Rihanna and her main man in the video, played by British model/boxer Dudley O'Shaughnessy, are not only addicted to drugs, but also each other. The clip's director, Melina Matsoukas, said the video is a warning about the dangers of those types of dependencies.
"We love, obviously, to do provocative imagery ... we always try to definitely push the limits," Matsoukas told MTV News. "I think because, in the end, it's not really at all about domestic violence. It's really just about it being toxic, and they're on this drug trip and that definitely plays a part, but I think it's also about being triumphant over those weaknesses, and she leaves him. It's not trying to glorify that type of relationship. The bad parts of it, that's what you don't want. In the end, her leaving, it represents her getting that out of her life. The drugs and the addiction and the toxic -- that's what brings her downfall and brings a lot of harm."
The video was originally slated to shoot it in Brazil then it got moved to Belfast, Ireland. Rihanna trusted her longtime collaborator and gave her full control to come up with just the right treatment. The singer's new hair and its more natural color helped shape the mood of the video and "how being really natural is forward-thinking." The pair then got supermodel Agyness Deyn onboard to read the monologue, and soon, all the pieces of the puzzle came together.
"It makes you feel so good, like you're lost in electricity or love or whatever it is, you're lost in it," she said about the track. "Obviously, it feels easy to put her in a club with some lights ... so it was really trying to capture that feeling and also what she's singing about."
Seeking inspiration from "real, raw movies" like "Attack the Block," "Kids," "Trainspotting" and "Requiem for a Dream," Matsoukas wanted to capture all that darkness in the video.
"[The song's] totally rave-y... and that's the feeling, just music rushing over you, and then I started thinking about drugs and addiction and love and how that's an addiction," she said. "We've all lived the ups and downs of being in a toxic relationship. It's really about the obstacles of trying to let it go, but at the same time how great it makes you feel, so it's hard to let it go.
"Again, it goes back to a story that we all can relate to," she continued. "It's not Rihanna's story; it's her story in the video, and she's acting. But everybody's [as well]. Obviously, there's a lot of comparisons to her real life, and that's not at all the intention. It's just that I guess people naturally go there because art imitates life, and it's a story we all relate to and we've all experienced. Like, it's based on my life; it's based on her life; it's based on your life, like, everybody."
The video, in between moments of truly real situations, is made a bit dreamier thanks to imagery including a scene where Rihanna vomits ribbons. "All of it was supposed to be a bit surreal, but still real," she said. "So it was finding those little moments like the cigarettes, the ribbons and all this archival footage in there, and the projection stuff throughout it gives it that surreal thing and what's going on in her mind and her purging of her partying ways or whatever the toxic relationship was. And that's what that's supposed to represent."
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