Rihanna I Would Kill 4 U

by Elias Tezapsidis

It is fascinating to consider the gigantic omissions mainstream media makes in recapping the past year with delicious “Best of [insert year].” These are omissions of substance, but they are not often included in the discourse of popular culture. They are experiences about losing. Losing jobs, lovers, apartments. The losers’ agency — or lack thereof — is manifested in perhaps deciding a preference to “lose,” guesstimating the long-term result will be worth the sacrifice. Of course, other times exogenous factors create a shared reality where you — and this certainly includes me — have limited power in changing one’s conditions. These are the stories about getting broken up with, getting evicted from a home and — by far the worst of all! — getting fired from a money-producing position. To grasp the impossibility of having it all, please consider the Worst Application of a Venn Diagram, Ever, which I built using the empirical evidence of my entire extended network.

Therefore, to belong in one of the above circles and lose your position in it leads to reasonable agitation. How will you re-enter a circle? Will it be the same one?

The worst condolences arrive in phrases that encourage an unhealthy re-evaluation of one’s self, one that is not necessarily true but makes hardships easier to overcome. Things that sound like “Well, you didn’t really like that job anyway” or “S/he wasn’t the right one.” The idea of substantially reorganizing our own understandings of reality according to drastic changes that have occurred might be a comfortable coping mechanism for modern survival. But it might also be wrong. Therefore, sometimes there is value to our refusal to “move on.” If we were able to re-enter new circles easily, how authentic was our satisfaction while we belonged to the one(s) we lost? Our stubbornness and perseverance exist for a reason: knowing when to not hear others is important.

At the same time, others’ views do matter, even if we have attained the power to not care about them. The views of others’ mattered at one point: they were integral in forming the shared memories that constructed our understanding of the world and our place in it. The multitude of layers that go into creating shared memories is infinite, and that is why “reality” has always been suspect as a concept. The ambivalence exists even in the shared cultural saga that today comprises our history: we don’t know how much resonance was lost over time and which parts were exaggerated, and to what extent.

We encounter differences in the creative representation and recreation of the public narratives that we think of as history. The same “thing” can translate to different memories among different people. In a similar fashion, the way we understand popular culture differs, according to the way we approach it and analyze it. That is why I asked so many people I met for the first time over the last year: “What’s your favorite song from ‘Unapologetic’?” It is an easy strategy to tinker with someone’s views and beliefs without appearing elitist or offensive. It is harmless to ask, yet the responses it renders can be enlightening.

From my perspective as a media consumer, I gained the most over the past year from Rihanna. But before revealing my own personal reasons for awarding the year to Rih, it is important to contextualize the way she is understood as a public person by others. A carefully selected group of exceptional individuals — whose credentials are further analyzed in 1.2 — received the following questions via email:

1. what is your favorite rihanna song?
2. what do you think rihanna does exceptionally, if anything? (sing, dance, twerk etc)
3. what pisses you off about rihanna, if anything? (name, event, incident etc)
4. do you think rih is smart? (y/n, maybe & feel free to expand)

The responses I received are presented in their exhaustive entirety below. Using these four questions as empty blocks to be filled by others facilitated my identification of the recurring themes in the construction of Rihanna’s public persona. Additionally, it enabled me to swiftly proceed in celebrating the contradictions that became apparent through the Rih-poll I conducted.

My endeavor to give constraints and limitations to people’s interpretation of Rihanna in the form of succinct questions ultimately yielded the expected result. The exact thing someone identified as her best attribute someone else considered her biggest flaw. The frequency with which this phenomenon appears in the graph “HER ATTITUDE RIHANNA” demonstrates why she is such a divisive public figure.

Click for large version.

My graphical representation of the responses crystallizes the points where most people tend to agree. Rih’s best quality in the majority’s eyes is what I am going to define as her “badassness.” Her worst quality, according to the poll, is her public love life and its repeated inclusion of Rihanna’s Ex-Boyfriend.


Rih’s badassness is her biggest commercial tool. It is how she appeals to the broad public, representing a sort of “do whatever the fuck you want” brand of feminism while being highly prolific by constantly releasing new music. Beyond the new music, new videos are directed to accompany them, and by extension, so are looks. Adding public appearances, concert-tours and fashion engagements, Rih is the definition of a millennial pop star: a fully diversified brand. Riding or provoking trends, it is obvious that her creative team is excellent in the art of cool-hunting and ceaselessly provoking the audience. She is also kind of queer — if not, then queer-friendly, (in)famously enjoying the company of female strippers and partying hard, never pretending to be pious.

