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Black Sky Thinking

A Sorry State: Pop Marketing & Rihanna's Unapologetic
Jude Rogers , November 20th, 2012 11:11

Provocation for Profit? Assault as a Marketing Accessory? Why the Rihanna PR Machine show sad signs of our times

A week ago, I sat in a tiny red room, around a tiny table, to listen to a record. I wasn't alone. Will Hodgkinson from The Times, The Independent's Andy Gill, and The Mirror's Priya Élan were there too. Our bags and our phones had been taken away from us. In their place were four badly-photocopied pictures of a woman hiding her boobs. Her left was obscured with a strategically-placed elbow, her right with the title of her album, scratched in white letters on black.

The next day, a plane took off from Los Angeles, filled with music journalists and fans. From there, it headed to Mexico City, Toronto, Stockholm, Paris and Berlin; it spent last night in London; today it heads to New York. On-board, there's been champagne and Cognac liberally poured, and diamonds handed out in gift-bags, in case anyone's forgotten the name of Rihanna's latest single.

Welcome to the giddy, week-long circus around the release of Rihanna's Unapologetic, the singer's seventh album for Def Jam in 7 years. My first reaction to a promotional plane trip taking in seven venues in seven countries in seven nights on a Boeing 777? Now that's what we call proper rock star flamboyance, excess and glamour. In the middle of a music industry riddled with blandness and bores, what a brilliantly fuck-you thing to do. Never mind the carbon emissions, here's the Sexy Pistolette! I even understood why you'd pile four newspaper journalists into an album playback together. As a gesture to the music industry, it says, listen: this album will help a rickety ship stay afloat. This music is precious, unleakable – although it did leak, of course, over the weekend.

And as music journalists couldn't have done it, you wonder how it did – but it got Rihanna internet traffic booming, which is what everyone wanted. And then you stand back from the noise, and you look at what's there.

Rihanna is the closest figure the modern record business has got to Madonna in the 80s...

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