The other day, I was sitting on some tiny people’s plane en route to Los Angeles. As I sat there eating a turkey sandwich and twirking in my seat to Rihanna’s spunky ode to oral sex (that’s “Cockiness (Love It)” to you) simultaneously, I thought about all of the tweets and blog entries I read prior to boarding where many were joking about Talk That Talk’s first week sales.
Now more than ever do I try to stay clear of discussions where people – mostly bloggers and like-minded self-important individuals – play the role of A&R executive. As in, “OMG! WHY CAN’T RIH-RIH SELL NO DAMN ALBUMS?!” Then they proceed to break down the first week sales of every major female pop star of the last three decades before engaging in a back and forth over whether or not Rihanna will end up broke and teaching sex ed to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s baby by 2017. Or some bullshit like that.
Of course, these conversations feature various theories as to how Rihanna can “improve” to boot.
I have to admit that I used to be a little too invested in chart watching as if I were collecting a check out of it, too. One difference between the current wave and me, though, is that I always tried to keep my commentary within proper context. Numbskulls don’t fool with nuance, so while this post might fall on deaf ears, I’m going to try my best to talk about Rihanna and her album sales with some of you fake ass music critics (ideally without my head exploding).
Look, Rihanna never having a number one album is not exactly news. Nor is the notion of her inability to sell a million or so copies her first week out like say, a Lil’ Wayne. We get it, y’all, and don’t need that pointed out every other week Rihanna decides to release a new project. The stale point is used as some means of playing down her success, which really doesn’t make sense given what she’s accomplished in a really short amount of time.
In sum: It doesn’t matter that Rihanna’s never had a number one album. She doesn’t need it. Ever.
Equally superfluous criticism is Rihanna being a “singles artist.” If Quddus still interviewed a curly fro-rocking Justin Timberlake on MTV then perhaps I’d understand the point of arguing that stance to the death. But outside of a few acts these days singles are typically the only legal form of music people still bother to buy – particularly young folks, who make up much of Rihanna’s audience. Meanwhile, she still manages to go platinum each and every album – most recently selling more than 1.5 million with Loud. Nicki and Drake both sold more than Rihanna in their first weeks, but Loud has outsold Thank Me Later overall and she’s only a few thousand shy of Pink Friday’s sales. Plus, her singles have collectively trounced theirs. On top of that, Loud has now been nominated for Album of the Year at the 2012 The Music Industry Is On Life Support Grammy Awards.
What does that mean? Well, people don’t rush to buy Rihanna’s album but little by little they usually do over time as she racks up hit single after hit single. Considering the times, I’m not sure why this isn’t considered a good thing. Yes, her album sales suggest that people don’t look to Rihanna for a complete cohesive work – at least not initially. But how many artists can claim such a feat from the iTunes generation?
I seriously doubt that the “What’s a Walkman?” age group is going to care whether or not Rihanna ever had a string of number one albums. We’ve got to quit comparing her to 2002, 1996, and three minutes before one of the wise men cut Jesus’ umbilical cord. Times are changing and Rihanna is evident of such.
As for jabs over the woman releasing an album once a year, that’s not exactly a new concept. Artists like The Supremes and Prince used to do that all the time. Maybe the reason’s why some acts like Rihanna choose to have such a high volume of material in a short span of time now could be different, but it’s not still a reason to make a case against her purported superficial success. Get off that girl’s nipple ring and accept that she is a digital artist succeeding in a digital market.
Stop feigning fear for her longevity and refocus that energy towards group prayer over her on stage pussy pop or lack thereof. If there’s anything preventing Rihanna from certain levels of success (I’m assuming people mean world tours on the level of Beyoncé, Tina Turner, or even Lady Gaga and post-prescription Britney Spears) it would be her performance on stage versus that on the Billboard 200.
See what I mean? Telling people fables can fuck them up, yo. So yes, folks, there are plenty of constructive criticisms you can level in Rihanna’s freaky deeky direction. But, moving forward, can you choose your poison more wisely?