Rihanna refuses to behave in the traditional manner celebrities do when it comes to handling their brand and their relationship with their fans. She doesn’t try too hard to please them, or at least she doesn’t try hard to avoid issues of potential controversy and turmoil. She has consistently demonstrated a lack of hesitation in putting up with people’s shit, which is refreshing. Sometimes she responds to people’s negative comments on Instagram in a petty manner, and it is amazing:

The reason I find that amazing is because it demonstrates that she does not feel obliged to be a classy, nice person in order to respond to people’s expectations. I think that has been a helpful trait for her to maintain a sense of sanity, as she has become a huge media sensation, and one of the most popular people on all social media platforms: she can act selfishly and ignore the projections a massive audience is sending towards her.

Hearing about how amazing Rihanna’s Insta was, I was one of the last people to add yet another tragic social media badge on the online shame wall that will become my legacy when I die. I even named my account in honor of Rih. My willingness to indulge in Instagram, or at least try it, was directly linked to Rihanna. As an adult, this is an embarrassing confession to make, even if I thankfully remain younger than Rihanna. And so is my admiration for someone who is not above being petty.


My actual admiration stems from even darker an origin, the very exact action for which people find her reprehensible. Specifically, her decision to disregard all responsibility she carried as a role-model to young women and remain stubbornly in love with Rihanna’s Ex-Boyfriend. I was certainly not happy for the repercussions linked to her decision to first recognize, and subsequently ignore, feeling a need to live up to public expectations. But I was happy to see someone else dangerously stuck on their first young love, even if I did not want them to work together as a couple.

You see, if I had to imagine Rihanna’s version of the Worst Application of a Venn Diagram, Ever, it would look like this.

Yet, this has not been the case for her in recent times, and here she was with only the ⅔ of the circles intersecting.

Naturally, I am aware that the way I chose to understand this chunk of popular culture was linked to how I felt about all the times I had gone back to someone I thought to be the love of my life. The ugliness of the drug-highs from drugs I never thought I would do and the calls to the police and the fading trust that would never allow for whatever we had to be love again. But I had to go back to understand that. I had to learn by myself, and not through others, not to believe in tyrannical love. To realize that I was wrong in letting myself believe everything would be worthless if that one red circle didn’t work out.

Looking at Rih’s Best Song table, the clear victory of “We Found Love” triggers my curiosity about the shared memory to which it might be connected. Could the shared memory be that of the video accompanying the song? I remember the nihilistic prowess of the sound coming from cars during a summer, their roofs or windows open. The bravado of blasting the song connoted an attitude almost celebrating youth through destruction: “we are young, let’s fuck ourselves over completely.” If anywhere, in New York City it resonates.

The all or nothing all the time mentality suits the dangerous and dark persona Rih has presented to the public since Rihanna’s Ex-Boyfriend beat her at the Grammys. The intro of the video provocatively declares: “you almost seemed ashamed, that someone could be that important. That without them you are nothing.” The grotesque dependency described here is one I can relate to, or at least a former version of me that was more self-destructive and did — a lot — more drugs believed to be true. The truth is the song’s beat continues to do two things to me: it gives me a feeling of intense emptiness for having been unable to find again someone who made me feel the way my first love did, and it makes me want to do a dangerous amount of drugs, because fuck it, I am young. But then at the end, the sight of a mattress without any bedsheets reminds me that I should want more for me. That the intensity and the drama is not worth it; that is not where the meaning of human connection lies.

Coming across the titles of the respondents’ favorite Rihanna songs I remembered that I used to not like her. I used to find her annoyingly prepackaged and modeled ala mini-Beyonce and hated a lot of the songs that launched her career, usually songs featuring an annoyingly repetitive pattern in lyric terms, be it “-ella” or “nananana.” This instigated an internal quest: when was it that I became intrigued by Rihanna first? It was with her sixth album, “Talk That Talk.”

A brief chronology of my growing appreciation for the artist is provided, conveying that I have grown to like her more and more over time, a sentiment which contradicts the general consensus of music critics.

