"We wanted to give her a movie. We didn't want to just give her a three-minute song," Harmony told MTV News. "I felt musically like everybody was gonna give like that 'Disturbia,' 'SOS,' kind of pop, uptempo stuff, and I really wanted the song that me and Ne-Yo did to stand out."
Ne-Yo co-wrote the track with Rihanna, but when he sat down with Harmony, the producer said the two guys knew that the song should be "something a little darker, something a little edgier, something a little more morbid. Just to try it out."
They recorded the track over the summer, and when it came down to picking a single for Rated R, out on November 23, it was an easy choice not only for the label but also for the singer.
"Rihanna phoned in to Ne-Yo to tell him that it was one of her favorites," Harmony explained. "I think overall she was comfortable with the vibe of the song and comfortable with the lyrical content of the song. She loves the song."
While he didn't go into details about what he thinks the song might be about, he did say that no matter what song Rihanna released as her comeback single people would immediately think it was about Chris Brown.
"Because that's the newest situation," Harmony explained. "Whatever she came with, if she came out with 'I still love you' that would have been about Chris Brown. If she came out with 'I hate your dog' that would have been about Chris Brown, too. It's just a natural reaction for people to associate 'cause she's been so tight-lipped."
Harmony is aware that the reaction has been mixed from fans who've heard the track. But he thinks singles should be about showing artistic growth, not feeding people the music that they expect.
"As a producer, I feel that's what's wrong with the music business, their first singles don't shock people," he said. "You're in a whole other space in life, so your first single should reflect that growth or that setback. I think with 'Russian Roulette' she's digging much deeper into her emotions. I knew she was going to another place an artist.
"If I had to speculate, I would speculate that [she released it] for shock value," he continued. " 'Russian Roulette' is the kind of song that when you hear it you're gonna talk about it — whether you like it, you talk about it. It's so unexpected, from the tempo to the title to the feel."