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Man Down (song)

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For the TV series, see Man Down (TV series). For the upcoming film, see Man Down (film).
"Man Down"
Single by Rihanna
from the album Loud
Released May 3, 2011 (2011-05-03)
Format Digital download, radio airplay
Recorded 2010; The Village (music) and Westlake Recording Studios (vocals)
Length 4:28
  • Sham
  • Kuk Harrell (vocals)
  • Bobby Campbell (assistant vocals)
Rihanna singles chronology
"Man Down"
"California King Bed"

"Man Down" is a song by Barbadian singer Rihanna included on her fifth studio album, Loud (2010). It was released on May 3, 2011, as the fifth single from the album. Barbadian singer Shontelle and Virgin Islander production duo Rock City wrote the song in collaboration with the song's producer, Sham. Inspired by Bob Marley's 1973 song "I Shot the Sheriff", it is an electro-reggae, ragga and reggae track. The lyrics revolve around Rihanna finding herself on the run after shooting a man. Critical response to "Man Down" was positive: Rihanna's confident vocal performance and agility earned praise from critics, with some noting that she plays up her West Indian accent to a positive effect. August Brown of the Los Angeles Times felt that the song was a direct warning to her former boyfriend, Chris Brown.

In the United States, "Man Down" reached number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but it experienced greater success on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, peaking at number-nine. The song was more successful in some European territories, peaking at number-one for five consecutive weeks in France and charting inside the top-five in Belgium and the Netherlands. "Man Down" has been included on the set-list of two of Rihanna's tours - the Loud Tour (2011) and the Diamonds World Tour (2013) - and it has been covered by British singer and songwriter Leona Lewis in some live performances as part of a mashup with her 2008 single "Better in Time".

Recording and composition[edit]

A man playing a guitar.
Rock City wanted to recreate Bob Marley's (pictured) 1973 song "I Shot the Sheriff" from a female perspective.

"Man Down" was written by Timothy Thomas and Theron Thomas of Rock City, and Shontelle in collaboration with the song's producer Sham.[1] It was recorded during Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour: the song's instrumental was recorded by Cary Clark at the The Village in Los Angeles, California. Kuk Harrell produced Rihanna's vocals and recorded them with Josh Gudwin and Marcos Tovar at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Bobby Campbell served as the vocal production and recording assistant. The song was mixed by Manny Marroquin at Larrabee Sound Studios in Los Angeles. He was assisted in the process by Erik Madrid and Christian Plata.[1] Shontelle revealed in an interview with Flavour Magazine that Rihanna called her during the Last Girl on Earth Tour and asked the singer to be involved with creating the song. Shontelle further stated that Rihanna was present while "Man Down" was being written in the recording studio.[2]

In an interview with MTV News, Rock City explained that they set out to write a song which embodied the same sentiment as Bob Marley's 1973 song "I Shot the Sheriff", but from the female perspective.[3][4] They further stated that they wanted to create something which would provoke listeners opinions, later adding that some people interpreted it as being literal, while others interpreted it as a metaphor.[3][4] Rock City wrote "Man Down" to "tap [Rihanna's] island origins in a way that sounded authentic", which Rihanna later described as being "gangsta" and the sentiment that she was setting out to achieve. She continued to elaborate on how reggae culture has influenced her musical style: "I'm super inspired by reggae music [and it] has been a part of me since I was born, and I grew up listening to it. I grew up loving it. My favorite artists are all reggae artists ... I never get tired of it. I can listen to reggae music all day long, and it was exciting for me to take this on as my own and do a song like this, especially with the lyrics being like that."[5]

"Man Down" is an electo-reggae, Ragga and reggae song with "Caribbean-rhythms."[6][7][8][9] It lasts for a duration of four minutes and 26 seconds.[10] The song is composed in the key of C minor using common time and a moderate reggae feel of 77 beats per minute.[11] During the track, Rihanna's vocal range spans one and a half octaves from the low note of F3 to the high note of E5.[11] Employing a strong Barbadian "patois",[6] Slant Magazine critic Sal Cinquemani described "Man Down" as one of Rihanna's most confident vocal performances to date.[9] The lyrics are about Rihanna finding herself on the run after shooting a man.[9][12]

Release and reception[edit]

A man wearing a purple vest and cap.
August Brown of the Los Angeles Times perceived "Man Down" to be a direct warning to Rihanna's former boyfriend, Chris Brown (pictured).[13]

