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Rihanna reveals new single, 'Russian Roulette'

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After some initial hints and rumors the past few weeks, Rihanna has returned to the pop landscape with a brand-new single, "Russian Roulette." It's her first official release since her February incident with then-boyfriend Chris Brown and the first track from her forthcoming "Rated R," the Nov. 23 follow-up to 2007's "Good Girl Gone Bad."

Rihanna's recent, tragic history ensures there's more than a pop curiosity around the single, but she's also been one of the industry's fastest-rising stars. "Good Girl Gone Bad" spawned multiple hits, including the ubiquitous "Umbrella," and has sold 2.5 million copes in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

From the initial few listens on "Russian Roulette," it's clear that Rihanna isn't going to play nice, nor does she appear to have any intention to shy from tough, violent subject matter. This is far from the typical ballad. It's an assertive, harsh and, at times, frightening single, coming to a close with a gunshot. A guitar streak opens the number, but the song doesn't explode into "Shut Up and Drive"-like exhilaration.

Instead, the song, co-written with Ne-Yo, strikes a more resolute tone. It's hard to imagine it blasting out of car windows or even controlling a club, but it's all attention-grabbing stuff, standing in stark -- emphasis on stark -- contrast to much of the current pop landscape. The smattering of piano keys could be a soundtrack to a horror film, and Rihanna's quivering pre-verse gasps immediately put the listener on alert.

The lyrics are vague enough to keep people guessing but hint at a situation one probably doesn't want to be in the middle of. "He says close your eyes, sometimes it helps," Rihanna sings with unshaken directness, adding, ominously, "and then I get a scary thought." The beats close in around her, and the strings quiver as if they're being played through gritted teeth, building in the end to something almost approaching a theme to a Bond film.

But make no mistake, although the song comes to a close with a final bang, Rihanna is the heroine here. "So just pull the trigger," she tosses off in the cut's final moments, all swagger and confidence. The narrative of the song -- and just who, exactly, is the shooter -- matters less than Rihanna's command performance. A midtempo song without overbearing production, the single belongs all to Rihanna, and she makes the best of it -- a bit icy, a tad fearless, with the vocal strength to keep the orchestral flourishes at bay.

Listen to the song here.

-- Todd Martens

Photo credit: Def Jam Records / Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (33)

This song is HORRIBLE. Rihanna should never attempt to do anything remotely close to a ballad. She should stick to repeating the same 4-word line in someone else's chorus.

Usually you dress or act up so outragously in order to draw attention away from what you are really standing for, in this case, the music. She is a gorgeous woman, but the music will be forgotten in a month.

This song is way depressing. I wont buy. Women go threw domestic situations everyday and have the strength to go forward in life positively. This song is to demonic along with the album cover. She leaves nothing to imagiination. Promoting suicide like russian roulette is a law suite waiting to happen. Some depressing kid will try this mess. 5 thumbs DOWN!!!

God, you commenters are DUMB AS ROCKS. This is a great song. Don't buy it, no one wants you to. Run this town, Paparazzi, Sweet Dreams are very dark songs and are tearing up the charts. This is an amazing vocal performance, amazing song. Awesome. This is very much today's version of LIVE TO TELL, a huge #1 smash from Madonna.

This song is great. Listen, it’s time to grow with Rihanna. This song will leave her stamp on the music industry. Rihanna did something that everyone didn’t expect from her- a slow moving haunting ballad instead of a dance club song as her first single. Rihanna is growing as an artist, and it shows very well.

Can’t you feel the pain in the record? Can’t you see how Rihanna is hurting. Listen to the song a few times in a row. It touches your heart…..pull the trigger… I know how it feels to be in a relationship with hurt and pain…don’t you?

Rihanna hurts just like everyone else, and when you’re hurt, you dont want to dance- she’s just not in that state of mind. Her marketing team and label did an excellent job of helping Rihanna grow, not stifling her by putting out a dance reord as the first single….

Watch her perform this song live— and watch closely– some tears will form in her eyes— because they did in mine!!! All I could think about was the photos of beaten Rihanna when I heard this…..it really sad. I wonder what Chris Brown thinks of the song.

Musically it will be #1 hit…..

I agree KeKe! This song is awful. What the hell is Rihanna thinking?

Why are people so hell bent on people liking this girl? She hasnt an ounce of talent in her. I think she has an incredible team of people working behind her. You guys give her too much credit. If it were beyonce, I'd understand but I cant see it with this girl. I JUST DONT GET IT!

