The Bottom Line
Completely aside from all of the concerns surrounding the music video that accompanies "S&M," there is a song here. Unfortunately, it's not really much of a song. There is a flimsy lyric welded to a generic upbeat dance track with a bit of a rock flare. We've heard all of this from Rihanna before. The primary reasoning for releasing "S&M" as a single seems purely the shock value. Once the controversy dies down this will not be remembered among Rihanna's best.
- Driving beat
- Rivets attention the first time through
- We've heard these elements before
- Simple focus on looking for controversy
- Written by Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Sandy Wilhelm, and Ester Dean
- Produced by Stargate and Sandy Vee
- Released January 2011 by Def Jam
Guide Review - Rihanna - "S&M"
If someone was particularly surprised or shocked by the content of Rihanna's new single "S&M," they have not been paying close attention to her past music. Kinky sex play has been hinted at strongly in the past through both her songs and videos. "S&M" simply takes some things to a logical conclusion. However, the song feels like a lost opportunity. Instead of something clever or sexy, we are left with a simplistic shouting anthem. It might work as a sing along piece in a sex club, but for most of us our attention will quickly lag.
A significant part of the brilliance of Rihanna's career thus far has been the impressive variety in her hit singles. Very few of Rihanna's top 10 songs sound like a retread of something she has done before. In the case of "S&M" we've heard the rock edge on Rihanna's "Shut Up and Drive," and the big shouting chorus on "Only Girl (In the World)." The overall effect is a factory produced single attempting to jump on public fascination with a taboo topic.
Despite this temporary downturn there is no fear that Rihanna's popularity will fade any time soon. There are significantly better songs available on the album Loud. The previous single "What's My Name?" is simply one of the best of her career. Here is hoping record label Def Jam turns away from transparent attempts to capitalize on controversy and instead focuses on continuing the maturation of Rihanna as a singer and performer.