Written by: Sia Furler, Benjamin Levin, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen (Stargate)
Produced by: Benny Blanco & Stargate
Debuted at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100
“Shine bright like a diamond, shine bright like a diamond,” intones another smash hit from Rihanna, the reigning face of American popular music. In less than a decade she’s become one of the most successful musicians in the world. In the United States alone, amassing nine number one singles, twenty-two Top 20 singles, and six Top 10 albums in less than a decade (it’s actually only been eight years). [Diamonds], her fortieth single, is a crashing pop ballad that employs watery synth motifs, disco violins, a classic love-at-first-sight theme, and hints of soulful rock n’ roll / blues. Also, how did they get a KPop amount of hooks into that song? This first theme is established with the simple chord progression from a heavily reverbed grand piano and the hook, “Shine bright like a diamond”. Follow this opening, the first verse pounds fervently growing in power as it stretches through to a climactic pre-chorus which runs headfirst into the chorus, a telling moment of throaty, belting immediately juxtaposed next to the girlish first hook which is interpolated into another sing-song melody to form either a second chorus or post-chorus. There are perhaps five or six themes that recur in slightly different variations throughout [Diamonds], these four just covering the first few moments, but it’s never quite the same arrangement making it at once hard to learn and interestingly complex. It’s a very impressive piece of modern music.
For those not familiar with her entire catalog, this is a large departure from her usual: a wonderful aside in a field of hard-hitting R&B / dance music. . The song feels like the cloudy delirium of MDMA: both sharp and sweet, silvery and cinematic; which she references twice under its street pseudonyms of molly and ecstasy as well of acidic images of a lit sea and extraterrestrially reaching palms. She also contemplates a passionate relationship that is working, something Rihanna has been bereft of for years. Thanks to one exceptionally excellent round of singing or very deft producers (Benny Blanco and Stargate) she has produced one of her most evocative performances of her prolific career: on par with either [Unfaithful] or [Fire Bomb] both vocally and in songcraft, this by the troubadour of the moment, Sia Furler, of Christina Aguilera and indie fame. But after her IHeartRadio performance I’ve just come to the conclusion, that much like Ms. Taylor Swift, she is a phenomenal recording artist but just can’t tap into her instrument while live. I will buy this, her seventh album in eight years, because I know that it will be absolutely sonically stunning and interesting, not because I truly view her as anything more than an excellent celebrity, interpreter, and opportunist.