CHUA: Get the hell out of here with Beyonce. You think that girl has talent? Please, she jumps on whatever is hot right now to get people interested in her. Example, Lady GaGa. Had to have her put into one of her videos just to get people interested in her again. Just like the fact she has to tell everyone she writes her music, which even she knows is a lie.

This is about Rihanna. And Rihanna, you have grown into an amazing artist. I am so glad you are drifting from your last effort and focusing on something dear to you and not being stuck on one style. True artist there. Love the single.

THIS IS GARBAGE

This song is amazing, and I am glad she is not ignoring the abuse. This needs to be heard and put out there, so abused women can get the courage and LEAVE before it's to late. Rihanna went through this, and she wrote it. It's good she came out of this alive.

I love the song..you can tell it's about a relationship..

Chua.....Beyonce??? come on man now thats who aint got no damn talent, u trippin. Anyways i feel you Elijah she did what no one expected a ballad.

I agree that sweet dreams was a dark song and ripeped the charts, so I just don't understand!!!

Aint nuthing but a bunch of damn haters if u aint got nothing to say then keep your damn mouth closed!!!

The backing piano sounded like an ominous heartbeat. Less driving than cribbed from a 70s horror flick. As the tempo rises and the orchestra reveals, it becomes a James Bond title track. There's nothing new here, nothing interesting. Worse, Rihanna simply doesn't have the vocal chops to make this song soar. And her singing of the words "chest" and "test" is awkward and off-putting. It won't play in the clubs or on the street. It's too off-putting for pop or adult contemporary. So who is she playing to??? Give this a dance remix, or better yet, give it to someone with the vocal power to really belt it out. Sorry, Rihanna, shut up and keep driving.

WOW!!! it's been a long time coming... very happy with the work of "russian roulette" again rihanna has taken the stage/ the game with very little effort.. her still NO one can duplicate those wanna bee's like (lady gaga,keri hilson, ciara, keshia cole, and even beyonce are SWAGGER JOCKER'S) RIHANNA always rise's to the top and watch all the haters drooling over her NOW haha... MY girl is back....

WOW!!! it's been a long time coming... very happy with the work of "russian roulette" again rihanna has taken the stage/ the game with very little effort.. her style NO one can duplicate those wanna bee's like (lady gaga,keri hilson, ciara, keshia cole, and even beyonce are SWAGGER JOCKER'S) RIHANNA always rise's to the top and watch all the haters drooling over her NOW haha... MY girl is back....

I totally love Rihanna's new song.Run this town and Russian Roulette are currently my two most favorite songs,even if they are dark.Can't wait to buy her c.d.

This song is amazing.Once again Rihanna does herself proud with a more mature song.
It's good that she gets the chance to sing a song like this based on her past abusive relationship.The songwriter Neyo should take a bow for this one. Can't wait for the release of the full album. Way to go RiRi!!!!!!!!!!1

Could this song be part of the reason she got that gun tattoo?? Regardless I think the song is powerful and I like it a lot !!

It's really disturbing how the corporate music industry, over and over, takes creative and unique women and turns them into mediocre, insecure prostitutes.

Hate it.. next

The song is bland and dull. No amount of controversy or cover art can change that.

you are all reidng to much into the chris brown incident! this song is amazing for her comeback with RATED-R! its gonna go far! & shes not promoting suicide, you all jus read to much into it, she obviously wants to move on from chris brown that friggin idiot but you all keep bringing the situation back up! leave her be shes back doing what makes her happy making music!

Al The Haterz Need To Shut the Fu*k Up If U Ain't got nothing Good To say Or If U Don't care About Rihanna Why Are u reading About her??? Why U commenting??? I Just Don't get It Sum of U Fools Need a Reality Check on The State Of Where Rih's At I Mean She's 21 and already has 5#1's with this song it may be 6 and am sure the will b more........ keep ur Fucked up vybe to yuhselves...... amanda get a man to keep u warm u seem lonely what do u do??? have u any #1 singles???? Do u make Millions a year????? Get a life and leave rihanna alone...... keke & kiki go play with urselves, leave rihanna alone......Chua u sound Like an uneducated FOOL Beyonce Who?????, leave Rihanna Alone........ Jensen U idiot, u look Like Crap Stop hating And Get a Life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow, this song is deep, it goes way beyond the "Russian Roulette". I love that she did something different. That's what an artist does, re-ivent themselves. I think her voice sounds amazing. If it gets people talking...it already did it's job. I loved it.

 
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