I mean, obviously I’ll be laughing on the other side of my face when he gets poached by, I dunno, Wolves or someone in the summer, then goes on to form a massive eight-goal partnership with Kevin Doyle, but for now, he’s ours, and he’s clearly the third-greatest footballer in history. Behind Le Tiss and Marsden, in case you needed to ask…
Alex Macpherson: On first listen, the dancehall vibes of “Rude Boy” sit awkwardly on its dark, monochrome parent album. As a single, though, it takes on a new lease of life both as an irresistibly lewd spring jam — and as another manifestation of Rated R‘s themes of self-reclamation. Rihanna stalks the beat like a predator, and its coiled springs of synths crouch and pounce with her. She assumes total control over the situation — her rude boy may be a captain and a rider, but only at her behest and with her permission. Each line of the first verse begins “I’mma let…”, reinforcing not the significance of the roles she allows him to play but her own agency. The chorus is even more emasculating, with Rihanna’s witheringly direct questions peppered with imperatives, culminating in the order to “Take it! Take it!” Consider the pain fucked away.
Kat Stevens: Pleasant summery song that doesn’t quite fit with the emotional trauma theme of Rated R. Pleasant until you realise that the synth line is veering sharply in the direction of Calvin Harris. Aiee.
Michaelangelo Matos: Even as a non-fan of the album I’d say they’ve been picking the right singles. Especially since, divorced from the album, “Rude Boy” is exactly the kind of record that made Rihanna good: forthright hooks as hard and porous as granite, stuff with the solidity and give of classic early ’00s R&B. The strobing synths and freewheeling beat make a friction that bubbles, and when she demands it rough she nevertheless sounds as playful as the music.
Martin Skidmore: I think this has something for fans of any part of her career – we get steel drums brightening the sound and the Caribbean reference of the title, we get a strong pop tune, and we get her current tough tones. I had my doubts about her singing a positive song about violent men, but there is no mistaking who is in charge here, so it comes across as a daring and successful move. The Stargate production is a bit unexciting, but this is another strong single.
Martin Kavka: The production doesn’t have the snap of past Rihanna hits produced by Stargate. And I have to admit that I’m completely puzzled as to the lyrics. Obviously it’s about sex, but between the “take it take it” and the “give it to me” and the “tonight I’m a-let you be the rider” and the “giddy up giddy up” (implying that the rude boy is being ridden), I have doubts that even the most expert pornographer could do justice to the complexity of Rihanna’s narrative.
Doug Robertson: Forget about standing under that umbrella, Rihanna’s got other plans for it tonight…
Alfred Soto: Now that she can’t find good songs anymore, she’s stuck hunting for good voices. How much did she get for the Beyonce implant?
Tal Rosenberg: The music is unstoppable, with its calypso drums spelunking over the rat-a-tat-tat drums. But every time I hear the chorus on the radio, which is perpetually, I sing to myself, “Come on please, please, please chloroform me.” I’m adding two points: one for the video, another for Rihanna’s uncanny resemblance to T-Boz from TLC circa 1993.
Chuck Eddy: When I heard she was ripping off M.I.A., I hoped that meant the music, but apparently it’s just the video. (Note: Not a Specials ripoff either, unfortunately. Also not remotely special. Docked a notch for more vanilla S&M stance than Lady Gaga, who said when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun. Rihanna’s just plain no fun period.)
Anthony Easton: The video is a weird MIA pastiche, but the song, oh the song, asking if he can get it up, if he is big enough, and that she is letting him be the captain, or the rider, has an erotic elan that turns my body out.
John Seroff: “Rude Boy”’s pleasures bear some surface similarities to that of Stargate’s last banger, “Please Don’t Stop the Music”. Where “Music” ran on MJ fumes, good-times sensibilities and Rihanna’s warm promises, “Rude Boy” diamond-filters those same derivative disco thrills through RiRi’s new, colder-than-cold persona. ‘Music’ was an invite to join the dance; ‘Rude Boy’ is a dare-you-to-fuck-me jam with Lords of Acid lyrics. Rihanna’s trick du jour is in taking “Can you get it up? Boy, is you big enough?” and rendering it sexless and sneeringly disaffected; this will have no problem getting a spin at prom. Bonus points for the pitch-perfect Buffalo Stance Trapper Keeper video and for being more enjoyably weird over the long term than “Hard”; I’m holding out hope Rihanna emerges from the ice-queen cocoon as Grace Jones.