Pop Perspective: Rihanna And Drake’s “Work” Reviewed And Rated By Idolator Editors

Mike Wass | January 27, 2016 4:33 pm
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At Idolator, the editors share a passion for high-quality pop. Occasionally, our tastes align. Other times, not so much! So, in the spirit of debate, we’ve developed a recurring feature called Pop Perspective. Basically, all four of us dissect a particularly noteworthy pop event, and give it a rating out of 10.

That way you’re getting a full spectrum of views and we can all vent. (It’s cheaper than therapy!) The latest pop happening to be dragged under the Idolator microscope is Rihanna’s forever-delayed ANTI single “Work,” which is already sitting at number one on iTunes. Is the breezy Drake collaboration a return to form or the superstar’s fourth turd in a row? See our thoughts below.

Robbie Daw — 4/10

Yeah, I’m the jerk who wrote up Idolator’s initial “Work” review this morning — and I stand by every word. To recap: Musically, the track is a charming, if also somewhat sparse, affair that feels like it blew in on a tropical, warm June wind and nestled up beside our ears. In fact, the instrumentation is like the friendlier, more upbeat cousin of Rihanna’s darker Drake collab from five years ago, “What’s My Name” — though that one had much, much more bite.

Therein lies the problem, which is that Rihanna has had so much bite in the past, on a multitude of better singles. And so to come back after what seems like a lifetime away from music — this is pop, after all — with this wet noodle feels like a disservice. Sorry, Navy, but “Work” is best sent to the same watery grave as the already-forgotten “FourFiveSeconds.” NEXT!

Bianca Gracie — 6/10

If it hasn’t been clear from our prior pop perspectives and various feature stories on Rihanna, I hopped off the Navy ship last year after careful consideration. And with her new “Work” tune (gasp, it’s actually an official single), I’m still not ready to warm up to the idea of becoming a stan once again.

It’s not the hard-hitting banger that most people expect from the Bad Gal, yet it is a breezy affair that I hope will ease us into sonic theme of what ANTI will be (less mainstream pop, more Caribbean themes). Over the last few years, we’ve been bludgeoned with intense trap and house-inspired thumpers. So “Work” comes in as a refresher. But is it Rihanna’s best lead single thus far? I’d be lying to myself if I said yes.

The song just gives me an overall “meh” feeling. I don’t feel any excitement while listening to the track — it’s just a cute bop, if you will. While the production is a minimalistic island charm to the ears (shoutout to the ever on-point Boi-1da), Rih could have rode the track way tighter. It sounds more lazy/sloppy than effortless, a style that she typically nails.

But I will say that I’m very happy that her team finally came to their senses and gave her another Dancehall-flecked track (I’ve been wanting this for years), because she suits that genre well. The popstress’ Bajan accent and patois inflections remind me of some of my favorite songs from her, like “Man Down” and “No Love Allowed.” Riri and Drizzy always make a stellar musical pair, but I don’t think she can outdo her own massive hits at this point. “Work” unfortunately can’t hold a candle to “What’s My Name?”

Just don’t call it a “tropical house” track, please. That’s a slap in the face to our Caribbean culture.

Carl Williott — 7.5/10

There’s a tendency for pop fans to feel like they’re owed something by stars who step away from music for a few years. “Work” seems so half-baked and inconsequential that it can only be Rihanna’s message that she doesn’t owe us shit after her killer 2007-12 run. So in that way, it’s eminently more badass than the mean-mugging “BBHMM.”

It’s also such a lazy song about work that it has to be by some ironic design. Like Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean,” the initially underwhelming simplicity wins you over after a few listens. The beat is a soft-focus smear of dancehall and DJ Mustard, and Rihanna’s slurry hook is optimized for inebriated singalongs — even if you’d expect a stronger refrain than “work wuh wuh wuh wuh” after however many months of work.

We know Rihanna is fueled by DGAF swagger, but we had no idea she could channel it into something this weightless and tossed-off.

Mike Wass — 6/10

The most depressing thing about the first three ANTI singles (I guess they’re relegated to buzz track status now) was how inauthentic they felt to Rihanna. She got lost in the process of trying to make an artistic statement. Thankfully, Rih has thrown in the towel and retreated to a safer space. “Work” feels like a more natural progression from Unapologetic. For starters, she reunites with long-time collaborator Drake and revisits the Caribbean rhythms that spice up her early discography.

I just wish “Work” wasn’t a three-minute gimmick built around a mumbled chorus — concocted by a team of eight writers, no less — to underline the fact that Rihanna is, indeed, fucks-bereft. It’s infuriatingly catchy and should nab RiRi the hit she needs to breathe some life into ANTI, but this will be forgotten by the end of the summer. (Perhaps even by the end of spring). Which is good enough for most artists. However, their back catalogue doesn’t boast stone cold classics like “Take A Bow,” “Only Girl (In The World)” and “Umbrella.”


You can stream “Work” over at Tidal.

How would you rate Rihanna’s new single? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!