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Track Review

For Rihanna, it's all about the money.

Money. Money. Money.

Oh, and some strippers.

Even taking the rap world's love affair with material excess into consideration, I'm hard pressed to think of another song recently that has distilled the essence of the bling gospel so succinctly. "Strip clubs and dollar bills/I still got more money," Rihanna brags. And that second line, "I still got more money," is repeated after every other phrase in the song's two verses, 16 times by my count. And in case anyone missed Rihanna's many mentions of Mammon, the song's pre-chorus adds, "Ohhh/All I see is signs/Dollar signs/Ohhh/Money on my mind/Money, money on my mind."

As the track progresses, it undulates away from lobbing Benjamins at strippers and adds a litany of other "luxuries" that Rihanna's endless stash of cash finances: "Valet cost a hundred bills/I still got more money/Gold all up in my grill/I still got more money/Who cares how you haters feel/And I still got more money/Call Jay up and close a deal/I still got more money/My fragrance on and they love my smell/I still got more money." Rihanna's message to "haters" who would question her spending priorities? "So who cares about what I spend?/I still got more money/My pockets' deep and they never end/I still got more money."

Like I said, money, money, money. Now, for those strippers.

The first verse combines drinking and ogling female performers on the pole: "Patrón shots, can I get a refill?/ … Strippers going up and down that pole/ … Four o'clock, and we ain't going home." A double entendre about the music playing in the club could refer either to pole dancing or oral sex, with Rihanna crooning, "Bands make your girl go down."

It's hardly shocking, then, that Rihanna chose a strip club scene to backdrop her accompanying—and exceedingly racy—video. It features her wearing not much and strippers caressing poles while wearing even less. (The images are technically a stitch shy of baring everything.) As Rihanna sings, an ongoing montage shows young women doing acrobatic and sexually explicit moves on their poles ... and Rihanna herself mimics some of those very, very graphic movements herself a few times.

Was Rihanna intending to unleash a provocative, dangerously transgressive video here, pushing it to be as explicit as she could without actually showing full-on nudity? It's supposed to be super sexy, after all, and I suppose it is, to the extent that sex (combined with all those dollar bills stuffed in Rihanna's g-string) is the only thing on display here. Still, watching for this review, I found myself feeling increasingly sad and depressed, heartsick for these women—Rihanna and her dancers.

Earlier this week, 1980s household name Annie Lennox (of Eurythmics fame) weighed in on this trend toward the continued pornification of many of today's top female pop singers. And it turns out she feels almost exactly the same way I did. Sso I'll conclude this review with a message she posted on her Facebook page:

"I have to say that I'm disturbed and dismayed by the recent spate of overtly sexualised performances and videos. You know the ones I'm talking about. It seems obvious that certain record companies are peddling highly styled pornography with musical accompaniment. As if the tidal wave of sexualised imagery wasn't already bombarding impressionable young girls enough. I believe in freedom of speech and expression, but the market forces don't give a toss about the notion of boundaries. As long as there's booty to make money out of, it will be bought and sold. It's depressing to see how these performers are so eager to push this new level of low. Their assumption seems to be that misogyny—utilised and displayed through oneself is totally fine, as long as you are the one creating it. As if it's all justified by how many millions of dollars and U tube hits you get from behaving like pimp and prostitute at the same time. It's a glorified and monetized form of self harm."

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