Believe it or not, Rihanna is not flying around in a plane just to torture journalists. Unapologetic, her seventh studio album in as many years, is out this week, and with it comes all the thorny questions about Rihanna and her ex-boyfriend and forgiveness and whether anyone but Channing Tatum should be allowed to appropriate "Pony" in 2012. Let's break it down, shall we?
Does Rihanna have a sincerity problem?
As you will have gathered from the title, Unapologetic is an act of defiance and Rihanna's messy attempt to sort out her feelings about her famous ex and her public image. She sings specifically about the assault and its aftermath; the overall tone is moodier. At the same time, she's inviting her abuser back onto her album (for the second time in a year); she's trotting him around on interviews; she's describing her songwriting process like this: "It's gotta be tweet, retweet, trending topic!" It is Rihanna's right to turn her life into music, of course, and if everyone else can make money off her situation, then so should she. But does the opportunism undermine the sentiment? Or does the "don't give a fuck" attitude excuse promotional gambits, too?
Has "Diamonds" grown on you?
It's currently No. 2 on Billboard and will surely topple Maroon 5 in the next couple of weeks — but Vulture will admit that it took us a few weeks to come around on "Diamonds." Really, it took until that Kanye remix, because the Tay Zonday shout-out was weird and hilarious. How long has it been since Rihanna herself did anything that fun?
… except for "Nobody's Business," of course. Why? Why that song?
This is, without question, the best guest appearance on Unapologetic (sorry, Future). Eminem, what happened? Couldn't you have given us something else to focus on? Made this whole experience a little easier?
Did Rihanna ask Channing Tatum's permission to use "Pony"?
We refer, of course, to "Jump," which is Rihanna's Zeigeist-y dubstep take on the Ginuwine classic. It is a very good song. It should have been Channing Tatum's song.
Unrelated to the music, but: Why didn't Rihanna just get on the damn 777 PA system?
You'll have heard about the #rihannaplane, which flew 200 journalists and fans to seven cities in seven days with the promise of exclusive access to the singer. "Exclusive access" turned out to mean "ten minutes spent watching Rihanna pour Champagne all over a jet, followed by six days of tour hell," which the reporters probably should have seen coming — but it does not change the fact that when the plane staged a revolt, chanting "Just one quote" and "save our jobs," Rihanna did not even bother to wave from first class. Nor did she throw the finger at the press before going to hang with the fans on the plane, who signed up for the trip because they actually like Rihanna. She apparently did a catwalk down the aisle as they landed in New York. So, uh, maybe it was just a safety thing?