Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth
American pop star, Rihanna is not a stranger to the exploration of BDSM and grotesque imagery in her music videos. Her vivid video for her 2008 single Disturbia, shadowed the concept of the 2007 thriller of the same name. No one gives nods to the connection between the film Disturbia and Rihanna’s music video, but if you check the plot of the Shia Labeouf film, you’ll learn that the film is based around the main character spying on a neighbor from the window. If you watch Rihanna’s music video closely, you’ll see the opening shots of the pop star performing near and staring outside of a window.
Only film buffs and culture vultures with a poignant eye and knowledge of film genre and trivia would pick up Rihanna’s artful eye and nods to European and American horror and psychological thrillers. The untrained eye would rightly take Bitch Better Have My Money as a commentary on the ongoing race war and imbalance of power in American culture.This video may certainly be grounded in those elements, but we also have to separate ourselves from the idea that all American pop artists are merely shallow narcissists, hiding behind a cloak of production teams who sculpt there talent without adding thoughts of their own.
Before we analyze the blatant themes of revenge, class appropriation and the simulation of reverse lynching of a wealthy American white woman in Bitch Better Have My Money, we must understand that Rihanna is well ahead of popular culture as she grabs concepts and images from film noir (a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations) and modern horror and thriller films that the general public may not be made aware of.
We should also realize that many of the artists who we adorn in their pretty outfits at Cannes and Sundance actually watch the films during the screenings and have discussions and opinions about the highly stylized (minimal and everything in between) work they view.
Rihanna’s intelligence, directorial collaborations and acting chops has been over our heads for years. With that said, she lets us graze over her politically correct explorations of the reality of the American experience in her music video, American Oxygen as she sings about breathing on the steps of the Capital after Eric Garner choked on his last breath. It could be assumed that with Bitch Better Have My Money, Rihanna made a stronger attempt to express her frustrations with America’s racial imbalance of power. She has a pattern of dropping a string of appeasing tracks and music videos before she climaxes with over top satirical parodies of the absurdity of modern culture, like her video for “Pour it Up”, a term which is actually impossible to do (liquid can’t pour upwards) where she dresses in a short blonde wig and twerks, right after Miley Cyrus broke into the music mainstream.
What is Bitch Better Have My Money trying to express?
It’s hard to say as the video is still fresh in our psyches. It’s best to reflect on Rihanna’s work in retrospect because it takes time to find the films, ideas, and concepts she was actually inspired by. She and her teams are not like Scorsese or a director/actor that you can just call for an interview and have them spew every idea they had when they decided to produce a piece of visual art. She lets her work get lost upon the masses and allows the few who understand her brilliance to quietly appreciate it.