(Not) Hot Track of the Week: “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney
Last week, Rihanna released “FourFiveSeconds,” a new song from her forthcoming album featuring superstars Kanye West and Paul McCartney, and co-written by Ty Dolla $ign. Surely this trio featuring one the best female pop vocalists, arguably the greatest producer ever, and arguably the best songwriter to ever live would create a song that would “break the internet,” right?
Well, perhaps this expectation is a bit lofty, but unfortunately “FourFiveSeconds,” while it will inevitably receive critical success for name recognition and from Rihanna’s label pushing it onto Top-40 radio, is a flop.
The song has been praised for its simplicity: it features Rihanna and Yeezy’s unembellished vocals, backed by Paul McCartney’s acoustic guitar and light orchestration. Yet, herein lies its fatal flaw.
While “FourFiveSeconds” is generally in Paul McCartney’s writing style, the instrumentation is too simple – it doesn’t support the lyrical content, or Rihanna’s powerful voice. The lyrics are a stark portrayal of two lovers lamenting a failing relationship and lashing out, but the happy-sounding chord progression confuses this sentiment.
This isn’t to say it couldn’t have worked, because there’s precedent: Rihanna’s hit single “Stay” featured just piano and her belting about a lover who is leaving her. This works because of the emotionally charged chord structure, as well as Rihanna’s passionate performance. In “FourFiveSeconds,” the vocals are more subdued, and the chord structure doesn’t reflect the emotional content.
And don’t get me started on Kanye starting to sing more, especially without Autotune.
Admittedly, the song has a very catchy hook – perhaps its one redeemable aspect – but I was really expecting more from this group.
“FourFiveSeconds” could have been a great song. The lyrics are there, but in previous collaborations between Kanye and Rihanna there has been more production value (see “All of the Lights,” “Run This Town”). I think if Kanye had used his magic touch to add some production to it the song would be better, but unfortunately Kanye has been taking a more stripped-down approach to his music.
Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
Image courtesy of Genius.com