"S&M" is a song by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna from her fifth studio album, Loud (2010). The song was released on January 21, 2011, as the fourth single from the album. The American songwriter Ester Dean wrote "S&M" in collaboration with the producers StarGate and Sandy Vee. Backed by bass beats, a keyboard and guitars, it is an uptempo dance-pop and Eurodance track that samples the synthesizer line from Depeche Mode's 1984 song "Master and Servant". The lyrics revolve around sex, sadomasochism, bondage and fetishes.
Critical response to "S&M" was mixed: some critics praised its sound and composition while others criticized its overtly sexual lyrics. The song charted at number two on the United States' Billboard Hot 100 chart. A remix that features Britney Spears was released, and when combined with sales of the solo version, it became Rihanna's tenth and Spears' fifth number-one single on the chart. It has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "S&M" peaked at number one in Australia, Canada and Poland, and reached the top five in France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the UK.
To promote "S&M", Rihanna performed a shortened version at the 2011 BRIT Awards and sang the remix with Spears at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards.Melina Matsoukas directed the song's music video, which was, in part, Rihanna's response to disparaging critics. It portrays softcore sadomasochist acts and fetishes. The music video was banned in many countries and restricted to nighttime television in others. Critics complimented Rihanna's sensuality and the vibrant colors. Photographer David LaChapelle filed a lawsuit alleging that the video incorporates ideas from his photographs. Rihanna and LaChapelle settled the case for an undisclosed sum of money.
- 2 Composition and lyrical interpretation
- 3 Release and remixes
- 4 Critical reception
- 5 Chart performance
- 6 Music video
- 7 Live performances and covers
- 8 Formats and track listings
- 9 Credits and personnel
- 10 Charts
- 11 Certifications
- 12 Radio and release history
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes and references
- 15 External links
Rihanna's vocals on "S&M" were recorded and produced by Kuk Harrell.
"S&M" was written by Ester Dean in collaboration with the song's producers, StarGate and Sandy Vee. Dean explained its conception and the sexually suggestive lyrics to Gail Mitchell of Billboard: "The first thing that came to me was 'Come on, come on.' I'm thinking, 'I don't know what in the hell this is about to be.' And I remembered I'd seen something that said, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones.' Then came 'But chains and whips excite me.' When people have a great track that speaks to me, it feels like it already has a story in it". Rihanna told Rolling Stone about her interest in bondage and other sadomasochism activities, themes central to "S&M": "I like to take charge, but I love to be submissive ... being submissive in the bedroom is really fun. You get to be a little lady, to have somebody be macho and in charge."
"S&M" was recorded during Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour: the instrumental parts for the song were recorded by Eriksen and Miles Walker at Roc the Mic Studios in New York City and the Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, and by Vee at The Bunker Studios in Paris. Rihanna's vocals were recorded by Kuk Harrell and were produced by Harrell, Josh Gudwin and Marcos Tovar; Bobby Campbell assisted in the singer's vocal recording. Veronika Bozeman provided additional vocal production. The song was mixed by Vee at The Bunker Studios and by Phil Tan at The Ninja Beat Club in Atlanta, Georgia; additional and assistant engineering was carried out by Damien Lewis. All instrumental production was completed by Eriksen, Hermansen and Vee.
|Rihanna – "S&M"MENU 0:00 A 21-second audio sample of the song, which features the sampledsynth line from Depeche Mode's song "Master and Servant". The audio sample shows Rihanna chanting the hook "Na na na, c'mon," backed by synthesizers and a keyboard.----|
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
"S&M" is an uptempo dance-pop and Eurodance song that lasts four minutes and three seconds. The song was composed in the key of E-flat minor using common time and a moderate dance tempo of 128 beats per minute. Instrumentation is provided by synthesizers, a keyboard and aguitar. The song samples the synthesizer line from Depeche Mode's 1984 song "Master and Servant". Chris Ryan of MTV described the song as a "steady-rocking dance track, with ominous, snarling keyboard sounds."
