I think we’ve been watching Rihanna grow into herself since we first heard the bad gal’s dance-infused “Pon de Replay.” Her precision has been gaining her well-respected props as a music mogul.
ANTI is Rihanna’s eighth studio album and has long been anticipated since we last heard RiRi dominating the airwaves in 2012. Since then she's released singles like “FourFiveSeconds” with Kanye West and Paul McCartney, “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen,” which were dominating the charts all of 2015, but unfortunately did not make the ANTI tracklist.
Maybe it’s strategy to keep the media on her, but it’s safe to say Rihanna knows what it takes to direct attention where she wants it.
Rihanna kicks off 2016 from scratch with her first single and collaboration with Drake on the island-rooted jam “Work,” earning her another Hot 100 top-10 hit. From listening to the album repeatedly, it’s hard to dictate what single should follow, but to our surprise it is the Prince-esque synth-inspired love song, “Kiss It Better.”
The music video for “Kiss It Better” was released early morning on March 31. The video is directed by fashion photographer Craig McDean. The black-and-white video features Rihanna aching for a soul that still holds on to the idea of what love should be. The song’s lyrics give us a look into a vulnerable Rihanna, a woman who loses her heart in loving someone who can only bring her harm. She knows that if it’s real, the pain doesn’t matter.
The inspiration for the video gravitates to the thought process of loving someone for a lifetime. “Man fuck yo pride, just take it on back,” belts Rihanna as she contorts her body into various shapes behind lingerie and business suits. Her clothing choices alone allude to the idea that women face obstacles of being too empowered or being too erotic. There is no in-between, but for Rihanna, she does both expertly as she uses partial nudity to bring empowerment to her own body. In these moments of being emotionally scarred and provocative, Rihanna presents what many artists seem to forget, the idea that love is provocative.
Love is a spirit, yet another reason why Rihanna is alone in the video. Loving someone is longing for something that only someone else can give you; it’s about needing someone that can make you feel safe, just by being in their presence.
From this video, Rihanna’s eyes speak volumes of uncertainty. She looks around the empty room; she looks in the distance, alone. Maybe love is like this moment, looking for someone that can’t quite be there, but hoping that they’ll always be around.
The video is about combining things that do not make sense, like your subconsciousness and dreams, they are uncontrollable factors that cannot always be explained. The dice in the opening of the video are used for no particular reason. Although small details like this do not have a sole purpose in the video, they provide another medium of interpretation. Like a lot of Rihanna’s recent work, ANTI gives us the love and the songs, but leaves us to find the healing in the heartbreak.
I look at Rihanna now as a true artist. A woman who knows what message she wants to put into the world. The four-year gap has truly allowed Rihanna to build a foundation around her music and where she plans to go in the future. “Kiss It Better” does a great job of knowing and breaking the societal norm of what sexy and confident should be. RiRi is a not your run of the mill “sex symbol.” Rihanna has now become a woman who is in full control of her body, image and music. Not quite far fetched, but if Rihanna continues on this path, we may very well be witnessing a music icon that will change the music industry for years to come.