The release of “Unapologetic” was a shockingly blunt provocation. It made it obvious that the performer had rekindled a romantic relationship nobody wanted to see materialize. Rihanna’s Ex-Boyfriend had once again managed to collaborate with her on her new album, and the song was entitled a controversial “Nobody’s Business.” In reality, they both made it all our business, which felt unnecessary. It is important to note that since the time the album was first released in November 2012, Rihanna’s Ex-Boyfriend became her ex-boyfriend, once again. Thus far, it seems like there is no romantic return pending. Following the end of their relationships, tweets were tweeted and social media was used vengefully. Now social media will forever document how they were both unapologetically portraying teenage levels of maturity following what they will probably put behind as their first young love. Rihanna vitriolically hinted at her professional superiority through Instagram. Meanwhile Rihanna’s Ex-Boyfriend asserted — via Twitter — that: “She’s not mine if she’s everybody else’s.”

Overall, Rihanna’s team has succeeded in crafting an image of femininity that is feasible for her to live up to as a young woman who sometimes likes to act indulgently. It is unlike the typical “dual femininity” mold we come across when considering previous female pop-stars, a mold in which to stop being virginal translates to being a slut. Shying away from these two extremes, Rihanna’s current position is empowering for being both sex-positive and simultaneously giving her the creative agency to be much more than the typical female pop-singer.

It seems that Rih is particularly invested in the fashion industry, and has gradually worked towards her immersion as she collaborated with River Island on creating an eponymous fashion line. Rihanna for River Island was heavily promoted online and available to buy at our local Opening Ceremony! Certainly, the biggest selling point is the attachment of the Rihanna brand to the clothes: they are clothes that she created because they are exactly what she wants to wear, or at least that’s what she has to say to promote her products. She also acknowledges that she is not the person who does all the work, crediting Adam Selman (pictured above) as her designer.

It must be amazing to be such a commodification-generator: to just need be to have a unique value that maximizes the fiscal potential of projects, brands, firms. As it must be awful, too. You can never know for sure when your surroundings treasure your presence selflessly, rather than parasitically. But the same sort of ambiguous balance is the one subsiding when one enters a love affair of dependency.


I remember being completely uninterested in the Beyonce documentary that was broadcast about a year ago. Beyonce’s perfection alienates — or rather “alienated,” until the masterful release of her visual album — voyeurs like me. Since last week, her perfection does not particularly bother me as much, and I was happy to learn, through last year’s documentary I ignored, why Beyonce’s face hurts: “Sometimes it feels like I have to walk with a permanent smile on my face, because if I am just normal and I just look around, then somebody might mistake me for a mean person.”

While it saddens me to think about a person who leads a life consciously trying not to upset others, there is a broader implication of a celebrity that understands such a responsibility: the celebrity manages to maintain a section of his/her self private. This private self is not public property; it is for those people who the celebrity chooses to be intimate with. That takes away the danger of feeling like you have made everything available for sale.

This should not be misconstrued as me (the writer) thinking the actions of one of the two performers is superior or wiser. Rather, it should be perceived as me (the person) knowing that some experiences are not meant to become public property.

If it feels like I let that happen, please know that it was a choice I made carefully, accepting at last that “s/he wasn’t the right one.”

That is why for me, Rih is the best. We both stubbornly persisted, then lost, then accepted to hear what others knew all along.

Are we finally able to sense irony’s ontological weight on an affective level.


Deciding who the right people to ask these questions was a somewhat random process, but it was not haphazard in terms of demographic representation. The pool included a significant number of individuals of diverse identities: race, color, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Including artists, lawyers, writers, editors, pop-music-aficionados, graduate students and financial analysts, many of the respondents are my friends, or people I admire and respect. Women working at the IMF and the UN, men from Jamaica — ven a Canadian! Many live in foreign countries, like France or Greece, while others live in the US but are Turkish emigrants. Even a former Def Jam intern, who once found herself in the bathroom with Rihanna Herself, provided her insight.

Further breaking down of their identities sans the consideration of how they themselves identify would be presumptuous and disrespectful on my end. Thus, the only trait I reveal about them is their gender, a paragon that I think should be considered when dissecting a public figure like Rihanna.

I intentionally did not edit the responses to let some of their personality come through, even in their anonymity. (Also, because they are funnier this way, and can be interpreted as elliptical enigmas or riddles.)


The numbers never lie! That is somewhat true, so I tried to compile a list that objectively encapsulates what the people’s favorite song by Rihanna is. The arithmetic reality that came about is derived from the research presented in the appendix, in addition to the responses I received after posting the question on this site.

It is important to publicly acknowledge that I was somewhat lenient with the enthusiasm of some respondents who gave more than one song as an answer. I also was biased in not recognizing the song “Diamonds” was named three or four times, because I hate it and we can all agree we are totally over it forever.