During the track, Rihanna's vocal range spans one octave, from the low note of B3 to the high note of B4. Proposing illicit acts, she uses a "sexually aggressive tone" in her vocal performance. The lyrics are about sex, sadomasochism, bondage and BDSM fetishes, including the sexual fantasiesand turn-ons of its protagonist. The song opens with the hook, "Na, na, na, c'mon". During the chorus the lyrics include, "Cause I may be bad, but I'm perfectly good at it / Sex in the air, I don't care, I love the smell of it." In the song, Rihanna describes herself as "bad" and openly praises her own sexual prowess; lyrics include, "Sticks and stones may break my bones / But chains and whips excite me." Rihanna told Spin magazine that the lyrics are metaphoric. She said that she thought the song was mainly about having confidence in one's identity, and about being impervious to rumors and criticism. According to Jake Conway of Q Magazine at Yale, the lyrics are guilty of "divesting sex of emotion" and re-envisaging violence as fetish; he went on to say that Rihanna pays homage to the sexual acts in an empowered dance and club mood. Chris Ryan described the song as being about "dirty, naughty, illicit bedroom activities".Britney Spears performing the remix of "S&M" on the Femme Fatale Tour in 2011
"S&M" was the fourth single from the album Loud to be released in the US and the third in other countries. It was sent to contemporary hit and rhythmic radio stations in the US on January 23, 2011, and to urban playlists on February 27, 2011. The single was released on iTunes Stores throughout Europe and South America on February 11, 2011. In Argentina, Brazil and certain territories throughout Europe, the song was released as an extended play (EP) on February 18, 2011; this consisted of the single version of "S&M" and two remixes by Audé and Samson. On February 28, 2011, a compilation was released worldwide as a digital package consisting of remixes by disc jockeys Audé, Samson and Joe Bermudez. "S&M" was released as a CD single in France and Canada on March 22, 2011. On April 11, 2011, the remix single featuring Britney Spears was made available to download worldwide. In the United Kingdom, "S&M" was deemed too explicit for daytime airplay; it was edited to remove references to sex, chains and whips, and was renamed "Come On" for BBC Radio 1.
A remix of "S&M" featuring rapper J. Cole was released on the internet on January 17, 2011. After the release of the song's album version, Rihanna asked her followers on Twitter about potential collaborators, of which Spears was the most popular choice. Twitter messages between the two artists caused speculation that they had recorded a remix of the song. The remix, featuring guest vocals by Spears, was released on April 11, 2011.[a]
"S&M" received mixed responses from music critics. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine described "S&M" as an ode to sadomasochism that compares to Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope. Conner felt that "S&M", as well as other Loud tracks "What's My Name?" and "Skin", were songs which allowed Rihanna to boast about how good she is in certain situations, as she did on Rated R. He chose the lyrics "I may be bad/ but I'm perfectly good at it... Chains and whips excite me" as an example of her vaunt. USA Today's Steve Jones opined that "Loud's pulsating opener, 'S&M,' makes it clear from the jump where [Rihanna is] headed as she acknowledges that 'chains and whips excite [her]'", while Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly called "S&M" an "explicitly carnal opener" with "late-night-Cinemaxnaughtiness".
Jake Conway of Q Magazine at Yale agreed, writing that the lyrics of "S&M" display why the singer continues to be one of the most provocative recording artists in the music industry, highlighting how she "turns the tables on abusive ex-lover Chris Brown." Digital Spy's Nick Levine gave the song a rating of four stars out of five, and wrote that the song makes the listener as "up-for it" as Rihanna herself; he went on to say that "S&M" consists of "ear-frotting" hooks, synths and pounding beats. James Skinner of BBC Music wrote that Loud lacked the "chart-friendly moments" of Rated R and criticized the overtly sexual lyrics which he found "at odds with" the flirtatious appeal for which Rihanna was aiming. Skinner described the singer's vocal delivery as "forced" and criticized her for not projecting a "daring" or convincing sound on "S&M""S&M" became Rihanna's tenth number one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 and tied her in fourth place with Janet Jackson (pictured) for female soloists who have topped the chart.
