Mark my words: By the time she’s 40, Rihanna will have released 5,400 singles. In just a few weeks, she’s dropping her 7th album since 2005 (here’s a recap of her previous releases), which means we’ll be getting another batch of songs to make sure she’s perpetually in our ears.
“Diamonds,” the first track from the new album, just appeared today, and it sounds like yet another smash.
And here’s the best part: Unlike Ke$ha’s new song, which I dissed for sounding too much like her other material, “Diamonds” is a step in a different direction. Yes, it’s co-produced by Stargate, who have been delivering Rihanna hits since “Umbrella,” and yes, it’s got the electro sound that Rihanna herself helped popularize. But still, the song is not a lazy copy of what’s come before.
For one thing, Rihanna practically sounds like a different vocalist. She sings the song—about how she and her lover are pulsing like “diamonds in the sky”—in a low register she hasn’t used on any of her other singles. Her voice is so husky that she almost sounds like she has a cold, and it gives “Diamonds” a certain… sobriety? Calmness? There’s something moody about the vocal, but it’s more contemplative than seductive. This is a track for the middle of the night, when you’re tired but still want to move.
I appreciate that Stargate and co-producer Benny Blanco maintain a mid-tempo pace throughout. I’d expect a song that begins this slowly to eventually get frantic, like “We Found Love,” but it maintains a relaxed vibe, relying on strings as much as synths to make an impact. And of course, this adds to the sense that “Diamonds” is for heavier moments in the night.
Now, I’m not saying this song will forever change our understanding of Rihanna, but it adds another facet to her career. It mixes things up just enough to demand attention, but not so much that we get confused. And let’s be honest: That’s what Rihanna’s brand of pop music is for. It’s supposed to be intriguing and accessible, a little bit smart and a little bit mindless all at once.
Way back in 2005, Mark Blankenship thought Rihanna was going to be a one-hit wonder. Oops! He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.