*STUFF NOT HERS: This category was a result of multiple people naming Rih’s collaborations with Jay-Z, Eminem and Drake, or even stating specifically: “I like Rih’s features on other people’s songs.” I also added a misidentified A$AP Rocky song to this list, because she appears in the video for the song and I think that it was a hilarious error to make.

OTHER RIHANNA SONGS: The high number of songs that appear solely as one person’s favorite is fascinating. Rihanna releases a lot of music, but there is so much to choose from there is little crossover in consensus towards her best song — beyond the ultimate winner “We Found Love.”

Elias Tezapsidis is a generalist writer and an aspiring human being based on Avenue D. Also, a twitter handle and a website. One day, a book?


Respondents were asked:

1. what is your favorite rihanna song?
2. what do you think rihanna does exceptionally, if anything? (sing, dance, twerk etc)
3. what pisses you off about rihanna, if anything? (name, event, incident etc)
4. do you think rih is smart? (y/n, maybe & feel free to expand)

1. Man

1. Don’t Stop the Music
2. She poses real well/photogenic
3. Chris Brown
4. Maybe — She’s got her hands in many pots (scents, music, clothing etc etc) but I can never sense her curatorial presence in anything she does or samples.

2. Woman

1. i think we found love is hands-down her “best” song. 2nd place is rude boy. but my secret, true favorite is umbrella, bc I banged my first boyfriend to it in my parents’ car in 2007. that is the most american-suburbia story ever.
2. riri is not an exceptional singer. her vocal tics can be kind of irritating. but she IS the world’s most famous and powerful female badass, which is totally astounding considering she was infamously beaten by her boyfriend. so…branding? sheer force of charisma? nietzschian alchemy?
3. this kind of thing and the fact that she just did not give a FUCK betrays a nihilism that is both off-putting and also something I can’t help but admire. she doesn’t seem to care in the slightest about being perceived as a ‘good person’ and is totally unwilling to be a female sacrificial lamb, maybe because of the chris brown incident. she rejected being a victim and in doing so rejected most of our collective narratives about female celebrities, which is actually what i love about her. i guess it’s really hard for riri to piss me off?
4. she’s a genius in her own way. see #2. I mean she is not instagraming her copy of “existentialism from dostoevsky to sartre” a la sasha grey and she’s not showcasing her impressive vocabulary via op-eds about the revolution like r. brand, but bitch is clearly not DUMB and i will fight anyone who says so. does anyone actually care about this question? like, shut up and go watch the pour it up video again.

3. Man

1. My favorite Rihanna song is probably “Where Have You Been” only because it’s the only song by her that I find almost trance-like. As though when I listen to it, whatever I’m doing or thinking is completely enveloped in the song. While I love other tracks of hers, that’s the only one that elicits such a response.

2. I do think she’s a very talented vocalist, definitely, but what I think Rihanna does exceptionally is conveying an attitude of being above rivalry with other pop and r&b; artists that she’s often compared to/measured up against. She just seems to not give a fuck and wants to make music and enjoy herself, which I admire.

3. Nothing specific comes to mind, other than the fact that I think she tends to release music too quickly in so far as she doesn’t give herself a chance to step away from the industry for a while and really spend time with the music she intends to release. This is the first Fall/Winter in four years that she hasn’t had a new album so I think maybe she’s finally breaking that habit and hopefully her next album is her best yet.

4. I think she’s smart in that she doesn’t let herself get bogged down in the pop/r&b; diva music game (which I mentioned above). Though she did have that Twitter feud with Ciara — but even that was just her maintaining her “doesn’t give a fuck” attitude which I still admire. Whether she’s intelligent in terms of academics, I have no idea. But from what I gather, I think she has a pretty decent business mind.

4. Man

1) rude boy
2) the whole “I’m a sort of strong independent woman but also a dirty whore who’s somewhat vulnerable and just wants to be tossed around” this tension exists in her voice even
3) her “film career”
4) I think she’s of average intelligence but no closet genius like I am

5. Woman

1. Let’s see…. Lately or the most recent songs I have been into of hers were “We Found Love” and “Diamonds” but I’m not sure they qualify as favs. I loved “Unfaithful” when it first came out when we were much younger. The lyrics are pretty dumb/cheesy but it stuck with me. I’d say honestly that Shut Up and Drive is one of her best songs even though it didn strike popular appeal like some of her other stuff. It’s a little more powerful in a way I like which makes me want to skip to question 3, and yes I’m going to give the stereotypical response: the way she dealt with the Chris Brown situation. She didn’t use it a an opportunity to show how powerful and resilient a strong female could be and that’s frustrating as she holds an extremely influential position in popular culture, especially for young females.

