15 June 2007

"Listen, I've come to rock this boat."

Disclaimer: Traditionally, I, too, am an r&b hater but as Status Ain't Hood has made articulately clear, there's a shake-up going on within the genre and if this is the new face and sound -- consider me a convert.

Rihanna's "Umbrella" is enjoying it's third straight week at number 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart and there is no shame involved with loving this song. Rihanna is 19 years old, but if this isn't the pinnacle of her recording career, then pop music has received some sort of godsend. One song this good per year and my appetite isn't only whetted, I'm stuffed.

The "rainy day" conceit isn't fresh, but the attention to detail has the entire song feeling like an impending thunder storm. The live kit drums strike and roll while the growl of distortion rests just under the song's surface, like a torrential down-pour in the distance. Travis Barker brought out the rock side in a recent remix with towering guitars sopping with fuzz but it doesn't need to be brash; "Umbrella" is subtly dark and foreboding. And even though 'Hov phones in his embarrassing verse, Rihanna takes him on her back and carries the track with a presence that's almost scary when you realize all the punches this girl's packing. "SOS" was one thing, but this is another league, in my mind. Tom Breihan likes the record, Good Girl Gone Bad, which I've yet to hear in it's entirety but he harps on her robotic, thin voice and doesn't love this particular song. I have to respectfully disagree; the song's banging and she executes the vocals flawlessly for what it is. Robotic is T-Pain, Akon and the rest of Rihanna's male counterparts.

The knockout blow, though, isn't massive or bombastic, but it is flooring -- and it's found in the form of repeated hooks and jabs. The entire pop appeal of the song (and the thing that makes it a windows-down, turn-it-up smash) is encapsulated by the title line's pronunciation. "You can stand under my umbrella," is dropped so perfectly it hurts. By the time she gets to the "-ella, -ella, eh, eh, eh" the hook becomes fatal.

Rihanna Umbrella (Travis Barker Remix)

Rihanna ft. Jay Z Umbrella
Rihanna ft. Lil' Mama Umbrella (remix)

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