August 24, 2007
The Poetry and Influences of Rihanna
Posted by David Zaring

Since Daniel Drezner is Rihanna-blogging, I think it’s worth noting that “Shut Up And Drive” is both my kind of poetry and a somewhat surprising hip hop homage to New Order. The poetry front: metaphors can be confusing. But not Rihanna’s. I think I understood that when she opined about umbrellas, she was talking about a protective form of togetherness. But consider this:

“I'm a fine-tuned supersonic speed machine/With a sunroof top and a gangster lean”

Or this:

“Got all the drive but a whole lot of boom in the back/You look like you can handle what’s under my hood”

I’m pretty sure that in “Shut Up and Drive,” Rihanna is comparing herself to a car, and the rest of the lyrics, I think, vindicate my claim. It has a nice consistency and I rather prefer the directness to sorting through, say, an Ode to a Nightingale:

“I cannot see what flowers are at my feet/Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,/But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet/Wherewith the seasonable month endows”

Give it a read, and you tell me what Keats is alluding to.  I think he’s sad. But that’s me - “the dull brain perplexes and retards,” as even Keats will tell you.

I’m actually not a big Rihanna fan – first time I heard her was on a JetBlue flight from San Francisco (love the cable television in every seat).  “Shut Up And Drive” was on, and I thought: they’re remixing “Blue Monday” and setting it to a bunch of young people dancing in an AutoZone. Cool though that was, I wondered about the intellectual property issues. Are Gordon Summer Bernard Sumner and his aging cronies in New Order profiting from this? Or can they only enjoy the respect they are getting from this particular Carribean songstress?

Whatever the answer, I’ll hope for a May-September tour – perhaps with “Shut Up and Drive” being the showstopper both acts can play – in 2008.

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