Rihanna’s latest video (Pour it Up) appears to be throwing down a gauntlet to Miley Cyrus. Who can be more ‘sexualised’? Whose video can show more flesh and be least appropriate for its tween market? Who can outrage the Daily Mail and the ‘twittersphere’ more? As predictable as it is, Rihanna’s twerking and pole-dancing is putting her back in the sites of media commentators (irony alert) and she is now, for the moment at least, the new focus of pornification-panic. (I can’t escape the image that this vying for the limelight will culminate in a grand Running Man style ‘battle of the twerkers’ where the winner gets all the media attention for a whole year…)
Having viewed the ‘offending’ video (and contributed to Rihanna’s ever increasingly deep pockets – irony alert #2) I would like to offer a different thing to be offended over. Pop starlets can hardly be blamed for maximising their careers whilst they can and so the titilation and stripper-vibe may be crass and tacky but is perhaps not quite as crass and tacky as the fact the vocal sounds like she phoned it in and she’s happy to offer such a second rate product to her loyal fanbase. More than this though, what is truly offensive and tasteless is the ‘message’ of the song itself. Youth unemployment has never been higher, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow and the majority of her global audience will be struggling to get by. Rihanna in the meantime fetishises dollar bills and tells us she’s got ‘pockets deep, and they never end’. She repeats ad nauseum (literally) that she’s got money on her mind and, despite her excessive and hedonistic ways, (she’s paid for a valet and ‘closed a deal’) she’s ‘still got more money’.
Way to go to reinforce the values of the people whose political policies and economic decisions are creating poverty for the very people who buy into Rihanna’s work. Way to go to support the idea of prostitution as a valid economic choice and way to go to support a myth of aspiration despite the reality that for every person with Rihanna’s deep pockets, millions of other young people across the world are having their futures sold out from underneath them.