Nearly a month after the unceremonious release of Rihanna’s Anti, the album’s peculiar rollout continues with not one, but two music videos for the lead single, “Work.” The first, like the track itself, is evocative of Velvet Rope-era Janet Jackson, specifically “Got ’til It’s Gone.” Helmed by Director X and shot at Toronto’s Caribbean-themed bar and restaurant The Real Jerk, the video conjures the iconic Janet clip’s hazy, sepia-hued, slow-motion aesthetic, if not its politics. Following the in-your-face “message” videos for “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen,” though, the laidback, communal vibe is a welcome reprieve. It’s also incredibly sexy.
Drake (#1–10 of 18)
After a string of underwhelming singles and several momentum-killing delays, Rihanna’s Anti, her first album in over three years, finally looks imminent. This morning the singer released a fourth single, “Work,” the follow-up to “American Oxygen,” which came and went with little fanfare last spring. If the first three duds signaled the end of RiRi’s pop reign following her departure from her longtime label home, Def Jam, the new track has the potential to at least partly justify the gold crown on the album’s cover.
The singles we’re betting on for the long game tended to play with shorter fuses, blaze less gargantuan trails, flourish in the crawlspaces of our collective consciousness—and not, as per Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s ubiquitously catchy but elementally reductive fraternity rocker “Uptown Funk,” strut their retro bona fides around like Meryl Streep’s bass-ackwards crab walk in Death Becomes Her. That’s not to say the artists represented below didn’t find new, inventive means of correspondence between the past and the present; the best of them helped show that bridge as a conduit and a nourishing source of inspiration, while the worst of them set up a T-shirt stand at the midway point.
1. “Jon Stewart: Why I Quit The Daily Show.” Stewart’s decision to retire as host of the satirical news show after 16 years has left liberal America in mourning. So why is he leaving just before an election—and what will happen when he steps out from behind the desk?
“When I catch up with him again, I ask if he knew he’d be leaving when we had that conversation. ’No, no—but some of it had been in the back of my head for quite some time. But you don’t want to make any kind of decision when you’re in the crucible of the process, just like you don’t decide whether you’re going to continue to run marathons in mile 24,’ he says. He switches to a chewy exaggeration of his native Noo Joi-zy accent, deflating his seriousness with a comedy voice. ’You wait until you’re done, you have a nice cup o’ water, you put the blanket on, you sit and then you decide.’ I had assumed that, as well as the metaphorical cup o’ water, he had decided to quit because he had so much fun making Rosewater. But Stewart says not. ’Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, ’Are there other ways to skin this cat?’ And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.’”
1. “Kanye Haters at Glastonbury: Racism, Rockism and Flying Bottles of Piss.” Ashley Clark on how the backlash against Kanye’s headline slot reveals disturbing cultural subtext and offensive vitriol.
“Ignoring the obvious irony that West is a genre-blurring artist (and self-appointed ’rockstar’) whose music has long been heavily influenced by rock acts like Led Zeppelin and U2, Lonsdale conflates West’s more outré public pronouncements — like his controversial recent suggestion at the Grammys that Beck should ’respect Beyoncé’s artistry’ — with his supposed lack of value for money, and somehow concludes that he doesn’t have the aptitude to headline a concert. It’s all rather bizarre. Shouldn’t our cultural firmament be studded with erratic, outspoken eccentrics precisely in the vein of Kanye? Yet at the time of writing, [Neil] Lonsdale’s petition has accrued an extraordinary 133,246 signatures, making him an accidental figurehead for an amorphous, burbling groundswell of staunch cultural conservatism. It’s inconceivable that the petition will achieve its desired goal. But it can’t be dismissed as a mere storm in a teacup — it, and the accompanying vitriol, clearly speak to something deeply felt, festering under the surface.”
Lyric videos, a relatively recent promotional tool, started out simply as a means to keep royalties-paying audio on YouTube in the days or weeks between a single’s release and the premiere of an official music video. But artists and record labels have become increasingly creative and enterprising, squeezing every last ounce of promo possibilities from what used to be a rather banal, straightforward text-on-solid-background format.
1. “Gravy Boat.” Caity Weaver’s Week on the High Seas With Paula Deen and Friends.
“After spending a week in the presence of, but never really with, Paula—watching her tug on beards, toss a water balloon to her husband, and pull clip-in hair extensions out of her hair to brandish them, deadpan, before a crowd—I decide her house blend of aggressive folksiness is more of a put-on than she would like her cruise buddies to know, but less than a cynical mind would think. She’s certainly naturally bawdy: Over the course of seven days, Paula will hear a joke about breasts being accidentally dipped in gravy and grits and repeat it several times, always to raucous laughter (her own). She will inject jokes about beating one’s meat (to tenderize it) into multiple cooking demonstrations. She will refer to one female passenger as a ’slot slut.’ She will engage in a very brief pantomime of doggy-style sex with her husband as he helps affix a microphone pack to the waistband of her capris. She will see her husband cooking a chicken, and ask, inexplicably, if he is choking his chicken.”
Drake, “Trophies”: Upcoming SNL host/musical guest Drake dropped a New Year’s gift to fans with the Hitboy-produced “Trophies,” a track originally slated for his album Nothing Was the Same.
Arcade Fire, “Afterlife”: With the release of their highly anticipated new album, Reflektor, a week away, Arcade Fire has unveiled “Afterlife,” a six-minute meditation on the titular topic. Watch the official lyric video, which employs scenes from Marcel Camus’s 1959 film Black Orpheus, below:
Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel, “PrimeTime”: The latest taste from Janelle Monáe’s forthcoming sophomore effort, Electric Lady, includes a sample from the Pixies’ 1988 single “Where Is My Mind?” and bears resemblance to Mariah Carey’s recent single, “#Beautiful,” another slow-burning R&B track that also featured Miguel. Electric Lady hits stores on September 10th.