Rihanna Breaks Out ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ & Moving ‘American Oxygen’ on SNL


Let it be known that Rihanna is the only person to upstage an entire episode of Saturday Night Live — a finale, even! — by doing something as simple as giving the host bunny ears during the curtain call. She pissed people off for “lip-syncing” (or singing along with a backing track, most likely); she pissed people off for performing in front of images pulled from 9-11 footage; she pissed people off for grabbing her crotch the way rappers have done for years upon years to little or no outrage. She managed to do all of that in her eight minutes of stage time on the finale of SNL‘s 40th season, and yet snagging the attention of the viewing public is as much an unintentional reflex for her as breathing or blinking. Crack a smile, give Louis C.K. some bunny ears, and call it a day — oh, and debut some new material off one of the most anticipated albums of 2015 while we’re at it. Sure. Just another night’s work for Rihanna.

With her performance of “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Rihanna approached Kanye West territory: She not only thought outside the SNL box, but built a whole damn new one when she turned the stage into a music video set, more or less, instead of merely singing and dancing on it. Unlike the disappointing sets brought forth by fellow pop princesses Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea earlier this season, Rihanna didn’t just phone in SNL like a contractual obligation or an excuse to break out tired set pieces from her tour: She took the wheel for a brief car chase/kidnapping scene before busting a few moves and snarling her way through the second single from her forthcoming eighth album. Kanye turned the lights out for his Yeezus-centric set a couple seasons back and reworked the stage again for “Wolves” during SNL 40, and RiRi did her friend and producer proud by taking advantage of potential and throwing expectations into a tailspin.

As for the hate the internet is hurling her way (more on that later) for the simplicity of “BBHMM” ’s lyrics: To those of you rolling your eyes and ruing the day that popular music turned “stupid” or simple with repetitive choruses and minimalistic lines, need I remind you that the Beatles beat her to the punch with the chorus to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Birthday” nearly 50 years prior? And that Queen did it, too, with “Bicycle Race” a decade after that? Cool. Glad we cleared that up.

With “American Oxygen,” Rihanna sang about the “new America” as current and vintage footage of white cops arresting black men rolled behind her. Various snippets from the news surrounded Rihanna, illuminating her in lieu of a spotlight as drug deals, stock exchange tickers, and the smoldering twin towers flickered in the background. Like D’Angelo did earlier this season, Rihanna used her platform to draw attention to current events and the very real social and political unrest we’re presently experiencing in the United States. To invoke painful images from modern American history isn’t to smear the memories of those affected or frame the civil rights violations perpetrated in Ferguson and Baltimore as events along those lines: If anything, it just drives the point home that all of this is related, and that the struggles many face in this country — on economic, social, religious, educational, and professional grounds — share roots in moments we all experience, directly or otherwise. The struggle is constant. The revolution may not be televised, but it’ll be tweeted and uploaded to YouTube accordingly — and that’s likely where Rihanna’s production crew found the images she chose to perform in front of in the first place. “American Oxygen” made for a somber, thought-provoking moment, one that serves as a refreshing and serious shake-up in Rihanna’s typically danceable repertoire.

But god forbid the internet should agree. The Rihanna Navy was out in full effect and tuning in for RiRi’s SNL performance, and though Questlove got a sneak preview and applauded Rihanna after catching a glimpse of her set during rehearsals, you’d think that all she did was grab herself and sing nonsense in front of a newsreel. This is what happens when people turn a blind ear, and tweet while doing so.

On the next page: Twitter reacts to Rihanna’s SNL performance
[If only there were a “QUESTLOVE APPROVES” emoji.


THAT’S a trip:

The good kind, duh.


Parents Love RiRi:

Give this man all the prizes.

I knooow, trying to use your platform to raise awareness for something is a drag, right? [fart noise]

The images of the twin towers didn’t sit well with some viewers:

And the Lip Sync Police came after her with sirens blaring.

Pretty sure a lot of people would cry around gunfire, tbh.



And, finally, her sign-off was the highlight for, well, everyone:

See also:
Paul McCartney, Miley, Kanye & Paul Simon Soundtrack
SNL 40 in Style
D’Angelo Stuns SNL With a Powerful ‘Charade’