2. I actually think she’s pretty well-rounded. She can dance, her voice is beautiful and strong rather than breath-y like a lot of other female artists of our generation. Her background is something I love and as someone who followers her on Instagram, I think her independence is thriving and she doesn’t have PR people editing her every move so the image she creates belongs more to her than many celebrities can claim. I guess that last bit is what I like best. Oh and of course her performances are some of the best out there, Id love to have seen her enter the stage at MSG riding an army tank…

4. Yes I do. I think if she wasn’t, she’d have just let Publicity and the press do all the work for her but she maintains a voice in her work and her public appearance. To do what she has done, especially at her age and to have kept herself in the spotlight as long as she has is nothing to scoff at, it’s impressive. There’s plenty to criticize but that can be said for any artist, it’s just a matter of what counterbalances those critiques and she’s got plenty.

6. Woman

1. stuff where she’s just a featured artist — like run this town (jay-z, kanye) or bad remix (wale). but i did kind of like the music video for rude boy
2. she’s good at creating a persona and selling it. (though how much of this is other people / marketing strategies?) sometimes i like her outfits.
3. nothing really. sometimes i feel bad for her because she is so young.
4. i guess see #2, though i don’t know if smartness has anything to do with that.

7. Man

1. My favorite Rihanna song is “Umbrella,” because it is her best song.
2. I think Rihanna has developed an exceptional persona, by positioning herself as a lightning rod for controversy and envelope-pushing. Her general attitude of fuckslessness makes her feel compelling and dynamic; she’s become a bona fide style icon by taking risks that others wouldn’t and don’t; her music complements that by being, especially as of late, appropriately dark and turbulent, more so than a lot of her pop contemporaries. But that just reinforces the persona; I don’t think the music is front and center.
3. I know that Rihanna has the right to make her own decisions, and she has the prerogative to return to her abuser. That said! I found it reprehensible that she gave an interview to ‘20/20’ where she acknowledged her position as a role model — she called her decision to return to Chris Brown “selfish,” and then said, “Even if Chris never hit me again, who is to say that their boyfriend won’t? Who’s to say that they won’t kill these girls? These are young girls, and I just didn’t realize how much of an impact I had on these girls’ lives until that happened. It was a wake-up call.” — and then returned to him, over and over again, even going so far as to duet with him on an album. That felt like a slap in the face after she had admitted that she had a responsibility to the public.
4. I do think Rihanna is smart, at least insofar as she’s an exceptional self-promoter with a great knack for curating good songs and cultivating an image — but I also think that she’s impulsive and nearsighted.

8. Man

1. We Found Love
2. look blase
3. her Chris Brown drama
4. TBD

9. Woman

Disturbia, forever and always. But I don’t have any opinions about her talent or lack thereof. She seems to be business savvy. I feel bad that her personal life has been in the media as much as it has, since she’s free to make whatever decisions she wants (re: Chris Brown), but someone is always going to be disappointed with them.


10. Woman

I don’t know any Rihanna songs………..fail.

Except that one with Eminem. I really liked that song — literally years after everyone else. I’d be happy to give you my opinion about 2013 Rihanna in 2015.

11. Man

1. I know it sounds pretentious but I can’t think of one off the top of my head because I don’t like popular music.

2. She is famous so she probably sings and dances pretty well. I think she is most famous for this, but maybe it’s just all attitude or good marketing.

3. Nothing about her per se, but the representation of sexuality, femininity marketed through her visage does upset me. She’s interchangeable with any bullshit pop star in this regard.

What’s an adolescent, male or female, supposed to do with shit like this? I know intellectual type people like to venerate popular culture these days, highlight whatever superficial transgressive qualities it might have to avoid being snobs or whatever. Or just pretend to be down to earth by vegging out on Beyonce singles. I call bullshit on that. It’s still sexist, absurd, and — most importantly — bad music. Young people have culture like this to represent their generation, to identify their hopes and dreams with. The answer that it’s just entertainment to me is a copout. It’s a salient part of our culture, a language we use to relate to and define ourselves and others. That it can be so commodified, sexualized, and stupid to me is a sadness. But
hey, I’m a killjoy curmudgeon I guess.

