WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — Chances are when a beautiful young woman is calling out in distress, an eager and willing young man isn’t far behind, especially if that striking beauty happens to be a hot R&B star like Rihanna.
No doubt guys worldwide will be inclined to answer the Barbados-born beauty’s pleas for help as she cries “S.O.S. (Rescue Me)” for the first single off her forthcoming second album, A Girl Like Me, due in April.
“There’s this guy who gives me a feeling that is very overwhelming — he’s really driving me insane, and I need someone to rescue me from it,” the singer said of the song backstage at Nike Rockstar Workout event at the Key Club in West Hollywood on February 15. There she previewed the track’s heavy dance-laden clip, featuring choreographer Jamie King, who just helmed Madonna’s latest music video, “Sorry.” Rihanna and King teamed up to unveil Nike’s new fitness dance collection, including Rihanna’s clip for “S.O.S.,” which doubles as an interactive workout: It allows online viewers to learn the singer’s dance moves through video instruction by King on Nike’s Web site or by taking the hour-long cardio class at select 24 Hour Fitness locations.
The singer, who scorched up the dancehalls last summer with her Caribbean-inspired joint “Pon De Replay” (see “Rihanna Insists She’s Got What You Need In ’Pon De Replay’ Follow-Up” ), is almost done recording her second LP, and the soon-to-be 18-year-old is ready to shed her inhibitions and show the world just how much she’s grown.
“Vocally I’ve matured so much, and lyrically I’m speaking about stuff I would never sing about [before],” she said of her departure from her light, uptempo debut, Music of the Sun. “Now I’m singing about experiences that I’ve gone through and stuff that other 18-year-old girls go through, so it’s all about progression.”
The Bajan crooner plans to stick close to her roots, but she also wants to infuse a bit of good old rock and roll into her sound, a vision that has been long in the making but has finally come to light in the rock and reggae mash-up “Kisses Don’t Lie.”
“Growing up in Barbados, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of rock music,” Rihanna said. “We really love reggae and Soca music and hip-hop. But when I moved to the United States last year, I was exposed to a lot of different types of music, rock being one of them, and I fell in love with it. [Now] I love rock music.”
Rihanna helped pen several songs on the new disc, teaming up once again with producers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken — the duo who made most of the beats off her first record — and StarGate. The singer also collaborated with Def Jam labelmate and fellow Jay-Z protégé Ne-Yo, who wrote the bittersweet ballad “Unfaithful,” which will likely show a whole new side to the seemingly sweet, doe-eyed singer.
“I’m referred to as a murderer in that song,” she said, laughing. “Meaning, I’m taking this guy’s life by hurting him, cheating on him. He knows, and it makes him feel so bad. It’s killing him to know that another guy is making me happy.
“I love that song, because we always put it out there that guys cheat,” Rihanna continued. “And finally someone put it in perspective: Girls cheat too.”
Another power ballad, “A Million Miles Away,” is among the singer’s favorites. “I think that’s the best vocal performance on the album,” she said.
Special guest stars for the album are being kept under wraps for now, at least until Rihanna finishes up in the studio. “We’re almost done,” she said, “but we’re gonna keep recording until we come up with the best, because the fans deserve the best.”