On Wednesday, Rihanna unveiled her eye-opening clip for “We Found Love,” a whirling, wanton mix of substances, sex and severity that pushes her bad-girl image to places we never thought possible.
Of course, contained within all that shocking imagery are a whole lot of pop-culture references. So many, in fact, that if you blink, you’ll probably miss a good half-dozen. So, as we’ve done for most big-ticket music videos , we’ve sorted through all the madness and compiled a handy pop-culture cheat sheet, alphabetized for your convenience. But much like the video itself, it’s in no way sanitized. Have a look, then take a long, hot shower.
Araki, Gregg: Director best known for his nihilistic “Teenaged Apocalypse Trilogy” — “Totally F—ed Up,” “The Doom Generation” and “Nowhere” — a series of films brimming with sex, drugs and violence. So basically, he laid the blueprint for everything that happens in “We Found Love.” Also, oddly made a stoner comedy (“Smiley Face”) starring Anna Faris and John Krasinski.
Blowback: Sort of lousy 2001 album from British producer Tricky, most notable for its cover, which features him getting marijuana smoke shotgunned into his mouth by a woman. And, as we’re sure you’re aware, there are plenty of similar scenes in “We Found Love.”
“Everytime”: A 2004 video released by Britney Spears, in which she portrays a star hounded by paparazzi and trapped in a terrible relationship with a fellow star (actor Stephen Dorff). In a memorable — and controversial — scene, Spears commits suicide by taking a handful of pills and drowning in a bathtub. The shot of her submerging is replicated in “We Found Love,” with Rihanna doing the drowning.
Harris, Calvin: Scottish producer responsible for “We Found Love.” Fittingly, he makes a quick cameo in the video, popping up behind the decks during a party scene in a mud-streaked field.
“Kids in Love”: Ultra-NSFW 2010 video from Mayday Parade , which features a whole lot of sex, drugs and nudity. Oh, and plenty of violence too. All of it is presented without arty artifice, much like some of the more brutal scenes in “We Found Love.”
“Love the Way You Lie”: The 2010 music video from Eminem (uh, and Rihanna) starring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan as a pair of star-crossed, and ultimately doomed, lovers. The fighting, the substance abuse, the frequent embraces in various states of undress and, of course, the flames all show up in “We Found Love,” meaning it’s pretty obvious RiRi was taking notes while on set.
Misfits: Iconic, frequently-in-flux American horror-punk act, often considered to be pioneers of the genre. In “We Found Love,” their spooky-ooky logo appears on the back of a denim jacket worn by Rihanna’s love interest, Dudley O’Shaughnessy. Logos by legendary punk acts the Exploited and Suicidal Tendencies also show up.
Mr. Creosote: Fictional, grossly overweight character who appears in the Monty Python film “The Meaning of Life.” His chief characteristic (aside from his girth) is his ability to consume — and subsequently vomit back up — huge amounts of food. This leads to perhaps the most stomach-churning scene in film history, literally leaving an entire restaurant (and all of its patrons and staff) dripping in vomit. Of course, in “We Found Love,” all Rihanna does is barf up some ribbons, but we’d be remiss if we let that scene go without mentioning the Patron Saint of Puke.
“My Baby’s Got E.S.P.”: Rousing 1976 soul track by Four Below Zero. In “We Found Love,” Rihanna wears a T-shirt bearing the slogan “We Have ESP.” The two are probably not related, but the original is a killer track that you should probably know about anyway.
“Natural Born Killers”: Ultra-stylized, ultra-violent 1994 film from Oliver Stone that follows a pair of murderers, Mickey and Mallory, on a killing spree throughout the American Southwest. Its nightmarish use of colors, editing and rear-projected imagery was clearly an influence on “We Found Love.”
“Ray of Light”: Hyperkinetic 1998 single and video from Madonna (the clip was directed by Jonas Åkerlund) that features a whole lot of high-speed, time-lapse shots taken in cities around the world. “We Found Love” uses the same shots in its frenetic drug-fueled scenes.
“Requiem for a Dream”: Pornographically harrowing 2000 addiction drama from Darren Aronofsky. Several scenes — a rapidly dilating pupil, a coursing blood stream — are replicated in “We Found Love,” to equally dizzying (if slightly less psychologically scarring) effect.
Soul Fast: Advertising firm responsible for a series of spots for the Stop Drinking Association, including one where a girl in a party hat vomits brightly colored streamers. The same image is replicated during a memorable scene in “We Found Love,” though obviously, Rihanna didn’t take the ad campaign’s message to heart.
United Muscle Cars: “The home of American Muscle Cars in the UK” (according to their website), they provided the Trans Am Rihanna and O’Shaughnessy drive in “We Found Love.” Their logo is briefly visible on the front window of said car.
“What It Feels Like for a Girl:” A 2001 Madonna single, taken from her Music album. The video was directed by (then) husband Guy Ritchie, and, like “We Found Love,” it opens with narration delivered in a British accent. Also like “Love,” the video caused more than its fair share of controversy, and thanks to its depictions of violence and abuse, it was pulled from MTV airtimes before 9 p.m. That hasn’t happened to Rihanna’s video … at least not yet.
What did we miss? Share more pop-culture references from “We Found Love” in the comments below!