4. I have no idea. Probably, because she is so rich.

12. Woman

1. Talk that talk
2. Catchy sexy songs that appeal even to pop culture outcast squares like me
3. CHRIS BROWN. Mostly I hate Chris Brown which is not her fault. But she should stop talking about it in public and deal with her issues in private with a therapist that’s not Oprah.
4. Yes, in her niche. She clearly knows what she’s doing with her music and image. No idea if she’s smart outside of it.

13. Woman

I haven’t studied for this test!

14. Man

1. shut up and drive
2. if im allowed to answer abstractly i’d say provoke. if not i’d have to say sing, i do believe she has a good voice
3. hands down the fact she got back with chris brown, i think after the beating people looked up to her and she gave a truly shitty example. plus she tries to pass off that bad girl image that is tacky at times, i think she is classier than that
4. the fact alone that we are the same age and she has a net worth of 90 million says yes, but apart from that i think she reinvents herself and that’s crucial for an ever-changing industry

15. Woman

(hey, dont judge me for my spelling. im textin before i get on a flight to sri lanka.)

1. i actually like many of her songs…and features on other songs. she really cant write though… that seems to go poorly for her but i like her music.. pon de reply, say my name, we found love, diamonds, rude boy, please dont stop the music…i could go on but im not into her personna.. im not sure why. i guess her voice shows emotion but she doesnt have one of those celebrity personna that i warm to (eh hem like Beyonce 😉 )
2. shes just a beautiful girl with an interesting voice. she cant dance…i think her looks are the most interesting thing about her then her voice.
3. she sorta comes off as a shell of a person. i think part of her apeal or rather, what makes her interesting, is the way she projects a beautiful vulnerability in her presence and voice. i wouldnt say she irritates me but she her vulnerabilty is interesting and frustrating at the same time.
4. i do think shes an idiot and seems to be a perpetul victim. she wont take control, she s falls in and out of situations…from her terrible record contract to her relationship with c. brown…she comes off as a romanticized victim.
this feels harsh…i dont see any signs that she is intelligent but as a singer she is worth listening to.

16. Man

1. Favorite song — I really like her mostly for her features with Eminem and Jay Z and while I heard a lot of her songs because they’re catchy I don’t know much about her albums. I think if pressed for one I’d go with We Found Love because I always notice it when I’m out.

2. I do like her voice, I think the most striking thing about her is the seductive appeal that’s in how she carries herself. Not necessarily a dance move or anything like that but she just projects sex appeal very effortlessly.

3. Don’t know too much about her and always thought that outside of the Chris Brown thing she hasn’t had too tumultuous of a public life (no idea). Don’t have any negative feelings about her, kinda neutral.

4. Maybe she is smart. I imagine that entertainers like her are never given enough credit for the stresses and obstacles they have to deal with. She’s made it this far which is admirable and so there has to be something sharp about her.

17. Man

1. My favorite riri song is Firebomb
2. I think she smokes a blunt exceptionally
3. That she goes back to Chris brown
4. I don’t think she’s “book” smart but she’s singer savvy

18. Woman

1. Take Care (which is actually by Drake but heavily featuring Rihanna — I love the video), but also We Found Love and Rude Boy.
2. Rihanna does Rihanna well. She is the brand. Case in point: http://www.thefader.com/2013/11/15/interview-venus-x-rihanna-ghetto-goth-ghe20-gothi1/ (appropriation, but she branded that shit as her own and herself. She can sell not doing anything.)
3. That very thing she does exceptionally well — sell herself. If only I could get paid to just be me. It’s slightly a love-hate piss me off kind of thing.
4. Yes. She just far enough ahead of the game (fashion, music, etc.) to keep it new and fresh.

19. Man

1. What’s My Name — I hated this song when it came out, but it really grew on me. It’s light, fun, and durable.
2. I think her big talents are just choosing material and being prolific. And I love the string of songs, Rude Boy, What’s My Name, Man Down, and You Da One — these ones feel the most distinctly hers to me, if only b/c they wouldn’t work coming from someone else.
3. Nothing pisses me off, although I obviously feel uncomfortable about her love life. I can’t pretend to be genuinely invested in it, but every time I hear a Rihanna song I’m conditioned to think “poor Rihanna,” which can’t not make her music a little sad.
4. No idea. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interview with her.

20. Woman

(Waking up to this email was like Christmas come early.)

