“Russian Roulette” should have it’s own entry in the urban dictionary. See under: “grower”. The lead single from Rihanna‘s forthcoming album Rated R eschews pop production and explores an altogether dark place. In doing so, the song features little of her chart-baiting talent, but it’s a better song for it.
It may signal and end to her chart-dominance, but Rihanna emerges from this foray as a more formidable musician; “Russian Roulette” is her most interesting track to date. The video, which premiered last night on 20/20, picks up where the song left off, adding another dimension to the dark themes explored.
Ne-Yo produced and co-wrote the song with Rihanna, intelligently adding some effects to the song which sync up with the video. The spinning of a revolver, the drawing of breath… each is subtly matched up as the song begins.
Bullets are fired, blood flows, smoke billows. The imagery is strong. The video opens with Rihanna toiling in a padded cell, watched by unmoving guards. As the song progresses the footage speeds up, reverses, fast cuts. It’s a huge melting pot of themes but it’s all blended in slick fashion. A car speeds towards the singer, her arms stretched out, but the shot cuts away just before she is hit. She drowns, bullets spiraling through the water, puncturing her chest and neck. Noxious smoke flows into her cell as the guard looks on, but she stands strong.
We see the singer engaging in a game of Russian Roulette, passing the gun between herself and her love interest. The song ends as the final shot is fired- her love interest lost the game. Director Anthony Mandler has done a fantastic job, adding some truly original shots; in one scene we see the singer through the barrel of the gun, each shot moving the chamber around.
In a similar vein to “Wait Your Turn”, the video for “Russian Roulette” is an essential companion to the song. Rihanna is establishing herself as a serious artist, taking the creative direction in her own hands. And with Rated R on the horizon (November 20th to be exact), this is just the first test. She passed with flying colors.