Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants. Is Maroon 5 still number one?
Hm, it’s another Rihanna single. I know I’m trading out bland and boring for dull and passable, but once “One More Night” entered its tenth week in the top spot, I was ready for damn anything else. Yes, even “Gangnam Style”. But hey, this is more than any other Rihanna single, it’s a Rihanna lead single, which have a history of being quite good. Well, let me just pull up the ol’ YouTube, and we’ll get started…
Now we hit play, and start to list–
What the? Did I just somehow blink and miss the song? I get that Ri’s hits are supposed to be fairly disposable, but there’s normally at least something to listen to. Ok, let me try to reload the video. Hm, there’s some video set-up before the song, we’ve got a moment here.
I think I mentioned this when “Where Have You Been” came up in Billboard’s Songs of Summer list, but talking about Rihanna gets kind of tedious after awhile because while she doesn’t carbon copy herself that often, all of her hits come from the same “dance up whatever trend is big at the moment, make the chorus solid and the verses decent” mentality. They sort of resemble the Camry of pop music: safe, dependable, and sells like no other. Ri probably involves fewer mom jeans, though. Ok, now the song’s starting…
“Diamonds” is fairly restrained for a Rihanna single, and even drifts into balladry. The production consists of some 80’s sounding keyboards, and a soft drum beat for the verses. It’s produced by Team Rihanna newcomer but pop everyman Benny Blanco, and StarGate, who produced previous hit “Only Girl (In the World)”. Some of that song’s atmospheric synths make a reappearance in “Diamonds” at the chorus, and they’re a nice, chilly touch. Let’s see, we got to the chorus, we should have another two and a half minutes of video left.
What the shit? Ok, maybe it’s the video. Guess I’ll get the audio video then…great, damn ad.
Well, we’ve got more time. Come to think of it, “Diamonds” has a more unique Rihanna vocal take than most of her songs. She sings the song in a more throaty, full voice than normal–compare the chorus here to “Where Have You Been” where she’s all upper range. It turns out that “Diamonds” was written by singer-songwriter Sia, who you may remember from being kind of a big feature artist this year. Well, Sia’s always been a decent writer, let’s see what she’s turned up, now the that video’s ready.
“Shine bright like a diamond” The easiest way to make a lyric memorable? Repeat it ad nauseum.
“Find a light in a beautiful sea/I choose to be happy/You and I, you and I/Are like diamonds in the sky” Well, that’s pretty imagery. Little more, but still pretty. And isn’t a diamond in the sky just a star? Everything I’ve seen in the promo for this song just covers everything in actual diamonds.
“I knew that we would become one right away/Oh, right away/At first sight I left the energy of sun rays” I only bring this one up because the way Ri chews on the words (especially “become” and “energy”) sounds off, like she’s trying to impersonate someone.
“So shine tonight, you and I/We’re beautiful, like diamonds in the sky/Eye to eye, so alive/We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky” So here’s our chorus. I won’t lie, it’s pretty. Rihanna still sounds different, but it kinda works for her. So, here we are in the video…
Ok, then there’s a kinda samey second verse, and the chorus might change, then the bridge’ll have something new, so w–
Oh, come on! This song can’t expect a pleasant chorus to carry over half its run time! But that’s pretty much what happens–no wonder I keep tuning out once we hit the chorus.
It could be because “Diamonds” isn’t really a Rihanna song. I was directed to a video of its writer, Sia, singing it live, and it is a much more engaging version. Not just because it’s a stripped down rendition, but because Sia sings the fuck out of the song (there are also fewer “Shine bright like a diamond”s), and even Rihanna’s final chorus belting seems kind of fenced in on the original. And after hearing the original, it’s clear that the reason Ri sounds kind of off is because she’s straight up trying to imitate Sia, a comparison which does her no favors.
Finally reached the end by myself! “Diamonds” is kind of a sleepy song. It’s not even disposable in that “Heard it once, don’t need to hear it again” way, you could hear half of it, and get the idea. Rihanna changes her delivery, but it’s just a Sia impression, and Rihanna just doesn’t go for broke like she does. The production’s pretty, but doesn’t go anywhere (and sounds too familiar), and the same goes for the lyrics. Points for trying something a little different, but “Diamonds” isn’t gonna be forever.