1. This is so hard. There are Rihanna phases in one’s life. I really liked We Found Love, obvs, and Birthday Cake, duh, and the first four songs (+ Stay) on Unapologetic are just great (the rest of the album, not so much). I would have to say the Rihanna song that endures past the party phase, the depressing phase, and the regret phase would have to be You Da One

2. I think Rihanna is a great singer, to be honest, especially in view of other pop singers who may sing well but just constantly blow it (ahem, Ke$ha). She knows exactly how to use her voice: she’s never screaming 100% of every lyric 100% of the time over the 100% loudest beat she could buy (s/o Adele, Alicia Keys, Beyonce). The other thing that I think was brilliant was her SNL performance. That shit was genius. That green screen! But that moment serves the point I’m trying to make: what was extra amazing about the SNL performance was precisely that there was nothing going on on stage except for her singing. We could look and laugh at the dolphins swimming through space and time behind her, but it wasn’t enough to distract from the fact that she was singing her ass off. I mean, this is all assuming that everyone knows what Rihanna does the best is not give two fucks about any of us (see below).

3. Her Instagram feed. I followed her for so long but had to give up. A person just can’t dump 16 photos in a row and think that’s OKAY. (See, also: Brown, Chris [sociopath])

4. I’m hesitant to go on the record and say whether I think Rihanna is smart or not because, well, I don’t know her. I look at her Instagram feed and the aftermath of her getting beaten up by Chris Brown and I suppose I could say “this bish is dumb.” But I think she very carefully guards her emotional state — and that’s all she has and has to do in this world. I remember watching her interview/inquisition with Diane Sawyer post-assault and feeling so uncomfortable, thinking “Rihanna is dead behind the eyes.” But I don’t think getting beaten by Brown, going back to him, having a weird interview makes her smart or dumb, per se. I think it was a window into how difficult it is to curate a public life. What is so smart about Rihanna is her embrace and use of coldness, distance, and disaffection: they make her look like she doesn’t give two fucks about what any of us think, and that’s exactly what she needs to do to afford her some time and space for herself. Genius.

21. Man

1. Fashion Killer (not sure if that one counts as a Rihanna song — if not — then the one that you played when we were at Sigmund’s)
2. Self-promotion
3. I think it was originally that I found her singing voice annoying and whiny, so I didn’t understand her popularity, besides that she was hot. I still don’t enjoy her music and she’s bigger than ever.
4. Yes — she’s become that successful and seems very much in control of it.

22. Woman

Δεν ξέρω σχεδόν τίποτα για την Rihanna, δεν ξέρω πόσο χρήσιμη μπορώ να είμαι. Δεν ακούω τέτοια μουσική, οπότε δεν έχω ιδέα αν χορεύει/τραγουδάει καλά. Ξέρω αυτό που την είχε δείρει ο γκόμενος της και τον είχε συγχωρήσει (τραγικό, αλλά την λυπάμαι περισσότερο) ξέρω ότι γενικά ποστάρει μαλακίες στο instagram για να ασχολείται ο κόσμος. Την θεωρώ έξυπνη αφού κατάφερε να γίνει τόσο διάσημη, δεν είναι και το πιο εύκολο.

(Translation: I don’t know almost anything about Rihanna, I am not sure I can be helpful. I don’t listen to that kind of music, so I don’t know if she dances/ sings well. I know about her getting beat up by her boyfriend and how she forgave him (tragic, but I feel even more sorry for her). I know that she posts bullshit on Instagram to get people talking. I think she is smart, for managing to become so famous; it cannot be that easy.)

Eventually added: “We Found Love”

23. Woman

this email is giving rihanna too much credit

24. Woman

1. Te amo

2. Maintain her complexion, change styles and keep each one real, shake her booty like at that concert in the uk — ooo sooooo good.

3. Chris brown thing duh, that she acts/portrays herself as dumber than she is, and her instagram is gross

4. See above. Please notify me if you’d like expansion.

25. Man

1. Get It Over With. it is the sequel 2 Dreamssss.

2. what she does best is evaluate talent. writers, producers, dancers/strippers. but I would add that her voice, while not extraordinary, smells like sex.

3. I think all the idgaf occasionally goes too far and leads to a lack of brand awareness. like she reminds me of that Angela Hayes line: ‘I am so sick of ppl taking their insecurities out on me’, like she’s probably a constant buck-passer. she’s kind of grown into a mean girl which is weird and would never have happened, for instance, during that amazing redhead/flapper/Loud period.

4. I think she is incredibly smart, with the occasional administer of embarrassing naïveté. true of pop stars and presidents. not at all smart in like an intellectual way.

