Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rihanna Debuts Pour It Up Video, Pop Continues to Worship The Pole Dance

Rihanna hasn't made any secret of her love for strip clubs as evidenced by her many Instagram shots of her pole dance related nights out. And her single Pour It Up, the woozy Mike Will Made It produced cut from 2012's Unapologetic already had something of a strip-club anthem status before the much-delayed video ever saw the light of day.

This evening RiRi finally debuted the clip (After a Twitter spat with it's director and her working on the promo for next single What Now) and as expected it's got ass shots everywhere and plenty of undeniably impressive pole aerobics.

Videos like these always feel like they're doing everyone involved a disservice even when they serve up impressive imagery and show people with obvious talent. Pour It Up isn't as bold or striking as some of Rihanna's key videos and even on it's own merits it's a bit flat. 

The main set up of Rihanna grinding and sexing it up on a throne is a nice idea never quite executed properly. The use of the water around the pole dancing gives things a hazy feel and there's some beautifully lit shots that give Rihanna a lean and striking presence on screen. 

But for a song that's all about how Rihanna is unapologetically (no pun intended) earning and spending the same money as any of her peers and not feeling guilty about it there's too much objectifying of women taking place to ever feel like Pour It Up is some kind of victory for Rihanna and her female friends.

Sure, a woman taking charge of her sexuality and doing what she wants is forever to be commended but pop's over reliance on the images associated with pole dancing and stripping suggests that to be in control a woman still has to look hot in a way that will be appealing to men. It's a problem much discussed not least in famous books like Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs and it's something that continues to raise eyebrows as long as female pop icons equate "growing up and taking charge" with stripping down to their skivvies. 

Pour It Up occasionally offers some beautifully stark and sexy images not least when the girls involved seem to defy gravity and still act graceful as they slide up poles and into mid-air (feats most of us would never be able to do) but it's the insistence on them also having to be always on sex-objects that makes it feel like it's forcing some kind of compromise. 

Even in the rather fun making of video, when we see women like Nicole Williams do mind-boggling moves it's all undercut with Rihanna basically aping the typical stereotypical male pose "Yeah, look at these hot girls. Hot girls are hot. I love hot girls". Which to be fair, is the kind of schtick male stars (particularly within hip-hop) do regularly. For Rihanna it seems that claiming those roles for herself is seen as subversive in some way. 

The idea that women objectifying women is somehow taking power back from men or showing how "empowered" women never really sticks no matter how many times we see it played out in pop. It's like when we see an ad depicting men as bumbling idiots and women as infinitely superior and remember that reversing putting someone down doesn't change anything, it just makes everyone look stupid. 

Still, that kind of talk is bigger than one Rihanna video and taken on it's own merits, there are flashes of impressive imagery in Pour It Up even if Rihanna's rush to act like one of the boys ultimately seems to be letting herself down.

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