Umbrella – Rihanna
The Umbrella music video is performance based; it belongs to the RnB genre. The music video begins with a close up of Rihanna’s leg and then pans her whole body. Here face is concealed by a hat making it harder for us to recognise who the artist is. Rihanna’s costume is revealing and shows off her body, which may from a feminist perspective be done to attract a male audience. This is a negative representation of the female gender by feminist, as Rihanna is demeaning herself. Another interpretation of Rihanna’s costume by a post-feminist would be that she is in control and not being forced to do anything but only celebrate her success. In the lyrics at the start we hear a very famous rapper Jay Z promoting his record label and Rihanna, his newly signed artist at the time this music video was produced. The appearance of Jay Z in this music video will help attract a larger audience to purchase and listen to the song as he is a well established artist.
The long shot of Jay Z shows with female backup dancers in the background, the camera shot shows Jay Z in the centre making him look the most important and powerful. This is a stereotypical representation of the male gender as they are made to look more superior when compared to females. Jay Z costume is a leather jacket, baggy jeans and trainers; this is clothing most commonly worn by rappers making Jay Z look like a stereotypical Hip Hop artist. There is also special effects being used in this long shot as there is sparkles of fire raining down on Jay Z and the backup dancers without having any effect on them. The special effects make the music video seem more expensive and professional, therefore making Rihanna look like a high calibre artist to promote her name and music.
Next we cut to a Mid shot of Rihanna performing alone, her costume is all black making her look more like a rock singer as opposed to RnB artist, this costume may have been chosen to attract a larger audience from another genre. There is smoke in the background which may connote that Rihanna is one of “hottest” talents around. A series of different shots in the same scene reveal a drummer in the background which is conventionally not seen in RnB music videos but Rock videos instead, this shows that Rihanna has changed her style possibly to attract a larger target audience. Rihanna is carrying out different poses in this scene of the music video; these poses show that she is also reliant on her looks as well as talent. Feminist would argue that her poses and her costume have been chosen specifically to attract male audiences, the male gaze.
There is then a cut to a different scene which makes use of special effects once again. In this scene Rihanna is spraying around water with her hand; the fact that water is being used ties in with the name of the song “Umbrella”, for this reason the actions that are happening in this scene are not unusual. The connotations of water are purity and freshness, which may be the way Rihanna is trying to represent herself. Rihanna is represented in this scene more positively than in others, as she is made to look more innocent and less provocative. In this scene Rihanna looks more like an RnB artist than in others where she looked rock artist, this may have been done to reassure her original fans that she has not changed her style and music completely. Next there is a short cut to a scene where Rihanna is showing off her ballet skills by balancing the whole weight of her body on the tip of her toes. This represents Rihanna as she is represented as talented dancer, it can also be said that Intertextual references are being used here as Micheal Jackson has performed this dance move in his music video “Billie jean”.
We then cut to a long shot of Rihanna dancing with a waitress like costume; here Rihanna is playing a stereotypical female role. Rihanna’s costume and make up (high heels and red lipstick) in this scene is revealing and represents her as promiscuous, which is a negative representation of the female gender. Also her costume and props are all black making her seem like a rock artist once again, showing the change she has made in her style. However, female artists wearing tight costumes adhere to the conventions of RnB music videos. Also Rihanna’s choreographed dancing is another conventional aspect of RnB music videos, so it can be argued that Rihanna is not subverting the conventions of the RnB music videos in this music video. There is a range of camera shots being used in this scene like others in order to engage the audience interest in the music video.
Next there is a cut to a series of close ups and mid-shots showing Rihanna completely naked and covered in gold paint. Intertextual reference is once again being used as this scene to some Madonna fans would remind them of Madonna’s “fever” video in which she does exactly the same thing. It is also interesting that Rihanna’s music video uses Intertextual references that relate to big mainstream stars of the past, such as Madonna and Micheal Jackson, this may have been done to show her intention of becoming a big success in the music industry. Also the fact that Rihanna is completly naked represents females negatively as sex objects. There is then a cut to a close up of Rihanna in the next scene for a period of time which engages and keeps them interested in the music video.
The last scene in the music video is a choreographed dance performed by Rihanna and male backup dancers. A choreographed dance is a convention of an RnB music video hence the reason why there are many choreographed dancing scenes in this music video. The use of male dancers may have been done to attract female audiences and represent Rihanna as talented as she is leading the dance. The Umbrella prop has been used once again in this scene creating an obvious relationship between lyrics and images.
Overall, this music video manages to adhere to most of the conventions of RnB music videos. However, in some scenes Rihanna does look like a rock artist because of her leather black costumes. The music video does show that Rihanna has changed her style and music in order to attract larger audiences. The music video also uses intertextual references to give pleasure to fans of other big name artists who can understand them. The camera shots in this music video can be interpreted in many ways depending on how audiences read them. Feminist would say that Rihanna is representing females negatively through her provocative clothing and sexual behaviour. Whereas post feminist would argue that this video represents Rihanna as a successful and independent artist trying to become a very successful artist.