26. Woman

1. Stay. (I know it should be a raw dance song but, if anything, that should tell you how much I love Stay and also yearns for that bathtub.)
2. She attitudes. (not a typo)
3. Nothing.
4. Yes, I cant compare her to anyone else and I can only judge her from what I know of her, as a professional entertainer, but I think to be where she is, she must be smart.

27. Woman

1.Umbrella, (Close 2nd: Shy Ronnie)
2. Sing
3. Nothing
4. Never heard her speak, so don’t know.

28. Man

None. Nothing. Hearing about her. Maybe, but it wouldn’t matter.

29. Woman

1. what is your favorite rihanna song?
found love vs. calvin harris
2. what do you think rihanna does exceptionally, if anything? (sing,
dance, twerk etc)
i think her voice is kinda unique and strong. u add her sexy moves on top of that, and then she becomes the it girl!
3. what pisses you off about rihanna, if anything? (name, event, incident etc)
in some of her songs, she sounds like a whining cat or just a bit too much (e.g. diamonds in the sky). i mean i know i said i like her voice, but still she kinda becomes annoying sometimes. also, i sometimes find her looks and over-confident attitude over the top.
4. do you think rih is smart? (y/n, maybe & feel free to expand)
maybe, never thought of this. I would say she is not that smart, so no. At college, my best friend (Ira) and I were always talking about how she looks like one of the ‘SuperAmerica’ cashier girls.. kinda cheap and not so smart.

30. Woman

> 1. what is your favorite rihanna song?
> 2. what do you think rihanna does exceptionally, if anything? (sing,
> dance, twerk etc)
> 3. what pisses you off about rihanna, if anything? (name, event, incident etc)
> 4. do you think rih is smart? (y/n, maybe & feel free to expand)

Envoyé de mon iPhone

31. Woman

favorite rihanna song is only girl (in the world)

i think rihanna is great at instagram

i wouldnt call myself a fan of hers in any capacity, but she doesnt really piss me off at all either. by default chris brown is the thing that upsets me most about rihanna. i know they’re young but i wish she felt empowered enough to move on romantically. she seems like a fun person and he seems like a damaged person who needs help and wont get it so long as people are validating him and making excuses for him (which is really what bothers me about chris brown, not rihanna, i guess).

i dont pay too much attention to her persona aside from her instagram, i find many celebrities are dumb in the traditional academic sense because they never had proper schooling and have people writing their words for them for god knows how long, but they’re obviously smart in ways most people aren’t. i think rihanna’s smart. her life seems authentic to me. i feel like if someone gave me that voice, money, and body, my early-20s self would be similar to rihanna’s (not the chris brown part, but she’s not afraid to party without becoming a total train wreck). i dont know, i like her. i think she’s living her truth.

32. Man


33. Man

1. Umbrella. I don’t think it’s the best song she’s made but it’s the song I always go back to and probably the one that makes me miss having a car to play it really loud in the most. It’s in the top three most seminal pop songs, the video really marking that mid 2000s moment when director Chris Applebaum was at the height of his career.

2. Throwing shade. She kills it with the looks on stage too, her Grammy performance of “Stay” (besides showing off her voice) captivated just with glances directed toward the audience. She gives and gives and gives.

3. I really don’t like that she keeps doing songs with Chris Brown. I start thinking about it too much and get frustrated. Then I think who cares she’s a grown ass woman who’s to tell her what to do. But, then again, the way she represents herself should not be judged by me, a man, the way she could be judged by her peers.

4. She doesn’t seem like the smartest celebrity in interviews but she’s made a lot of good decisions in regards to her career so I’d say probably. If she’s gotten this far she’s at least had the foresight to say yes to enough people and projects. Her public image has been proven again and again to avoid criticism even though her lifestyle embraces popularly criticized activities (cheers).


1. Only girl in the world (it was #1 on the charts and always on the radio when I got my first car so always reminds me of my first tastes of freedom)
2. She makes songs that make me want to dance (and after a drink or two make me think I’m also Riri (please don’t attach my name to this quote))
3. I don’t want to be mad at her for taking back Chris Brown because I want to respect that it’s her choice, but WHY? That guy is such a mess.
4. I think she is a pop genius. She’s one of the most prolific hit-makers around right now. She’s managed to make it into the world of high fashion magazines without conforming to the rules of high fashion, and while I don’t always understand it, her branding is her own.

35. MAN

1. shut up and drive. So dirty and good (bad) vid
2. I guess she can sing
3. her use of Caribbean twang when and where she wants to
4. I can’t tell if she is intelligent but she has done well for herself