On March 1, 2011, Rihanna asked her fans to help her pick the next single to be released from Loud using Twitter, stating that she would be filming a music video within the next couple of weeks. After she received an influx of suggestions, the singer revealed that she had narrowed it down to four options: "Man Down", "California King Bed", "Cheers (Drink to That)" and "Fading".[14] On March 12, Rihanna confirmed that "California King Bed" had been selected as the next international single.[15][16] "Man Down" was promoted to rhythmic and urban radio on May 3 in the United States,[17][18] prior to the release of "California King Bed" on May 13, making "Man Down" and "California King Bed" the fifth and sixth singles from Loud, respectively.[19] The song was later given limited international release in some European countries, including France and Switzerland on July 7,[20][21] and the Netherlands on July 15.[22]

"Man Down" received positive reviews from music critics. Some commented on Rihanna's Barbadian accent, with Jon Pareles of The New York Times noting that Rihanna "plays up her West Indian accent",[8] while August Brown of the Los Angeles Times described the performance as "[reasserting] her Caribbean lilt".[13] Brown further wrote that the ballad about murder theme appeared to be a "warning" to Rihanna's ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, and in particular, his song "Deuces" (2010).[13] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine picked out "Man Down" as the best song on Loud, highlighting that the "fully-fledged reggae" song which is co-written by fellow-Barbadian-born singer Shontelle. She continued to praise Rihanna's vocal agility, labelling it as "surprising".[9] Entertainment Weekly writer Leah Greenblatt described "Man Down" as a song which is entrenched with "island rhythms".[7] In her review of Loud, Emily Mackay of NME thought that its experimentation felt more "organic" than those presented on Rihanna's previous album Rated R (2009), citing "Man Down" as an example due to its theme of "doomed youth".[23]

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, "Man Down" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 94 on June 1, 2011, - becoming Rihanna's fifth entry from Loud - and it peaked at number 59.[24][25] It spent 14 weeks on the Hot 100 in total.[25] On the U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, the song peaked at number nine on August 6, 2011, for two consecutive weeks,[26][27] spending 19 weeks on the chart.[28] It finished at number 47 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 2011 year-end list.[29] It also peaked at number 56 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart,[30] number 20 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs chart,[31] and number 40 on the Radio Songs chart.[32] The song reached number 92 on the Canadian Hot 100.[33]

"Man Down" also charted in other countries due to its release as a single in certain European territories in July 2011. Having debuted on the French Singles Chart at number 65 on the issue dated June 4, 2011, the single was released digitally and reached a peak of number one on July 25, 2011.[34] It stayed at number one for five weeks.[35] It marks Rihanna's eighth single to reach the top five in the country, following other singles from Loud, "Only Girl (In the World)" and "S&M".[36] In Switzerland, it has gradually risen into the top ten, reaching nine, and it reached the number-one spot in the Swiss Romandie chart (French part of Switzerland).[37] The single started off slowly but in the fourth week it jumped from thirteen to four on the Dutch Top 40. With the release of the video, the song managed to reach number fifty-four on the UK Singles Chart[38] and inside the top twenty on the UK R&B Chart at number fifteen, despite the song not receiving an official release in the country.[39] The song also reached the top twenty in Norway at number seventeen[40] and Belgium (Wallonia) at nineteen, both with no official releases in each territory.[41] In Poland, the song debuted at number five, eventually peaking at number four on the official Polish Airplay Chart.[42][43] In Romania it peaked at number-five on the Romanian Top 100, marking Rihanna's fifteenth top-ten there.[44]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

The music video for "Man Down" was shot in Jamaica in April 2011,[45] and was directed by Anthony Mandler,[45] who worked with Rihanna for most of her music videos, including "Take a Bow" and "Rehab".[46][47] On May 1, 2011, Rihanna posted three images from the shoot via Twitter.[48] One of the images showed her on a beach wearing a white Dolce & Gabbana dress, while another image showed her riding a bike in Portland Parish.[48] The video premiered on 106 & Park on May 31, 2011.[45] In an interview with MTV News on May 16, 2011, Mandler discussed the music video more in depth:

We shot the video last month in Jamaica and it's my favorite song she's ever recorded, so I was really excited to get involved. And it's just one of those songs that demands a strong narrative and visual, and let's just say she let me go all the way. So I think you can expect something that's dramatic and shocking and intense and emotional and uplifting and enlightening.[49]

