Revisiting Rihanna: Rude Boy (2010)

Welcome to our second installment of Revisiting Rihanna, where we go back and look at some of the songs RiRi has released throughout her incredible career. If you missed it, make sure to check out our first entry where we took a look at the 2007 smash hit “Umbrella”. This week, we jump ahead a few years to 2010 and break down another hit – “Rude Boy”.

Released as the third single from Rihanna’s fourth studio album, this song was both a critical and commercial success, although some people did take exception to the song’s sexually suggestive lyrics. In an interview with Us Weekly, Makeba Riddick (one of the co-writers of the song) dished out some of the details on the inspiration for the lyrics:

“[Esther Dean] actually came up with that concept but the song wasn’t done and there were things Rihanna wanted to change, so they brought it to me to finish. I was listening to the words and me and Ri and we were just laughing and talking about so many situations that have happened in the past and that happen to women everywhere. By the time we were done of course, we were laughing and giggling about the lyrics — surprisingly everybody went nuts over the song.”

Writing for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis called the song one of the highlights of the album, and praised Rihanna’s vocal style while Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times praised the complexity of the lyrics:

“The ragamuffin-style “Rude Boy” takes on one such character in a come-on that’s really a devastating taunt. Even as she offers herself in no uncertain terms — “I’m gon’ let you be the captain tonight,” she sneers — she questions his prowess. “Can you get it up? Are you big enough?” she repeats in the singsong chorus, making it tough to imagine that any suitor could rise to this occasion.”

Of course, like most Rihanna songs, you have to talk about the music video. RiRi looks absolutely phenomenal throughout the video, and the camera treats her well with multiple close-ups of her hips (and other areas) as she moves seductively. The video uses strong imagery and color to emphasize the song’s Jamaican roots. In an interview with MTV, the pop star herself stated:

“A lot of my videos are really dark and edgy and tough. ’Rude Boy’ is more playing along the lines from my roots. We used a lot of color, but also the costumes were very Jamaican dance-hall-queen type”

The best part about “Rude Boy”, however, and the entire album in general, is that is proved Rihanna wasn’t going anywhere. The song was released about a year after the infamous Chris Brown incident, and the entire album showed an obvious change in the singer’s tone and lyrics. The album, and the song, were smash hits – it established that not only could RiRi rebound from a terrible incident, she could still thrive, and maintain her position as one of the best entertainers in the world.