Man Fuck Your Pride
by Iryna Byelyayeva
Often, being a female listener of ~serious music~ involves explaining yourself. Either having to explain that, despite your clean appearance and high-pitched, ditzy laugh, you are actually familiar with The Rolling Stones and can name a favourite album. Or (and usually this one comes after the first) having to prove that you are not a serious-music loving fraud even though you can sing along to Rihanna.
To this day, the proudest I have ever felt was when I put on ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ by Rainbow—my boyfriend kissed me and said ‘you’re so cool … but what’s with the Rihanna and Fifth Harmony?’ This was very early in the relationship. The other day he let me play Carly Rae Jepsen, so it’s not all bad.
My initial engagement with popular music partly sprung out of a rebellion. The last thing I want is to accidentally be initiated into the Rock Dudes Club, who hang around drinking beer, wearing dirty ZoSo t shirts and complaining about how there isn’t anything good to head bang to. I love the music they talk about. I adore the music they talk about. But, as I read in Vogue once ‘you can have an appreciation for literature and lipstick.’ I invited pop music into my life and let it intoxicate me with every Tequila Sunrise and felt wonderfully feminine.
Last year Rihanna released Anti (2016). For me, this album fits perfectly between beer and Tequila Sunrise. It’s aggressive and wonderfully gentle.
The first part of the album is so dark, powerful and angry. When ‘Desperado’ comes on, I know things are about to get very serious. The beat in ‘Woo’ (not the most imaginative title, sure) gives me the confidence to debate something every time. It’s a dangerous song to listen to while angry. But Rihanna is so calm in her delivery. ‘Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage, fuck your white horse and a carriage’ is a strong line, sang in the most frank way. Rihanna knows she’s survived a lot, she knows she’s powerful and doesn’t feel the need to try hard to prove that.
The transition into the second half with a cover of ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’ serves its purpose. It takes us from knowing you’re a boss to the doubt that takes over when you’re out of the debate and you start to overthink. As a cover, I’m not sure the choice of keeping it the same as the original was the right one—but it does show its universality. It’s a nice interlude for the soul that comes after. The second part of the album feels like a wonderful dedication to the women who helped me fall in love: Nina Simone, Stevie Nicks, Peggy Lee. It’s sweeter, sadder and hopeful. These are songs that are aware of their genre. Honestly, after the intensity of the first part, it feels like a weight off the shoulders to be able to sing along to ‘Never Ending’ and know that even Rihanna feels pulled apart sometimes. It can be nice to feel vulnerable after fighting to show off. For me, this is the perfect way to finish off the album—with the rawness in her voice in ‘Love On The Brain,’ with the instrumental ode to old jazz love songs that is ‘Higher’ and the calm, gentle ‘Close to You’.
The thing that both parts of the album have in common is sexuality. Both sides, the powerful and the soulful, are dripping with sexuality (listening to ‘Kiss It Better’ feels like making out). This is a perfectly human album. Rihanna inhabits different versions of herself. She is vocal and intense and soft and wanting to find love. It’s feminine but in a way that any gender can identify.
Explaining why I love this album feels almost redundant. It feels like just me naming songs one after the other and gushing. Not gushing—fangirling.
Iryna is a creative lady living in Melbourne, Australia. She is the editor of The Wall Mag and gets published here and there. She can be followed on twitter @irynabyel