By Hans Ebert
“I like it because she’s being herself.” “She” is Rihanna. and my friend Jenny is trying to answer my question as to why the video for “FourFive Seconds” has so many drawn to it, including myself.
In my book of greatest music videos of a Feel Good nature, it’s right up there with the amazing home made work that brings the mashup titled “Rolling Confusion” and the one featuring Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to life and hurtling into one’s psyche and makes one bolt outta bed and dance The Wahtusi buck naked Rogers.
The video for “FourFive Seconds”, directed by Dutch photography duo Inez and Vinood, is simple- deceivingly so as there’s so much going on in it that one finds something new and something more with each viewing. It’s a mental jigsaw puzzle and scavenger hunt, combined, leading you to new places, some of which you might not have wished to enter for fear of facing the truth, but needed to for some form of forgiveness and redemption. Guilt is a painful burden to bear- more so than any cross. The sooner one sheds this from themselves, and becomes immune to the guilt trips laid on for decades by tricksters, there’s an incredible sense of liberation and self worth. This video and song helps light the way.
On the surface, this video is Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney, filmed in black and white against a limbo background performing the song.
Perhaps it’s this performance where three very different and very popular artists in their own right come together- yet remain very much in their own space and with little rapport other than that incredible bond they share internally and outwardly for their music, that’s the magic. There’s a sense of distanced camaraderie to it all- four-five seconds of wildin’ where each artist gives something of themselves to viewers- and each other.
Rihanna, without any makeup or need to keep up fashion pretences wears a simple denim outfit, gives herself up to the song, and gets lost and pained by the lyrics. Her pain becomes your pain- and it’s there for all to see. “Cause all of my kindness/Is taken for weakness.” How true. But that’s back in the yesterday.
When Kanye sings- not raps- in an unfiltered and cracked voice minus any auto tuner, it’s honest- and it’s refreshing to hear- and where he ends with the lines, “Hold me back/I’m about to spazz”. Gone are thoughts about his non-stop ego turns, and childish tantrums to be noticed.
This is the Kanye West who gave some of us the best dirty love song in “Love Lockdown.” We makes us want to “spazz awhile”, too, because we’ve become way too damn precious and serious and caring about what others think when these others aren’t even worth hovering near our radars.
And then there’s Macca, aka Sir Paul McCartney- not singing at all, but (deceptively) playing the side musician by strumming his acoustic guitar, when in fact keeping everything in check, and, musically, giving the track the only backbeat it has as there are no drums and not even the hint of any Beatz.
There’s a very crowded songwriting credits list as the track was written for a Rihanna album, but the origins and heartbeat to the song seem to have been led by McCartney. The deceptively simple melody line, the acoustic guitar, the country-folk and soul poppiness of it all has all the southpaw prints of Lefty Beatle. It’s another of his Silly Love Songs but, this time, with an edge of darkness to it.
Who knows why it all works so well? Perhaps it was timing. Perhaps the stars were perfectly aligned when the song, and then the video came together. Perhaps, its time to stop trying to figure it all out, and just celebrate the fact that “I’m four, five seconds to wildin” and know I’ll get there in one piece as there’s no baggage to bog me down.