]
Rihanna Helps United States Navy Prevent The Sinking Of Its Battleship
The trailer for next summer’s Navy-vs.-robot-alien-things blockbuster Battleship (yes, based on the board game) debuted today, featuring Rihanna as part of a task force investigating a bizarre disturbance in the Pacific. (Hint: it attacks them.) [Yahoo]
Robyn Covers “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” For BBC
Listen to Robyn‘s rendition of the Coldplay single, on BBC’s Radio 1 Live Lounge, on YouTube.
Anniversaries: Nevermind Reissue To Contain Demos; Is This It Tribute
The 20th Anniversary reissue of Nevermind, due out September 27, will come in 1-CD, 2-CD, and 4-CD/1-DVD formats, the lattermost of which will contain all of producer Butch Vig‘s original mixes as well as boombox recordings. And here we thought there was no unheard Nirvana in the vault. [Spin]
Meanwhile, Stereogum celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Strokes’ Is This It (released July 30, 2001 in Britain) with Stroked, a front-to-back tribute to the album (in its original form; there’s no cover of “When It Started,” the song that replaced the critical “New York City Cops” when the album was released in the United States less than a month after the September 11 attacks). [Stereogum]
As we witnessed earlier today when they took to Twitter to complain about the VMA nominations, Rihanna has a very strong and incredibly vocal group of fans. How does one cultivate such a fan base, exactly? Of course, there’s no exact formula, but one such way is by hitting the road and playing live for the people that love you most. And on her Get Loud tour this summer, Rihanna has stepped her game up a notch.
Not only is she bringing the goods when it comes to her live performances, but she’s got her social media game on point. Witness Rihanna’s Facebook page, where she has posted close to 1,300 pictures (!) she’s taken with fans during Loud meet and greets. Unlike a lot of other superstars who begrudgingly perform these duties with a frown on their face, RiRi clearly seems to be having fun interacting with her friends, grabbing body parts and, shockingly, letting her own body parts be grabbed. Check out our gallery of a dozen Rihanna fans who will never forget the night that they got groped by (or copped a feel of) Rihanna!
The 2011 VMA Nominations, revealed late last night, contained not a few surprises for pop music fans, many of whom flocked to Twitter (where #vmanominationfailure is still trending) or Wikipedia (where the 2011 VMAs entry is locked after hours of vandalism).
The loudest fanbase is that of Lady Gaga, who received three nominations (one for “Born This Way” and two for “Judas,” which the Little Monsters apparently prefer)?a pittance to these fans, especially in contrast to Katy Perry‘s nine and Adele‘s seven. The latter was more galling to the pop monsters, who after only a bit of Katy Perry slut-shaming moved on to “Adele is fat” jokes (or, more generously, “‘Rolling In The Deep’ is great but the video is boring” complaints). Britney Spears‘s and Rihanna‘s fans are also quite vocal about the two and zero nominations the artists got, respectively. (Rihanna is a featured artist on Eminem‘s three-times nominated?though not for Best Collaboration?”Love the Way You Lie” and Kanye West‘s four-times nominated “All of the Lights” but has no nominations for her own videos.)
Other much-observed snubs include Ke$ha (no nominations despite the eligibility of both “We R Who We R” and “Blow”), J. Cole for Best New Artist (with fans particularly surprised that Kreayshawn and Tyler, The Creator got nominated) and Jennifer Lopez‘s “On The Floor,” which, as our Song Of The Summer metrics have documented, has performed much better on YouTube than anywhere else.
RIHANNA’S “MAN DOWN” VIDEO COST AN ESTIMATED $78,000 TO PRODUCE AND $1 MILLION TO PROMOTE
And that’s pretty much par for the course for a major-label pop single. NPR‘s Planet Money team investigated the economics of today’s pop market in a story for All Things Considered today, using “Man Down” as their example. The $78,000 breaks down in a pretty straightforward manner. The $1 million is a little fuzzier, possibly due to anecdotes like this one: “Paul Porter, who co-founded the media watchdog group Industry Ears, says…shortly after he started working as a programmer for BET about 10 years ago, he received $40,000.00 in hundred-dollar bills in a Fed-Ex envelope.” [Planet Money/NPR]
To say that paparazzi are a recent development in celebrity culture would display an alarming lack of historical knowledge; the hugely popular Confidential was the flipside of Hollywood fan magazines in the 1950s, and it was hardly the first scandal sheet?merely the most notable. That being said, the Internet, with a potential for reproduction beyond anything Walter Benjamin could have ever imagined, has had a not-insignificant hand in shrinking the range of the monoculture while simultaneously increasing its scope and depth of focus. In this way the eye of the paparazzi turned towards musicians as much as towards actors and actresses. What was once a shortcoming of fame only faced by music megastars like Elvis, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson, was now a problem facing basically any ing?nue in the music industry. (It’s no coincidence that the coverage skews young and female.)
In some cases, paparazzi coverage can be advantageous to one’s exposure and public image. (See Molly Lambert‘s excellent piece on Blake Lively at Grantland and Anne Helen Peterson‘s follow-up. Or think about how concerned Brooke Hogan really sounded when she sang about the paparazzi on “About Us” while she was regularly appearing on our own Hogan Knows Best.) The strongest anti-paparazzi statements in music videos tend to come from artists whose tabloid coverage has directly affected their lives and/or livelihoods. Lindsay Lohan‘s “Rumors” certainly feels much stronger in retrospect, seven (!) years of life, drama, and tabloid coverage later. Just today she wryly remarked that her house arrest gave her the opportunity to do some much-postponed decorating.
Which brings us to Britney, the most vocal opponent of paparazzi in music video since Michael Jackson. MTV News helpfully gave us a rundown of paparazzi appearances in her videos, noting six examples, one from each album, starting with Oops…I Did It Again, and without even including “I Wanna Go” (the cameras-as-alien-probes imagery in “Hold It Against Me” stands up for Femme Fatale). Her relationship with the tabloid media has never been entirely pleasant, and the relentless coverage of a series of personal and, later, legal struggles she faced in 2006 and 2007 didn’t exactly endear her to paparazzi (or vice versa).