“Work,” Rihanna feat. Drake

Rihanna’s newest single, “Work” invokes several motifs from the R&B princess’s career: Drake collaborations, topless photoshoots, and dancehall anthems. Despite the nostalgia of past career moves, “Work” is being touted as the “first” single off of the bad gal’s highly-anticipated album, Anti. It seems Rihanna’s 2015 roster of eclectic singles—the Kanye West/Paul McCartney product “FourFiveSeconds,” ; the trap track, “Bitch Better Have My Money,”; and protest slump, “American Oxygen,”—have been shrugged off as mere promotional singles following the announcement of West’s resignation from his role as Anti’s executive producer.

Tapping into the Caribbean feel of Rihanna’s debut, Music of the Sun, “Work” nevertheless reflects more recent nuances from Rihanna’s catalog. Rihanna’s vocals are tinged with a grittiness absent from Sun and it’s 2006 follow-up, A Girl Like Me; Fenty’s slight rasp colors the erratic verses with a sensuality that trumps the monotony of a nearly incoherent chorus. Furthermore, the heavy autotune used on Drake contribution does nothing to bolster the, otherwise, pristine production. Even Rihanna’s unique mezzo-soprano has been touched up, with the outro showcasing obvious “enhancements.”

Musically, the song relies on an alternating synth-bass line that fuels the characteristic syncopation that has become a trademark feature of contemporary “digital dancehall” hits (see Mr. Vegas and Elephant Man). When dubbed with steel drums strikes and three-note synth leads, the result is a moody, almost retro groove able to heavy the winding melodies of the verse and chorus.

With a three-year hiatus between albums, Rihanna’s decision to announce another comeback with a single titled “Work” rings with an undeniable insincerity. Even so, Rihanna’s conscious return to her roots may very well be the song’s most redefining attribute. In a year flooded with tropical house from the likes of Justin Bieber, we gladly embrace Rihanna’s reclamation of her Barbadian beginnings.

 

Advertisements

Sia, “Reaper”

Sia’s upcoming LP, This Is Acting, collects a handful of shelved songs from the Australian songwriter’s undoubtedly massive archive. Although the 12 tracks (14 tracks if you snatch up the Target Exclusive Version) were returned by the likes of Adele, Beyonce, and Shakira, Sia nevertheless feels the compilation consists entirely of unrecognized hits.

The fun, yet ominous “Reaper,” proves to be one of the most promising of five singles released on iTunes so far . Cowritten and produced with Kanye West for Rihanna’s elusive Anti project, the promotional single is a bass-driven slice of charming pop radio. The upbeat, rhythmic production, however, juxtaposes with Sia’s despondent lyrics, with proclamations such as “So come back when I’m good to go/I got drinks to drink, and men to hold/I got good things to do with my life” meant to ward off an early Death.

While the track will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Sia’s 2014 release, 1,000 Forms Of Fear, the award-winning songwriter revealed her own indifference to the song in a recent Rolling Stone interview.  Sia herself preferred “One Million Bullets” and the Beyonce-outtake,”Footprints,”to the sinister “Reaper,” which was only included on the final tracklist of Acting after her manager’s insistence.

Sure, “Reaper” is no “Chandelier” or “Alive.” However, as pickings from the cutting room floor of one of contemporary pop’s most pervasive songsmiths, the track showcases the flexibility that allowed Sia to transition from indie songstress to pop’s most in-demand writers.

Sia’s This Is Acting hits shelves on January 29th.