Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reformed pop-robot Rihanna can't stop grabbing herself at Chastain

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 3:54 PM


See more photos from Rihanna's "Loud Tour" at Chastain Amphitheater

On July 12, Rihanna was the only girl in the world at Chastain Amphitheater. The Barbados-born singer has transformed from automated pop fembot to a sexually empowered young woman (she's only 23!), and she brought her racy Loud Tour to Atlanta last night. I was told I had the best seats in the house because Rihanna would be walking by me. And it's true, I did have the best seat — for about one millisecond.

Rihanna, born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, first hit the pop airwaves in 2005 with her reggae-adorned single "Pon de Replay". The singer, 17 at the time, capitalized on the dance-hall trend of the moment (remember "Move Ya Body" and "We Be Burning"?). I along with the rest of the world put all my money on the fact that Rihanna would immediately disappear by the next summer. But then she remodeled herself into a teen pop robot, churning out forgettable radio singles. For the first half of her career, Rihanna's biggest strength was never questioning her successful team of producers, stylists and record execs. Despite her five head, she became the top charting artist of the last 10 years, yet no one knew anything about her. We knew she was from the islands (which may have made her more appealing overseas as a non-American-American artist), but even her Barbados accent was stripped from her when she became a make-up spokesperson. But then Chris Brown happened.

I didn't like Rihanna until then-boyfriend and fellow pop singer Chris Brown beat the shit out of her. I know that sounds terrible, but like Britney shaving her head in a psychotic fit, it finally made Rihanna human — deeply so. Soon Rihanna started to change. Her fashion became harder. She started thinking about her "artistic choices." She became much more sex obsessed. And she slowly grew up.

Rihanna showed off her new maturity (read: obsession with sex) last night in concert. There are rumors that Rihanna is a lesbian (it's not uncommon for women who have been abused by men to turn their sexual attention to women), and during "Darling Nikki" she wore a men's suit with a floppy bow-tie while grinding on her female back-up dancers. She then revealed a white bustier for "S&M," where she danced on a platform while silver-gloved hands molested her to the beat. There was a lot of grabbing during the show: Rihanna grabbing herself, Rihanna grabbing others, and others grabbing Rihanna. At one point, Rihanna called a girl on stage for a lap dance while her two hot, sweaty male dancers lingered behind. The audience thought the dancers would be doing the lap dance, but no, it was Rihanna humping and grinding this random fan.

She kept the raciness going by taking a shot on stage during "Cheers (Drink to That)" and riding a pink army tank that fired three torpedos at the crowd during "Hard." Chastain is a horrible venue for a dance diva like Rihanna, given that it only allows for sitting on green metal seats (or maybe leaning on the grass if you're the unlucky few on the lawn). It was a hot and muggy night, and people were furiously fanning themselves and cooling their faces with $11 beer cans. For such a huge artist, the show was fairly small, with about six back-up dancers, a modest backing band and very few video interludes. Still Rihanna owned the stage from start to end. As one of the most successful artists of the last decade, Rihanna should be playing Philips Arena, but one of the cons of being a former pop robot is that you're not known to be a good performer. Rihanna used to give off the impression that she had no idea what she was singing or what was happening around her during performances. Now she sounds great live.

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Finally it was time for Rihanna to take to the audience. We were given press releases (pictured left) warning us to not touch Rihanna. How rock ’n' roll indeed. It read: "BE ADVISED THAT RIHANNA MY [sic] WALK DOWN THIS AISLE DURING TONIGHTS [sic] PERFORMANCE." Out of nowhere, security guards came in front of my row holding up dental floss-thin rope, protecting Rihanna when she would eventually grace us. And she did — for .25 seconds. Before I knew it, she had run to the center of the audience where she banged on drums (she bangs great). Another show portion had her briefly walk in front of the gated front row. I saw Gwen Stefani perform in Boston during her Sweet Escape Tour (OK fine, it was in Mansfield, Mass.) and she went straight into the audience without any press releases. But Stefani's background is rock star. Rihanna's background is this.

Rihanna has cemented her own style, both in her "na na na" and "eh eh eh" island-infused singing and funky chicken leg dancing. When she cut her hair short in 2007 during her mega "eh eh eh" hit "Umbrella," so did every girl I know. (Now she has spectacular red Bozo the Clown hair). Her post-Chris Brown album Rated R didn't yield many hits, until she released the reggae-infused "Rude Boy," arguably her best video to date. It's tribal, it's islandy, it's sexual and it's Rihanna's new formula. It's ironic that Rihanna has gone back to her "Pon de Replay" roots to have hits today. Since then she's kept the reggae train riding with "What's My Name" and her latest, "Man Down." Post-assault she puts out a single all about "whips and chains excite me" ("S&M") then follows it with "Man Down" about killing her rapist. As much as Rihanna likes grabbing herself, she likes grabbing her audience's attention more.

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Slideshow
Rihanna at Chastain Amphitheater

Rihanna at Chastain Amphitheater

The Barbados-born singer rocked a revealing tribal bikini during the sexy opening number on July 12, 2011.

By Perry Julien

Click to View 7 slides

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