The drama. The suspense. The principals of this track got a lot of stuff with them. Rihanna’s trying to find her way back to making news for her music and not her hairdos and eye jammies. Yeezy is getting over his 808′s & Heartbreaks while dealing with the fallout of the weak Drake video. Jay-z stands at do or die at this point in his career. He bought his last album back from Def Jam and is releasing it on his own terms. His tenuous grip on “best rapper alive” is currently under assault by rising rappers, continuing beefs, and a swaggerless period punctuated by nerd glasses and that baby fro.
But I guess he got his swaaaagger back as he nears the release of the much heralded Blueprint 3, a title that recalls perhaps his most shining moment, as well as his “Gift & His Curse.” “Run This Town” is the starting point on the road to redemption for all three of them. Above is the song/video in its entirety.
Now that you’ve heard it, here are a few observations on it. The opening is pretty standard, with an energized Rihanna opening over Jigga ad libs and piano keys. This puts the song in rev up mode, gaining steam and building anticipation. So far, so good. not great, but standard for this kind of song
The drums come in and the meat of the song arrives. Jay is attacking this song with a renewed urgency of a last stand. His lyrics are drawing a line in the stand in final defense of the throne he covets so badly. “All black everything” in the face of the superfruity swagger of generation next, while still wearing his success like armor, Jay-z is admittedly “a couple bands down” trying to get back at it.
First verse is sounding good when Rihanna returns for her chorus. The immediate problem is that she goes for too long and after mouthing the words attempts to take it to the bridge. Her career isn’t really built on this kind of singing, so it sounds a bit forced and out of her lane. It puts too much space between two Hov verses.
“Please follow the Lea-dar, soEricb we-are Microphone Fiends…,” Jigga comes back in with more assertion, but you sometimes wish he would just prove he’s the best and stop reminding us by telling us. He loses steam towards the end of the second verse with the rich man talk, but it’ s not mailed in by any means. Then…more e x t r a l o n g R i h a n n a c h o r u s. It really throws off the momentum of the song.
Kanye has come a long way as an emcee batting cleanup on a Jay-z song. His presence adds a certain gravity to the song admittedly. The “no homo” reference gets the evil eye but Kanye rapping is always better than Kanye singing. “What you think I rap for, to drive a f****n Rav 4?” Kanye is very assertive on this and it fits the pace of the song. Although his verse is not as lyrical as Jay-z he is arguably the highlight of the song.
In a nutshell, I think the song is better than the overrated “D.O.A.” However with the bar set high by the accomplishments these three performers, it leaves a bit to be desired. Sometimes your best competition is yourself, and we’ve heard better from this trio separately.
As for the video, it’s perhaps a bit overblown in the vein of Mad Max, California love. Rihanna is very cold and vampish, almost like the Aaliyah vampire from a few years ago. I’m ready for the Iraqi scar thing as well as the bandana over the mouth thing to be over as well. People get shot over the flags, they shouldn’t be video props. I think the grandness of the video, though it doesn’t really conjure any town running and looks more like a Middle Eastern coup d’ etat, underscores the shortcomings of the song: much ado about nothing.
I’m sure this is a big event, as there were trailers even though the vid is only a bit more than 5 minutes, as well as photoshoots. In the grand scheme of things the song is relatively disposable for artists of this magnitude and the video won’t be as magnificent as the hype leading up to it.
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