Hey howdy hey, welcome back to Radio Rants. What am I dealing with this week? Sure, why not? I’ll be honest, I usually don’t mind Rihanna, but I’m always confused at how massively popular she gets off of so-so songs (see: “What’s My Name?”). She’s fairly run of the mill as far as pop stars go; she has no discernible weaknesses, but she never does anything to stay ahead of the pack besides not tanking, either. So let’s take a look at “S&M”.
The song kicks off with some genuinely annoying “na na na na come on”s and a synth hook that announced “S&M” as, you guessed it, another club pop song. Probably about sex. In fact, in terms of production, “S&M” follows the same formula as “Only Girl (In the World)”: bumpy little verse before a big chorus.
As far as lyrics go, “S&M” is predictably cliche and direct. Let’s see…is there a line about being bad being good?
Yes, there is: “Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it”
Somethingsomething pain and pleasure? “Now the pain is my pleasure cause nothing could measure” Sweet, I’m 2 for 2!
Lemmie think…yaddyaddayadda, handcuffs, whips, chains, anything like that? “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But chains and whips excite me” Boom! Going 3 for–
“Sticks and stones may beak my bones, but chains and whips excite me”? What the hell gives with these lyrics? Are horrible not-pick-up lines making a comeback in pop music? Between “Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock” and “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?”, we’re scrapping the bottom of the barrel on lyrics.
And speaking of lyrics, does anyone else find it a little…odd that Rihanna is singing another song that’s so bluntly about aggression and domination in sex? There’s something a little off-kilter about one of the most famous victims of domestic abuse releasing a single saying “I like it rough”. Or maybe this is her way of dealing with it? Or maybe this is her using the incident as popularity for the song? I have no freaking clue.
It took a few listens for it to catch on, but the chorus here is pretty good, despite that godawful “Chains and whips excite me” line and some other duds. The synth line is kind of eh; “S&M” isn’t an especially well-produced track, but it’s easy enough to dance to.
Part of me still can’t believe how blunt this song is. I mean, yeah, songs about sex and kinky sex certainly aren’t anything new to pop music. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good 40% of Rihanna’s discography was about sex in some way or another, but “S&M” felt almost embarrassingly excessive. Like “Hey, you know what? I have sex. I totally have sex. I have sex all the time. OH MY GOD SEX IS ON MY MIND RIGHT. NOW.” excessive (more commonly known as Madonna-stage).
The song never really changes things up over the course of 4 minutes. There’s a little “S S S and M M M” outro paired with the “na na na na come on” bit, because one digitized vocal hook wasn’t nearly grating enough. If I’m being honest, “S&M” isn’t really impressive. It runs a little too long, the chorus is the only saving grace, and it feels more like album filler than a proper single. Ah well, at least it’s not too terrible.