Needed Me Music Video Review
The video for “Needed Me” is the second single off Rihanna's introspective opus Anti. Lately, Rihanna has been flipping the script on the commodifying misogynoir that is so prevalent in fuckboy rap du jour by actually BEING the commodifier, sans the misogynoir. She is killing men and stealing wives and smoking blunts with her gals while she does it. Arguments over whether Rihanna’s work is feminist or not are held between people who don’t understand her music at all, and “Needed Me” exists in this space – we don’t really know what Rih is up to, but we’re not going to question her. This type of thinkpiece-defying status is something all musicians long for, and Rihanna has worked for years to achieve it.
Harmony Korine’s work has always danced just inside the uncanny valley, creating art full of characters that are sometimes creepily inhuman but just human enough that it's all the more grotesque. Ways to recognize a Harmony Korine film might be a dead cat, grainy film, garbage, pedophilia, White people with cornrows, or a general air of misery. His films are provocative, painful, and awesome. Who better to direct a Rihanna music video than the master of savage beauty and bacchanalia himself?
Too bad the video is a forgettable wreck, rife with seemingly simple editing mistakes.
Rihanna barely sings into the camera for the majority of what seems to be the "punch" lines, and the only time the video is even halfway snapped to the beat of the song is during the initial DJ Mustard signature. The cuts feel awkward and misplaced, and aside from Rihanna killing a man, there is nearly no plot. Which would be fine, if the images were interesting enough. I think we were all expecting something a little grosser from Harmony Korine. Perhaps 2012's Spring Breakers (featuring a Riff-Raff-ified James Franco and not a single dead cat) is indicative of Korine’s final descent into pop culture with his name seemingly tacked onto this video.
Anti is still a glittering black diamond in Rihanna’s discography, and one weirdly boring video doesn’t really detract from its legacy. It is often shocking and emotionally fluent, with Rih’s voice breaking in its upper register and wandering in and out of haunting violin bridges like a gorgeous drunken pop-star. Being desperate for your hookup to come over has never felt more romantic, and laughing at him later for being so clingy feels like savage payback for years of “side chick” jokes. This is Rihanna’s fullest sound, and it deserves the fullest range of images to depict it. A song like “Desperado” would have been much better for this kind of imagery, and these images paired with this song feels hollow at best, and shockingly amateur at worst.