Rihanna’s nipples are not the most interesting things about her new music video for Needed Me. Sure, they look great and yes, the video does open with them in all of their glory but when it closes with Ri shooting a man in the face for no apparent reason and getting away in a neon-lit boat while we watch the guy bleed out, the nipples become sort of an afterthought.
I’ll admit I was underwhelmed with the video when I first watched it. Rihanna looks UNREAL but on first watch, it reminded me of a scene from a Michael Bay movie—more Bad Boys than Transformers but Michael Bay nonetheless. Turns out, the video was directed by Harmony Korine, the man behind Spring Breakers, hence the guns, masked men and strippers. Rihanna also doesn’t lip sync a single word of “Needed Me” during this video. I love a good Rihanna music video lip sync. A Rihanna lip sync can leave you questioning your sexuality (just me?) and elevate a song from pretty good to one you want to belt out nonstop in front of the mirror (see: Take a Bow).
On second watch, the video started to grow on me. Then, I read this piece in the Atlantic analysing the fact that this video marks, “the third time that Rihanna has murdered a guy in a music video.” Man Down and BBHMM are the other two. It goes on to discuss whether RiRi is purposefully depicting violent revenge fantasies against men in order to challenge gender stereotypes and cement her bad girl image.
“That disinterest in sending the “right” message, in helping herself to the same buffet of righteous violence, sexual conquest, and money that culture has long availed to men, is Rihanna’s current M.O.”
On some level, she may be subverting the stereotypical image of a docile female and proving that women can be hard as f-ck too but on another, Rihanna may just like looking like a badass. I do like the idea that Rihanna is conslciously using men in her music videos as dispensable props, a role women have been relegated to in the genre consistently, especially since Needed Me includes the amazing line “Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage/F-ck your white horse and a carriage”. So it’s easy to hope the video is a feminist declaration …but… I don’t think it is, on purpose at least.
Rihanna has done a lot of music videos where she doesn’t end up killing a dude. A lot. I once had to watch every one of her videos in a row for work. That was 22 videos at the time. I learned a lot about bed sheets, fashion, shirtless men and myself in that afternoon. Her evolution is very clear. In each video, she is very much declaring who she is at any given moment. Let’s remember, though, that she isn’t as calculated as Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. When Lainey wrote about the ANTI tour she mentioned that Rihanna is “not hyper-controlled and choreographed” and enjoyed that her show prominently featured a wrinkly white sheet because it was refreshing. I’m paraphrasing. My point: Rihanna has a very chill, stripped down vibe right now. I don’t think she gives a f-ck. The video was released as a gift to us on 4/20. She’s having fun. She’s striding through a strip club with a pistol looking as hot and as confident as she ever has.
Maybe we shouldn’t overthink it?