Warning, explicit content to follow :)
When I bought my car in September, one of my favorite things about it was the satellite radio. On a vacation to Boston the summer before, Ronald and I became hooked on a radio station called AltNation. Indie rock to the max. Needless to say, this became the station regularly played in my car for the past 6 months. However, every now and then I do come up for some pop air and stray from my wonderful indie rock.
Lately I've been getting one of these pop fixes. The top 20 station is usually playing The Black Eyed Peas' "Imma Bee" or Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" or her duet with Beyonce, "Telephone." Every now and then I'll also catch New Republic's "All the Right Moves." (Here's a confession: I love every one of those songs. I can't help it. Pop has the place of being like junk food for my brain. I know it's crap. But. I. Love. It.)
Anyway, another song I've heard a few times now is Rihanna's "Rude Boy" which is the subject of this blog. When I first heard it a few lyrics stood out to me and I began to think of it as an anthem for healthy, consensual, communicative sex. And after reading the full lyrics, I have some thoughts on it.
Let me back up. We all know Rihanna's history. Her abuse (inflicted by then boyfriend, Chris Brown) was made painfully public and discussed and analyzed by everyone under the sun, including yours truly. And I've been worried about her...would she go back to him? Would she go down in history as that girl who was smacked around by Chris Brown? Thankfully, we can now see the answer to both questions is no. Her latest album is doing well (it went platinum) and she's even been a critical part of one of my favorite recent SNL digital shorts, Shy Ronnie. Rihanna's not moving on without acknowledging her recent past, however. The latest album, Rated R, features an angry tone and I feel like her photograph on the album cover is no accident. (Covering the right side of her face which was most battered by Chris Brown.) I think she's moving forward in what seems to be a healthy manner...not forgetting what she's been through in her past, but making her present her own.
Ok, so on to "Rude Boy." When I was riding in the car the first time I heard it I was struck by how sexual it was. My point isn't to comment on how our society is becoming more and more sexual...I'm going to take it from the perspective that Rihanna is a 22 year old woman who is capable of expressing her sexuality through her art. My point is that, rather, I was just taken a back for a minute by just how sexual it is. (There's a reason the album is called Rated R.)
The second time I heard the song, however a few lyrics stood out to me and made me think that the song could be an anthem for healthy, consensual, communicative sex, as I mentioned above. Specifically, Rihanna sings:
I like the way you touch me there
I like the way you pull my hair
Babe, if I don't feel it I ain't faking, no, no
I like when you tell me 'kiss you here'
I like when you tell me 'move it there'
All too often, women are not assertive in their sexual relationships and put up with...well bad sex because they're too embarrassed or afraid to say what they really want. Here, Rihanna is showing that it's ok to say what you want and to be told what to do to pleasure your partner. And if she doesn't like it, she's not going to fake it! Pretty cool, huh? I mean, what is more of a sign of a woman playing the role of a sex object and pandering to the sexual shortcomings and ego of a man more than to fake an orgasm?
But then I read the full lyrics and a few things stood out to me...at first I was concerned about this:
Tonight I'ma let you be the captain
Tonight I'ma let you do your thing, yeah
My initial thoughts: Really? Let a man take charge in a sexual situation? How novel. No one has EVER done that before. But then I kept reading and the next verse reads:
Tonight I'ma give it to ya harder
Tonight I'ma turn ya body out
Relax; let me do it how I wanna
If you got it I need it and I'ma put it down
Buckle up; I'ma give it to ya stronger
Heads up; we could go a little longer
Ok, now we're talking...I get it. Sometimes he's in control, sometimes you are. And that's how sex lives should be, right? It's not about one person's desires, pleasures, and control...it's about a balance between the two individuals involved.
All in all, I think that "Rude Boy" is, by comparison to most R&B/Rap songs about sex, pretty damn egalitarian. And while I still cringe slightly at the idea of younger children listening to the song, it's another reason for me to love Rihanna and not feel so bad when this song is stuck in my head.