Rihanna + Gary Clark Jr. | Tracks
An empowering bid for the charts by pop’s good girl gone bad. Austin bluesman becomes a victim of artist development.
Earlier this year the New Yorker profiled songwriter Ester Dean and the production duo Stargate, the team behind some of Rihanna’s biggest hits, including “What’s My Name” and “Rude Boy.” It was a fascinating read, detailing how stars like Rihanna are basically spoon-fed ready-made chart toppers. That’s not exactly news; lots of artists don’t write their own songs. But it makes you wonder who’s behind “Diamonds,” which takes a different tack from the dance-pop anthems she’s become synonymous with. Sustained piano chords set a more reflective tone, though many EDM components remain thanks to co-producers Benny Blanco and, yes, Stargate. A measured four-on-the-floor pulse holds the whole thing in place. RiRi over-enunciates the empowering refrain, “Shine bright like a diamond.” Turns out that’s because the ghostwriter isn’t Dean but Sia, who helmed the hook on Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones.” The arty Australian’s sappy lyrics land differently through a less eccentric mouthpiece, but Rihanna, one of pop music’s proven interpreters, once again shows us she’s able to inhabit practically anyone’s words.