CANDID PIX REVEAL STARLET’S SHOCKING HABITS (hanging out on British farms)
Doug Robertson: Rihanna releases singles more regularly than the local divorce court, so it’s hard to get too excited when you hear that yet another is on its way, and it seems that Calvin Harris also struggled to get too interested in this particular project, as his contribution screams “album offcut” to anyone who might be listening. But even though the pair of them seem to be coasting, there’s just enough going on here to make it worth their while, even if you can’t quite shake the feeling that they’d rather be doing a song about finding the times of their last buses home.
Alfred Soto: I’ll give Rihanna credit for trying — she attempts high notes I’d expect from Beyoncé if she thought she could get away with sullying her cred — but Calvin Harris can’t resist putting on David Guetta’s Merlin coat and programming rote synth patterns at the minute mark.
Katherine St Asaph: Rihanna’s almost definitely had voice lessons in the past, um, few months; notice how half her notes flutter up the scale, the other half pooling into vibrato. If only the training wasn’t to be the pretty-but-matte vocalist on a Calvin Harris song, mechanically cooing about yellow diamonds and heartbeats in the mind and nothing meaningful.
Jer Fairall: Harris’ production is so beautifully simple that it almost seems to surprise itself, working itself up into an excited lather at frequent intervals before settling back into a two-note synth hook that flies so brazenly in the face of the dubstep age that it feels damn near revolutionary at this point in 2011. Credit Rihanna, too, for giving herself over to a producer who sounds, rightfully, far more in awe of his own creation than he is of his performer, of whom little is required beyond rendering that chorus into the battle-scarred triumph that it is. She sounds positively euphoric on it, and she has every reason to: this is easily her best single since “Umbrella.”
Brad Shoup: “We Found Love” finds Rihanna dipping a toe into dubstep; Harris is credited because those fingers audibly clacking on the synths are recognizably his. It’s a rather static arrangement, and every time she threatens to ascend, the refrain pulls out a stop. The result is a house-pop tone poem that would probably pack the floor at twice its length. An odd choice for a first single, but an admirable alleyway investigation.
Zach Lyon: Apparently I enjoy these songs where Rihanna plays second fiddle to her big-name producer, more than her actual solo output. And don’t let the billing confuse you, this IS Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna, resident house diva. She’s reduced to her voice and a single unrememberable mantra, underneath Calvin’s pleasant syntheries. I hate to admit that she doesn’t have a strong command over her usual pop star centerpieces, but I just learned that we’re the same age and I probably wouldn’t fare much better.
Jonathan Bogart: Rihanna has successfully navigated out of the white-blast club bwomp and into open spaces. But in the immortal words of Heavy D and the Boyz, now what?