Joe Stile | BASSic
Something to talk about
Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 08:11
Rihanna is a unique pop star. She’s got a superhuman work ethic and she has released seven albums in seven years. Over that short time frame, she’s made well over twenty hits, a collection that few musicians ever match. Her newest album, “Unapologetic,” features yet another collaboration with her infamous boyfriend, Chris Brown. However, the single “Nobody’s Business” ends up failing in a few regards.
What worked with last year’s “Birthday Cake (Remix)” collaboration with Brown was its unabashed willingness to be a perfect mix of sexy and trashy. It’s the kind of song you can’t help but grind to. From its gritty beat to its barely hidden euphemisms, it all sounds just as dirty as we want it to sound. The track is unrepentant in its lustful sound, while the two’s history makes Brown’s lines like, “doggie want the kitty” feel bold and unashamed, especially when they’re given a demonic−sounding echo. Brown and Rihanna are playing off their history on that song and it works because they’re acknowledging it. The song is interesting, at the very least.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about “Nobody’s Business.” From its bouncy beat to its carefree sample of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1987), the song has the feel of a generic ’80s pop song. However, Brown and Rihanna’s unfortunate past makes it hard to just enjoy the song’s pleasant pop sound, as it stubbornly refuses to delve even shallowly into the two’s relationship.
“Nobody’s Business” could have been sung by any musician, especially when the most personal lyrics in the entire song are impersonal statements like, “Let’s make out in this Lexus” and “I want to be your baby/you’ll always be my baby.” While countless songs are wonderful even with unspecific lyrics, these two singers’ disturbing history makes it too difficult for listeners to treat the record like it’s just a simple, catchy ditty.
Rihanna’s slightly auto−tuned and vaguely detached vocals don’t help the song sound personal, either. Rihanna’s made a career off of her ice−pick cold, emotionless singing that usually adds to records. Her frigidness beautifully balances out the overly warm lyrics of “Umbrella” (2007) and her disengaged voice sells her line “we found love in a hopeless place” because she sounds like she’s never been anywhere else.
Comparatively, on “Nobody’s Business,” her “sexy Tin Man” routine just doesn’t work. If the words and her vocals had been highly expressive on the track, it could have been an intriguing look at Rihanna’s likely conflicting feelings toward her tumultuous partner. Instead, the listener is left with a frustratingly opaque jingle. It almost feels as if The−Dream and the song’s other producers randomly picked Brown for the collaboration, unaware of his past misdeeds.
Even if “Nobody’s Business” had just a few lines that shed light on why Rihanna still has feelings for or wants to keep seeing the man who assaulted her only three years ago, it could be an absorbing look into her often−cloaked mind. Unfortunately, fans are left with a generic love song and little perspective into her thoughts.
Woody Allen once said, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” and it seems like Rihanna’s romantic struggles are proof of just that. Rihanna may be able to move past everything that’s happened, but I don’t think the public is quite yet. This is probably why “Nobody’s Business” just doesn’t work as the silly little love song it tries to be.
Rihanna is the top−selling digital artist of all time, and that kind of mass appeal comes from her smart production selection. Sadly, on “Nobody’s Business,” her past stops the listener from just enjoying the tune.
Joe Stile is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in English. He can be reached at Joseph.Stile@tufts.edu.