Jesse Jarnow

“we found love” – rihanna feat. calvin harris

And now back to an old occasional project, where I arbitrarily write about the #1 pop song du jour from the perspective of somebody who has only a passing knowledge of current mega-tunes. It doesn’t sound as strange to my ears as it did when I started doing this in 2003, but it still sounds like it’s from another planet.

“We Found Love” – Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
released by Def Jam

week of 17 December 2011
#1 this week, #1 last week, 11 weeks on chart

To my ears, the most initially attractive bit of this song–at least in that it gives me a little giddy rise–is the swell that happens at :53-1:08 and detonates into a millisecond sugar-rush of generic techno-plink. Later, it repeats the move, possibly with slight variation, and a longer sugar-rush dance resolution. But not really. The chorus comes back almost immediately. And, I suppose, in the case of the modern day global hit, it really is about the chorus, since the rest of the lyrics are a bunch of non-sequiturs strung against the hook, “we found love in a hopeless place.” Narratively speaking, this is very specific: there is a place, and it is hopeless. But while soft-focusing the rest of the words, it’s also the song’s broadest selling point. Something universal if (as made pretty clear by the video) pretty despairing. Hence the techno-swells and sugar-rushes, handy signifiers/call-outs from the international language of untz.

On second listen, the part of the song I actually like is the narrow valley it finds for the bridge, where pretty much everything drops out except a hanging keyboard bounce, whose existence is cheapened when it becomes obvious that its sole purpose is to allow Rihanna and producer Calvin Harris an excuse to get to the second techno-swell. It lasts all of six seconds before a miniature lead-in drops back into yet another iteration of the chorus. It’s funny to me, especially, that Harris gets a “featuring” credit here, given that his only presence on the song seems to be as a producer. Perhaps it is a new custom in this world. I’ve been away for a while.