The video begins when Rihanna shoots a man making his way through a busy train station. After committing the crime, the camera focuses on the shot man and later Rihanna flees the scene. To create a timeline of events leading up to the crime, the video travels back in time to the previous day, when the singer is seen riding her bike and meeting with people in Kingston, Jamaica. There are also scenes of Rihanna alone inside a bedroom at dusk. Then at a nightclub, Rihanna begins to dance and flirt with another club-goer, who's actually the man that she shoots at the beginning. After she leaves the club, the singer's dance-floor partner follows her outside and begins to get violent. The video then cuts straight to the scene of a disheveled Rihanna crying in the street, after what appears to have been a sexual assault. The video concludes with the singer running to her home where she grabs a gun hidden in a dresser drawer; the screen goes black.[50]


The Parents Television Council (PTC), a non-profit organization that advocates what it considers responsible entertainment, criticized Rihanna for "cold, calculated execution of murder" in the video. The council disagreed with Rihanna's suggestion that killing a rapist is a proper form of justice and her rationale that it "sends a very strong underlying message 4 [sic] girls like me." They also stated "If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass." PTC also criticized BET for airing the video.[51] However, other commentators argued that the PTC's reaction to Rihanna's video is an example of double standard, with Julianne Escobedo Shepherd of AlterNet arguing that the PTC did not condemn Kanye West‍ '​s video for "Monster" which featured deceased women hanging from the ceiling and West holding a woman's decapitated head. Shepherd also noted that the PTC did not criticize Eminem‍ '​s video "Love the Way You Lie" (in which Rihanna is featured), which, according to Shepherd, "glorified and romanticized" domestic violence.[52] In response to the PTC, Rihanna stated:

I'm a 23 year old singer who doesn't have kids. What's up with everybody wanting me to be a parent [to their children]? I'm just a girl, I can only be our voice. We all know it's difficult and embarrassing to communicate touchy subject matters to anyone, especially our parents. The music industry isn't "Parent's 'R Us." We have the freedom to make art; let us! It's your job to make sure your children don't turn out like us. You can't hide your kids from society, or they'll never learn how to adapt. This is the real world!"[53]

The director of the video, Anthony Mandler, also responded to the news in an interview with Hollywood Reporter, stating that:

It's (the video) doing exactly what Rihanna and I hoped it would do, which is shine a light on the very dark subject matter... This medium used to be a great medium of messages... I grew up in an era of Madonna releasing videos and sparking controversy. I think most people are wasting this medium... The fact that there's an argument to ban this because this will make girls retaliate from abuse with murder is skipping over the point. We obviously have a huge issue to deal with as a country.[54]

Live performances and covers[edit]

A woman accompanied by two back up singers all wearing black.
Leona Lewis performing "Better in Time"/"Man Down" on her Glassheart Tour at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 May 2013.

Rihanna has performed "Man Down" on the set-list's of several concerts and tours, including the Loud Tour in 2011,[55] at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend on May 24, 2012.[56] and the Diamonds World Tour (2013).[57] British singer and songwriter Leona Lewis performed a mash-up of her 2008 single "Better in Time" with "Man Down" at BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge in June 2011,[58] following the announcement that she would be one of the Hackney Weekend ambassadors.[59] Lewis included the "Better in Time"/"Man Down" mix on the set-list of her Glassheart Tour (2013).[60] Lewis' rendition garnered a mixed response from critics, with Katherine Hollisey-McLean for the Brighton Herald complimenting the decision to infuse the reggae beats into "Better in Time",[61] while The Guardian‍ '​s Malcolm Jack described the performance as cringeworthy and Lewis as a "reasonably priced Rihanna."[62]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Recording locations
  • Vocal recording – Westlake Recording Studios, Los Angeles, California.
  • Music recording – The Village, Los Angeles, California.
  • Mixing – Larrabee Sound Studios, Los Angeles, California.

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Loud, Def Jam Recordings, SRP Records.[1]



Region Certification Sales/shipments
Belgium (BEA)[94] Gold 15,000*
Italy (FIMI)[95] Platinum 30,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[96] Gold 15,000x

*sales figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Radio and release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States May 3, 2011 Rhythmic radio,[18] Urban radio[17] Island Def Jam Music Group
France[20] July 7, 2011 Digital download Universal Music
Switzerland[21] July 15, 2011

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]