Don’t fuck with Rihanna. Not unless you want to end up torn to shreds with a chainsaw, while your spouse swings naked upside down in a warehouse like abattoir meat. That’s the message, anyway, behind her new video for ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’, which has steadily been acquiring comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s golden run of 1990s cinema-nasties since it hit the internet earlier this week. Yes, it’s got the torture scenes and ultra-violence of Reservoir Dogs, as many have pointed out. But the Tarantino movie it most resembles is arguably 2009’s Inglourious Basterds: his history-skewing World War II movie, in which a team of American soldiers led by Brad Pitt team team up to brutally slaughter Hitler. Eli Roth, one of the film’s titular Basterds, called it a Jewish revenge fantasy: “kosher porn! It’s something I dreamed since I was a kid.”
There’s a revenge fantasy at play in ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ too – one rooted in a real life period of darkness for Rihanna, that lends the video and track a totally new perspective. Rihanna begun 2009 worth £7m, thanks to three best-selling albums. By the end of it, she’d lost more almost all of that, allegedly because of bad advice from her accountant, Peter Gounis. Gounis, Rihanna later claimed in court, advised her to buy a “mouldy $7m mansion”, according to legal documents, when in actual fact, she was running out of cash. And fast.
“At the core of her claim is this belief: someone else is responsible for her conduct and its consequences,” Gounis hit back, as the lawsuit turned into a stressful slanging match for the singer, then on the brink of bankruptcy. It’s hard to imagine now she’s fully risen to pop superpower status, with an estimated fortune of £153m in the bank, but for a while, with costs from her poor-selling Last Girl On Earth tour racking up, Rhi’s finances looked bleak.
The matter was eventually settled out of court, with Rihanna winning a £6.4m payout. Six years later, however, the matter doesn’t seem particularly settled for Rihanna, though. Late on in the ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’, after kidnapping a wealthy white blonde women, we learn all the ensuing torture and psychological warfare wasn’t just for the hell of it. The woman, it turns out, is the partner of a man introduced as “The Accountant AKA The Bitch”, played by Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelsen. As the song breaks down to lonely 1980s B-movie synths, The Accountant sits dripping in sweat, tied to a chair, looking terrified as Rihanna runs her fingers over an assortment of axes and knives.
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“We heard about it during the shoot,” Leo Berne, one of the team who directed the video alongside Rihanna, told NME. “She did discuss it. We didn’t know much about that personal story. She brought that up in the middle of the shoot. We were talking together and [someone] said “who could be the guy who owes her money?” and she said, “oh it could be the accountant.'”
Rihanna has used her music videos to stoke controversy and press buttons before: her ‘Man Down’ promo drew complaints from the Parents Television Council for its depiction of sexual assault a man being shot in the head, while ‘We Found Love’ was accompanied by a clip that nodded to Requiem For A Dream and Trainspotting in its portrayal of romance corrupted by drugs. The badass murderess she inhabits in ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ though takes things to another level of provocation though. Hopefully ‘R8’, the rumoured title of her long-awaited new album, packs the same energy, edge and give-a-fuck attitude as this video.