"S&M" made its first chart appearance in the United Kingdom on November 15, 2010, at number 55. It peaked at number three on March 5, 2011, where it remained for three consecutive weeks. It was more successful on the UK R&B Chart, where it was number one for five consecutive weeks. The song the second-biggest selling R&B or hip hop single of 2011 in the UK: by December that year, "S&M" had sold 643,000 copies in the UK and was certified silver by the BPI. Elsewhere in Europe, "S&M" was a commercial success and peaked within the top three in many countries.[b]
"S&M" debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number 87 on November 29, 2010, upon the release of Loud. When it was released as a single, it returned to the singles chart at number 27 on January 30, 2011. The song peaked at number one on February 13, 2011, for five non-consecutive weeks. It has since been certified four times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, denoting shipments of over 280,000 copies of the single. The song debuted on the New Zealand Singles Chart at number six on February 7, 2011. It peaked at number two the following week for two consecutive weeks, and returned to its peak position again in its fifth week on the chart."S&M" was subsequently certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, denoting sales of over 15,000 copies.
In the US, the song debuted at number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 4, 2010. The issue of Billboard published on April 30, 2011 reported that the album version of "S&M" and its official remix featuring Spears had sold a combined total of 293,000 downloads in the previous week; it replaced Katy Perry's "E.T." on the Hot 100. "S&M" became Rihanna's tenth US number-one single on the chart, tying her with Janet Jackson in fourth place for female soloists who have topped that chart; with only four years, eleven months and two weeks between her first and tenth number one on the chart, Rihanna achieved the milestone faster than any other solo artist. It became Spears' fifth number-one single on the Hot 100. "S&M" became Rihanna's eighth number-one song on the Pop Songs chart and she became the artist with the most number one songs in the chart's nineteen-year history. The song was number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart, and number 33 on the Hot Latin Songs chart. It debuted at number 80 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in the February 26, 2011 issue of Billboard, and peaked at number 59. "S&M" peaked at number 24 on the Adult Pop Songs chart, and at number 14 on the Latin Pop Songs chart. The song has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and has sold 3,543,000 digital copies in the US as of June 2013. "S&M" ranked at number 15 on Billboard's "Best of 2011 – Pop Songs" chart, and number two on its "Best of 2011 – Dance/Club Songs" chart. In Canada, the song peaked at number one for the week of April 21, 2011.
The director Melina Matsoukas filmed the music video for "S&M" in Los Angeles on January 15 and 16, 2011. Matsoukas told Billboard that the video was inspired by Rihanna's "sadomasochist relationship with the press ... it isn't just about a bunch of whips and chains." On January 27, 2011, a behind-the-scenes clip was posted on Rihanna's YouTube channel, and the full music video premiered on Vevo on February 1, 2011.
As the video opens, Rihanna is dragged into a press conference, where she is covered with plastic wrap and taped to a wall. Microphones and gagged reporters surround her. In an outdoor scene, she wears a cream-colored latex dress and leads a gagged Perez Hilton around by a dog leash. Rihanna is then shown seated and surrounded by CCTV surveillance cameras; her chair begins to rotate, and she stands and begins to whip reporters, who are taped to the wall of the room. She then rolls on the floor, her hands and feet bound with rope. As the bridge of the song approaches, Rihanna wears a white latex bikini and rabbit ears, while images of headlines are projected against her body and the wall behind her. After the chorus, she appears in a newsroom. Reporters take photographs of her while she sprawls across a desk wearing a pink latex dress. Scenes of Rihanna and others in bondage gear are interspersed with images of the singer wearing a feather boa and a tube top with "censored" printed across it. The video then alternates between previous scenes and images in which Rihanna eats bananas, strawberries and cream, and jewel-covered ice cream. In the final scene, she lies on a newsroom desk, with a smiley face emblem over one eye and a Rolling Stones tongue logo over her mouth.
