Monday, May 30, 2011

Rihanna: Man Down Single Review

Rihanna will follow her California King Bed ballad with Man Down, another single taken from her multi-platinum album Loud. Man Down is already being played by radio stations and the video will follow very shorty. The reggae-flavored track tells the story of a woman who shots down a man and is seeking some forgiveness for her actions. Here's what director Anthony Mandler had to say about the video:

“We’ve done 16 videos together; they’re not all tough,” Mandler said when asked about what fans can expect from the new clip. "What we’re coming with next … is certainly gonna flip peoples' minds with ‘Man Down.’ 

“We shot the video in Jamaica and it’s my favorite song she’s ever recorded, so I was really excited to get involved,” he said. “And it’s just one of those songs that demands a strong narrative and visual, and let’s just say she let me go all the way. So I think you can expect something that’s dramatic and shocking and intense and emotional and uplifting and enlightening.”

Man Down sees Rihanna go back to her Caribbean roots, which is nice, and leave the 'safe' pop/dance territory for a while. Doing so and releasing a track in a music genre that is not 'IN' at the moment (and it's been put on shelf for too long) is a rather bold move, but Rihanna has a solid fan base right now and plenty of star power to carry this song on top of the charts, even if it's a reggae number.

It also happens that this is one of the best tracks on her Loud album; matter of fact it's one of the best songs Rihanna has ever recorded. The slightly offbeat lyrics and the raw production both work here and the 'double' chorus (Rum pu-pu-pum/Oh mama mama) is catchy and already a favorite with the fans. I personally wouldn't mind at all if Rihanna went back to chill reggae vibes more often and released more summery, Caribbean-flavored songs.

It's also nice to see Bob Marley's legacy live on - I can't help but think of Marley's I Shot The Sheriff due to the same lyrical content, 'the murder tale' - and Rihanna paying tribute to the legendary reggae artist who is actually one of her favorite musicians ever.

Here's what others had to say about Man Down:

Emily Mackay of NME commented that the album's experiments feel more organic, its tone better paced because of the Caribbean-tinged anthem for doomed youth of "Man Down".

Jon Pareles of The New York Times said that Rihanna plays up her West Indian accent in the electro-reggae of “Man Down” about shooting a lover in a moment of passion.

Entertainment Weekly writer Leah Greenblatt said that "Man Down" burrows neck-deep in island rhythms.

James Skinner of BBC Online viewed "Man Down" as a Caribbean rhythm, where Rihanna relays a break-up as murder metaphor in thick Barbadian patois.

Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine named the song the album's biggest highlight, a full-fledged reggae tune about a woman who shoots a man. He praised the song saying that Rihanna is surprisingly agile in this genre and is one of her finest, most confident vocal performances to date.

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