And Now A Few (More) Words From Paul Cantor...
Q: Is Rihanna Worthy Of Becoming Beyonce's Future Successor?
A: Is Rihanna "worthy" of being Beyonce's successor? I dunno, seems like a loaded question (surprise, surprise). What does worthy even mean in the grand scheme things? Who is Beyonce that Rihanna or critics should aspire to put them in the same class? Beyonce's a performing artist, Rihanna's a performing artist. On the surface I get it, they share some similarities— they're black, they sing, they're both sort of come from the "urban" space— but that's it. They're very different as artists, and I don't think Rihanna is looking to succeed Beyonce in any way. They have different goals.
But for posterity's sake, I'll entertain the comparison. On a purely technical level, Beyonce is a better singer than Rihanna. She makes better "traditional" pop R&B. Lately (and I mean specifically on her newest record) Beyonce is offering a more mature side of herself. She's transitioning into that womany level of R&B where you're like on some super OG shit making music that even church-going folks approve of. It's not very riske`. It's very safe. It's good, but safe.
Rihanna doesn't give a fuck about any of that shit, and that's why people fuck with her. Musically, and otherwise. I personally think much of it is a facade, but she definitely gives off the aura that she's really bout that life that she keeps putting out there. She lets the freak flag fly in her music and in her image, and it's like, yea, that's awesome. It's safe, too. But it's safe under the auspices of being dangerous. Like, "S&M" wasn't that musically adventurous, but it was racy. For a time, that was slutwave anthem— "Sex in the air I don't care I love the smell of it." I could never hear Beyonce singing that. Even in her younger days. That's just not her.
What Rihanna has on her side right now is that her music sounds more contemporary. Her music genuinely pulls from a lot of what's going on in the "scene," so to speak. "We Found Love" is some electro-house shit that had any other artist made, it would have been a genuine underground and critical smash. But because she's so huge already, it kinda sounds like mass market techno. When it's not. Point is, that's the sound of young America right now. Whether people realize it or not, in every city you go to in this country and abroad, kids are cramming into raves and electronic music festivals and just letting themselves go. Every night. Rihanna has a handful of huge records that work in this space. She may be single handedly helping destroy electronic music on a large scale (that's how it works when things get too popular), but for right now she's towing that line between that top 40 scene and the underground extremely well. There are hardcore dance enthusiasts who genuinely fuck with Rihanna.
I think all of that is super important for what Rihanna and what she will be in the future. I mean, I wouldn't call her an innovator by any stretch, and let's keep it real, these are pop songs— which means he writes it, that other guy produces it, she demos it, and Rihanna winds up singing it. It's an assembly-line approach to making songs that will never change so long as radios still play music. So I don't want to give her too much credit. But Rihanna's definitely got the newer audience on smash. Every day a new person becomes a fan of music. They have no reference point. They're just hearing something for the first time and they go "holy shit, I love that song." I don't think many people are hearing Beyonce for the first time and thinking that right now. She's just at that point in her career where she's passed the point of being amazing upon discovery. Rihanna, you could technically hear her "We Found Love" tomorrow for the first time and you might say, "wow, what the fuck is that? It's awesome." She just has that upside moving in her direction.
Barring how I may feel about Rihanna's voice and her actual talent— it's whiny and she doesn't have much— those are the things that make her unique, and I get it. I think she's more in tune with where culture is at right now. I think she's on the pulse of what's hot. She's young and she's just that shit. Beyonce's swag is old and motherly. And while on a human level I dig that, I also think it's boring as fuck. It's so not punk rock. And I like my pop stars to have some edge to them, whether it's contrived or not. If Rihanna stays progressive from a pop standpoint, she will carve her lane in a bigger space than Beyonce's. That's a big fucking space. But what she's doing right now just speaks to these kids. Pharrell said it best, "It's a new day. People don't wanna think anymore, they wanna feel." To put it mildly, people feel Rihanna a lot right now. All she needs to do is keep it that way.
? For more pop culture quips and assessments follow Paul on Twitter, @PaulCantor
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Social Circle - Is Rihanna Worthy Of Becoming Beyonce's Future Successor?