The music video was generally well received. A journalist for The Huffington Post wrote, "Rihanna is perfectly good at being bad – and this video proves it", while a reviewer for OK! called the video "red-hot, kinky and totally tongue-in-cheek". Willa Paskin of New York similarly described it as a "goofy" take on the S&M-themed music videos typical of Madonna and Lady Gaga, while Matthew Perpetua ofRolling Stone described the video as a "visual onslaught of candy-colored kinkiness" that viewers would enjoy despite its bright colors and sexually suggestive activities. Brad Wete of Entertainment Weekly stated that Rihanna delivered the risque video he was expecting based on the song's lyrical content, and Jason Lipshutz of Billboard praised the video's "exquisite set pieces that offer a twisted take on hardcore sexuality".
The video was immediately banned in eleven countries due to its overtly sexual content. It was "flagged for content" by users on YouTube, which restricts access to its users under the age of 18.Rihanna responded to the news via Twitter, writing, "They watched 'Umbrella' ... I was full nude". An unrestricted version of the video was later uploaded to Rihanna's official website. Melina Matsoukas responded to the news in an interview with MTV News, stating: "When I go out to make something, I kind of go out with the intention to get it banned – [well] not to get it banned ... but to make something provocative ... it's making an effect and people are having a dialogue about it, so, to me, that's successful."Rihanna, in a scene from the video. The "pink room" scene was the subject of a US copyright infringement case
The video was involved in further controversy when photographer David LaChapelle sued Rihanna, Island Def Jam and related parties for copyright infringement.LaChapelle alleged that the video infringed upon eight of his photographs published between 1997 and 2010 in GQ, i-D, Vogue Italia and elsewhere. The lawsuit, which claimed unspecified damages, alleged that the video was "directly derived" from LaChapelle's pictures, copying their "composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting". The lawsuit included claims of trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, unfair competition under New York state law and unjust enrichment, all of which were later dismissed. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of New York's Southern District Court denied a motion to dismiss the copyright violation allegations, noting similarities between the works:
Both works feature: hot-pink and white striped walls; two single-hung windows in the middle of the back wall; windows with glossy hot-pink casings and interior framework, with opaque panes exhibiting a half-vector pattern of stripes against a yellow background; a solid hot-pink ceiling; hot-pink baseboards; a hot-pink couch under the windows; women wearing frizzy red wigs; a woman posed on top of a piece of furniture; black tape wrapped around a man; and a generally frantic mood ... [Both works are] well-lit and intensely saturated, with all of the details in sharp focus and almost no shadows.
In August 2011, a judge agreed that the "'pink room scene', which shows Rihanna dominating a man in front of pink and white striped walls, was very similar to LaChapelle's "Striped Face" photograph; the judge pinpointed a scene where Rihanna is seen against a blue background, wearing pink latex and placing a sweet on her tongue." Rihanna and LaChapelle settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum. After the case, LaChapelle said the lawsuit was "not personal, it's strictly business", and that "musicians commonly pay to sample music or use someone's beats and there should be no difference when sampling an artist's visuals." In June 2011, German photographer Philipp Paulus sued Rihanna and her record labels, alleging further copyright violations with regard to a scene in the music video where Rihanna wears an expansive dress and is taped to the wall with a plastic sheet in front of her. According to Paulus, Rihanna and Matsoukas appropriated the image from his photographic series Paperworld.
