Rihanna unveiled the new music video for her single "We Found Love" Thursday. (Watch it below.) The "gritty" Trainspotting-inspired clip races through the dramatic ups and downs of a tumultuous romance, and features so much suggestive behavior that it makes Britney Spears' eyebrow-raising "Criminal" video "look like afternoon tea with Nan and Grandpa." The video, being praised as the singer's best to date, finds Rihanna and a love interest snorting drugs, chain-smoking, and engaging in lots of squirm-inducing heavy petting. What's obsessing commentators, however, is a possible allusion to the singer's relationship with Chris Brown, which notoriously ended in 2009 after Brown assaulted Rihanna in a car en route to the Grammy Awards. Is "We Found Love" autobiographical?
It's pretty unmistakable: This video is definitely about Chris Brown, says William Goodman at Spin. The video's love interest, with his dyed-blonde hair and bulging biceps, is "a dead ringer" for Rihanna's ex. And when you factor in the video's voice-over — "No one will ever understand how much it hurts" — with an argument scene in the back of a car, during which "the Brown look-alike gives the Barbadian beauty a slap on the face," it couldn't be more convincing that "We Found Love" is about Rihanna's former relationship.
"Is Rihanna's 'We Found Love' video a Chris Brown tribute?"
But why rehash it again? Why did Rihanna decide that now is "the best time to make her most direct allusion to the incident" yet, asks Amos Barshad at Grantland. The singer has gradually been sharing more of her feelings about the relationship — see a recent Esquire interview and two previous videos about abusive relationships. The details in those videos, however, were different enough to let her claim that she wasn't addressing Brown, but this time the references "can't be accidental." Is it time to move on?
"Rihanna's new video stars Chris Brown-like dude"
Either way, the video sends the wrong message: "The video will leave you shell-shocked," says Lulu K. Daniels at Technorati. Its parade of blatant drug usage, smoking, sex, and self-destructive behavior is jarring — and that's just in the first minute. Rihanna is a megastar with the opportunity to influence a legion of impressionable kids — and instead she glorifies harmful behavior almost relentlessly. It's clear that she doesn't care what message she's sending.
"Does Rihanna's 'We Found Love' video send the wrong message?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- The culture war finally comes to the Catholic Church
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
Subscribe to the Week