Make no bones about it: Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ is about Paul McCartney.
“Sir Paul,” who has hopped on every new single by Rihanna and Kanye West, is conspicuously absent from this one. Let’s compare the new Rihanna single, “Bitch Better Have My Money,” to the previous one. ‘FourFive Seconds,’ by Kanye West and Rihanna, featuring Paul McCartney on acoustic guitar, may accurately be described as a song for moms. And said moms probably jam out to ‘FourFive Seconds’ because “that cute old man” from The Beatles is on it.
John Lennon, the other half of that most famous songwriting duo, once accused Paul of writing “granny music.” So this isn’t even about Paul as an old-timer: he’s always composed mom music. Nothing against moms: without moms, none of us would walk the earth.
But ‘FourFive Seconds’ is an inoffensive tune: and it is a “tune” and practically a jingle. While the song pulls together Rihanna and Kanye, ‘FourFive Seconds’ has more in common with the white folk tradition embodied by, say, Mumford and Sons than anything resembling Rick Ross. ‘FourFive Seconds’ could soundtrack an Olive Garden commercial. No offense to Olive Garden, but let’s be real: the woman who gave us ‘Pour It Up’ and ‘Umbrella’ and the man who gave us ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Jesus Walks’ ideally aim for a different audience.
‘FourFive Seconds’ has more in common with the white folk tradition embodied by, say, Mumford and Sons than anything resembling Rick Ross
On the contrary, ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ knocks from the start. Anyone could have sung ‘FourFive Seconds.’ Katy Perry could have sung ‘FourFive Seconds.’ Even Miley Cyrus could have sung ‘FourFive Seconds.’ In fact, Miley’s SNL performance of ‘We Can’t Stop’ sounds almost exactly like ‘FourFive Seconds.’
But ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ is a song only Rihanna could sing.
Rihanna is the only person who could sing: “Turn up to Rihanna while the whole club fuckin’ wasted / Every time I drive by I’m the only thing you playin.’” Rihanna can summon these spirits because she is, in fact, Rihanna. Her music is the only thing the club plays. It’s the only thing the whole club can turn up to.
And yet, while they’re “playin” her, they cannot “play” her in the other sense of “playing,” because, as she warns again and again, “Bitch better have my money.” Rihanna never lays out the consequence for the person in question if they don’t have Rihanna’s money. But, let’s be clear, you want to have Rihanna’s money for her when she drives by the club and they’re playing Rihanna. I paid $1.29 for this song on iTunes but I would easily pay more.
Weirdly, Rihanna’s admonishment to the listener that they “better have her money” creates a space where the listener just wants to give Rihanna money, reminding the listener of her single ‘Pour It Up.’
But back to the person in question who should hand over Rihanna’s royalties: Paul McCartney.
“If I go to jail tonight,” Kanye improvised during the performance of ‘FourFive Seconds’ at the Grammys. “Paul, will you pay my bail?” Paul McCartney: you better have my money.
Paul moves through ‘FourFive Seconds’ almost as a sideman. Kanye and Rihanna control the music, the moment, the barely-there tension the music video reveals. ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ presents all tension at the front. The tension you can, you must, turn up to.
‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ presents all tension at the front. The tension you can, you must, turn up to
Paul is not there because Paul cannot be there; if he was, as during his brief show a-whistlin’ in the second half of Kanye’s recent single ‘All Day,’ he would completely defuse the flame-thrower wielding spirit of the song. And yet Paul is there: Rihanna invokes his presence as a warning. You cannot work with Rihanna and play her. Rihanna does not last for ‘FourFive Seconds.’ Rihanna is eternal. The rich don’t stay rich by being rich: they stay rich because they’re smart.
As Dr. Dre advises on the new Kendrick album: “But remember, anybody can get it / The hard part is keeping it, motherfucker.” Rihanna wants to keep it. She is keeping it. “You owe me,” she warns. For anyone can get Paul McCartney. Not everyone can outshine him.