Rihanna first performed "S&M" at the BRIT Awards on February 15, 2011, as part of a medley, which also incorporated two of her previous singles from Loud, "Only Girl (in the World)" and "What's My Name?". Rihanna had planned to perform "S&M" only, to coincide with its release as a single in the United Kingdom, but she was instructed by the BRIT Awards corporation to "tone down the sexual references in the song's lyrics". The singer was reported to be angered at being requested to change her act and that she was asked to consider performing a different song instead. She changed the arrangement because the BRIT Awards corporation wanted to avoid complaints similar to those received following the finale of the seventh series of The X Factor, on December 11, 2010. Rihanna was criticized for wearing a provocative outfit and for performing a suggestive dance routine on The X Factor, brandished as "disgusting", before the watershed, a system in the United Kingdom which does not allow adult content to be broadcast before 9pm. The singer performed "S&M" on the Australian leg of the Last Girl on Earth Tour in February and March 2011.Rihanna performing "S&M" on theLoud Tour in Summer 2011, a performance similar to the one from the 2011 Billboard Music Awards
Rihanna opened the Billboard Music Awards with a performance of the "S&M" remix with Spears on May 22, 2011, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Rihanna and Spears wore bondage-style bodysuits; Rihanna's outfit was white, and she wore PVC thigh-high boots. Spears wore a black outfit, a mask and rabbit ears; both singers wore handcuffs. Rihanna began the performance seated and provocatively opened her legs as she simulated whipping sounds. The singers closed the performance with pole dancing, a pillow fight and a kiss on the cheek. Rihanna performed "S&M" on May 27, 2011, on NBC's Today show's "Summer Concert Series", along with "Only Girl (in the World)", "What's My Name?" and "California King Bed". She gave an interview about the album and about her controversial performance at the Billboard Music Awards with Spears. When Rihanna was asked if she was surprised at the controversial reaction the performance prompted, she responded:
It was cool. Nothing popped out. We didn't make out. I mean, I didn't really hear [that it was controversial], but I went up to Twitter to see what my fans thought about it and they were really enjoyed seeing [me and Britney Spears] up there together, so I mean, there will be some people who will think that that was too sexy but you're always gonna find that, you know. People will always talk whether you're doing bad or good. You just have to do you."
The song was included on the set list of the Loud Tour, which began with the stage decorated as a stylized S&M set. The singer performed Prince's "Darling Nikki" with three semi-nude female dancers whom she spanked, groped and pretended to smack with a cane. "Darling Nikki" then transitioned into "S&M" and she took off her white tuxedo, revealing a white bondage corset and handcuffs. "S&M" was featured on the set list of Spears' Femme Fatale Tour (2011), as part of a medley with "...Baby One More Time". Rihanna performed "S&M" at Radio 1's Hackney Weekend on May 24, 2012, as the third song on the set list. The song was included on most of Rihanna's 777 Tour in November 2012; a seven-date and seven-day long promotional tour in support of the release of her seventh studio album, Unapologetic. Lee Latchford-Evans of the British group Steps covered the song as part of a medley with Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera's song "Moves like Jagger" in his solo section of The Ultimate Tour (2012).
In the 2012 musical comedy film Pitch Perfect, "S&M" was sung as an a cappella version by Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp and Brittany Snow. The ensemble's performance of the song appears on the film's soundtrack as part of a medley, "Riff Off". "Riff Off" was released as a single in 2012 and reached number 86 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The soundtrack also became the number one album on the US Top Soundtracks.
- Recorded at Roc the Mic Studios, New York; Westlake Recording Studios, Los Angeles, California; The Bunker Studios, Paris.
|Australia (ARIA)||4× Platinum||280,000 (^)|
|Belgium (IFPI)||Gold||10,000 (*)|
|Denmark (IFPI)||Platinum||30,000 (^)|
|Finland (IFPI)||Gold||5,000 (*)|
|Germany (BVMI)||Gold||150,000 (^)|
|Italy (FIMI)||Platinum||150,000 (x)|
|New Zealand (RIANZ)||Platinum||15,000 (*)|
|Spain (PROMUSICAE)||Gold||20,000 (*)|
|Sweden (SRIA)||3× Platinum||120,000 (^)|
|Switzerland (IFPI)||Platinum||30,000 (x)|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||643,000 (*)|
|United States (RIAA)||3× Platinum||3,000,000 (^)|
|United States||January 21, 2011||Contemporary hit radio, rhythmic radio||Def Jam Recordings|
|Argentina||February 11, 2011||Digital download|
|Argentina||February 18, 2011||Extended play|
|The Netherlands||Def Jam Recordings|
|United States||February 27, 2011||Urban contemporary radio|
|Argentina||February 28, 2011||Remix package|
|Hungary||Def Jam Recordings|
|France||March 22, 2011||CD single|
|Argentina||April 11, 2011||Remix single|
|Hungary||Def Jam Recordings|
|United Kingdom||Mercury Records|