What's the most unexpected way to come back from a smash debut single that mined an island vibe? How about sampling a 25-year-old new-wave classic?
Even if you weren't born in 1981 when Soft Cell released "Tainted Love," you're bound to recognize the synthy sample underneath Rihanna's new single, "S.O.S." With lyrics like "S.O.S. please someone help me/ It's not healthy for me to feel this/ Y.O.U. are making this hard/ You got me tossing and turning I can't sleep at night," the first song from her second album, A Girl Like Me (due April 25), is a cry for help. But you wouldn't know it from the smiles the singer was flashing on the orange carpet at Saturday's 19th annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.
"I can't wait," she said about the album's release. "I'm very, very excited about that. ['S.O.S.' is] all about being rescued from this crazy feeling that this guy gives me. So I call out for help." Rihanna looks anything but out of control in the song's video, a classic dance-off scenario set amid flashing lights and a high school locker room.
Nike has tapped the song to help launch a new clothing line inspired by dance, putting a version of the "S.O.S." video at www.nikewomen.com that allows you to stop the action and learn the moves from choreographer Jamie King (see "Rihanna Getting In Touch With Her Rock Side For Next LP").
The clip was filmed in Los Angeles on Rihanna's birthday, and she said the song is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the new territory she's staking out on the album, the follow-up to last year's debut, Music of the Sun. Working again with producers/songwriters Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers, she said even the album's title is a statement.
"It's called A Girl Like Me because it's a very personal album," she said. "It's my baby. It's all about what it's like to be a girl like me, speaking of personal experiences as well as things that girls like me have gone through." In addition to working with Sean Paul, she hooked up with labelmate Ne-Yo for the second single, "Unfaithful."
"It's a ballad, so it's new ground for me, but I'm excited," she said. "There's [also] some party topics. There's some relationship topics. There are some topics about keeping haters outta your circle. We go everywhere. Everything about me."