This is arguably one of the best videos Rihanna has ever come out with.
The reggae-inflected ‘Man Down’ has always been a favourite record of mine on her current Loud album and to see RiRi come through with visuals that not only complement the song’s distinct Caribbean flavour but also paint us a fitting narrative? It deeply satisfies the soul.
Director Anthony Mandler – who has handled all the Loud videos bar ‘S&M’ – continues the anthology’s distinct film grain, sun-soaked effect except this time, the story is set in Jamaica and confronts us with dark themes of rape, murder and violence.
Take a look at the splendid production:
Here are three thoughts on why ‘Man Down’ worked for me:
1) Light before darkness.
I think it was so important that the video took us on a journey from the beginning following a young, carefree and flirty beauty before she spiraled to a dark place after a violent encounter outside the club. It kinda demonstrated that this could really happen to anyone and in a way, serves as a cautionary message for young ladies which Rihanna supplemented on Twitter after the video premiered:
“Young girls/women all over the world… we are a lot of things! We’re strong innocent fun flirtatious vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naïve! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us! So ladies be careful and #listentoyomama! I love you and I care!”
On a visual level, I loved how Mandler created such a vivid depiction of the character’s decline by positioning the sun-soaked day time shots at the beginning before gradually fading out to gloomier, more water-focused shots at the end. He’s definitely the master of juxtaposing light and shade, as seen in his video for Jennifer Hudson‘s ‘Where You At’.
2) Jamaican life.
This video was such a cultural treat and I can’t stress how enriching it is to see shots of everyday life things come together like a puzzle. Consider all the beautiful elements that went into painting us this Jamaican backdrop – the shots of stray dogs, commuters at the station, wandering through fields with banana trees, young boys playing on the beach, the sweaty, grimy dance hall club scene and best of all, RiRi buying coconut from a street side hawker. She is standing there with a plastic bag in hand! Unreal! Totally brought back memories of my time in Langkawi, especially seeing the village roads with the big ass drains at the side, and coconuts. Loads of coconuts.
3) Water raft scene and that ending.
So very stunning. Style note: I am completely in love with Rihanna rocking extensions of this length.
I guess my only criticism about the video is how abruptly it was all wrapped up at the end. If it was a mini epic they set out to create, they shouldn’t have mindlessly flown through the dramatic moment where she rushes home and grabs the gun. We definitely needed a chilling moment to pause and feel the character’s shock, fluster and despair after the vicious encounter.
‘Man Down’ is serviced as an American urban single only, while the rest of the world is treated to ‘California King Bed’.
Since its release six months ago, Rihanna‘s Loud has peaked at #2, certifying double platinum sales in Australia, and spawned four consecutive Top 20 hits here. It’s also RiRi‘s first album to actually have all singles make Top 20 in Australia – the Good Girls Gone Bad era came close, only let down by ‘Rehab’ which made #26.