It’s been a long, odd year for Rihanna. She kicked off 2009 still riding high on the success of her hit 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad, which featured smash singles like “Umbrella,” “Disturbia” and “Don’t Stop the Music.” But then her year got derailed by the domestic violence incident involving boyfriend Chris Brown. After what has seemed like an awfully long road, Rihanna is back with a new album (Rated R, which hits stores on November 23) and a new single in “Russian Roulette,” which made its debut this morning. Though many people (especially those of us in the MTV Newsroom) were expecting a hyped-up banger, “Russian Roulette” is actually a slow-burning ballad that puts the confessional lyrics front and center. Still, it retains the same sort of attitude and atmosphere that has made Rihanna such a definitive artist.
But that’s what we think. The real question is what the public thinks. There’s only one way we know of to find out what the people are thinking, which is why we repelled down the side of 1515 Broadway into New York’s Times Square to play the track for some fans (many of which were itching to catch Shakira and Paramore on “It’s On with Alexa Chung”) and find out what their knee-jerk reactions were.
The ridiculously unscientific results are in, and the news is good for the Barbados-born singer, as 83 percent of the people we talked to gave “Russian Roulette” the thumbs-up. Though many of them brought up the fact that they were expecting something different, most saw that as a positive. Rated R promises to be one of the most fascinating albums of the year, and “Russian Roulette” appears to have gotten it off on the right foot.