Rihanna goes overboard

Sarah Rosenberg

I remember when Rihanna first became a pop sensation. She had that innocent persona of a foreigner – a young Barbados native, with a shockingly talented voice. She sang love songs, with that cute, Caribbean-tinted voice, reminiscent of reggae but all the more fun to dance to. Jay-Z’s protégé had made a name for herself, but maybe she thought she was too run-of-the-mill. Maybe Rihanna wanted the edge that would separate her from all other pop stars on the map. Now, in 2011, Rihanna has definitely succeeded in that personal endeavor.

Rihanna has certainly become darker not only with her music, but also with her personal fashion choices. I can’t remember the young, fresh-faced pop star from a few years back. When I think of Rihanna, I think of dark lipstick, leather shorts and tattoos covering her body. Most recently, she has proven herself to be risqué, daring and bold in her video for her newest single, “S&M.”

Before I delve into the fashion featured in the racy video, note the key lyrics of the song itself: “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.” People had been enlightening me about such lines before I even heard the song, but I was hesitant to listen to it. When Rihanna first came out with “Rude Boy,” I was inherently shocked. But, I think that’s exactly the reaction Rihanna is looking for.

So, to accompany the song, Rihanna created a video to contest with the lyrics. Her fashion choices, although somewhat interesting, definitely match the tone and message of the song itself. Before you watch the video, if you choose to do so, prepare yourself for the attack of candy colors in different scenes, as well as the contrast of the black and white during the darker ones. One of the opening scenes involves Rihanna sporting a blood-red wig in a slanted room with pink zebra stripes. The “trippy” scene also shows her wearing a tiara, a green and black-and-white striped fur stole, and a bandeau reading “Censored.” Rihanna runs around in her princess playhouse, except the man strapped to a chair in the background is anything but playful.

To convey the harshness of being in the spotlight of the media, Rihanna wears a black and white dress mimicking newspaper clippings as media personnel saran-wrap her to a wall, snapping photos of her in this plastic bubble. Obviously, Rihanna’s artistic, metaphorical attempt to suggest being in the spotlight, while still not apologizing for expressing her sexuality, is admirable. But I am not sure why she has to put the so-called journalists and photographers in bonds, while gagging them in the process.

Rihanna also attempts to play the part of seductress, wearing a white patent leather two-piece suit and spiky heels. She carries around a whip for her “playmates,” whipping men that are duct-taped to walls and mattresses in a dreary basement. She bonds herself in one scene as well, looking alarmingly childlike wearing pigtails and a polka-dot leotard. However, what was most disturbing to me was Rihanna’s display of her “fruity” costumes. Looking like a modern Chiquita, she wears headdresses made of flowers or life-size apples, while sensually eating a bejeweled ice cream cone. She also seductively peels and eats a banana. The sexual innuendos are clear.

Strange isn’t even the proper word for these scenes, and I have to wonder how drastically Rihanna goes from dark to colorful with each scene. Is she describing her music? Is she emphasizing her attitudes toward the media? Or, is she communicating her sexuality in its many diverse forms? It’s amazing what high fashion and a little bit of lighting can do for musicians these days, whose lyrics always turn into an extravagant visual display through their music videos. Clearly, Rihanna is no exception. But, at the end of the day, I applaud any musician for getting artistic, no matter how graphic or rebellious their art might be.

Watch the video here