Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary
|"Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary"|
|Song by Rihanna from the album Unapologetic|
|Recorded||Sarm Studios (London); Westlake Recording Studios (Los Angeles)|
"Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" is a song recorded by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna for her seventh studio album Unapologetic (2012). It was written by Rihanna with the song's producers Terius Nash and Carlos "Los" McKinney. An electro-R&B, Electronica and new wave song, the two songs derive its musical structure from the genres of electronica and new wave. Lyrically, "Love Without Tragedy" is love-oriented while in "Mother Mary" the singer makes a confession about a moment in her life which she regrets.
The song received positive reviews from music critics. Many reviewers praised the deep meaning of the song and her vocal performance. Additionally, it received comparison to the works by The Police and their lead singer Sting. Upon the release of Unapologetic, "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" debuted at number 95 on the French Singles Chart, 113 on the UK Singles Chart and 13 on the UK R&B Chart, due to strong digital download sales. "Mother Mary" serves as the introduction to Rihanna's Diamonds World Tour (2013).
Writing and production
"Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" was written by Rihanna together with Terius Nash and Carlos McKinney, with the latter two producing the song. Kuk Harrell provided the vocal production of the song and also recorded Rihanna's vocals with Marcos Tovar at R Studios in Los Angeles. All the music was recorded by Bart Schoudel at Sarm Studios in London and Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles; Blake Mares and Robert Cohen served as the song's assistant engineers. "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" was mixed by Jayson Joshua at Larabee Studios in Burbank, California.
Composition and lyrical interpretation
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"Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" represents two electronica and new wave integrated songs, which last for a duration of 6:58. The experiments with electronica are done by using Moog synths and "vaporous keyboards" as part of the instrumental. i-D's Nick Levine described the song as a "electro-R&B epic" that was "influenced by Sting's old band, The Police" Smokey Fontaine for The Huffington Post thought that Rihanna appeared to be channeling synth-laden songs released by Madonna in the 1990s. Lyrically, it progresses from being a love song to a "full-on confessional", and references famous actress, Marilyn Monroe and actor, James Dean, respectively. Dan Nolan for Rolling Stone considered the song's lyrics to be a cliché, as they combine "real terror and impossible resolve".
In the first part, "Love Without Tragedy", Rihanna as the narrator, sings about a moment in the life which she regrets in the lines "Who knew the course of this one drive/ Injured us fatally/ You took the best years of my life/ I took the best years of your life". "Love Without Tragedy", blends 80s pop music and guitar with a "modern and fresh" reggae inspired melody. Rihanna is channeling the emotions caused by her assault from Chris Brown in which can be seen through the lines "Felt love struck me with a knife/ I pray that love don't strike twice", and "Who knew the course of this one drive injured us fatally?"
As "Love Without Tragedy" draws to a close, a "retro" breakdown plays and transitions into the second part of the song, "Mother Mary". For "Mother Mary", the heavy synths which are present on "Love Without Tragedy" are removed as she "cries" the line "I'm prepared to die..." in an introspective tone. She confesses "Mr. Jesus, I would love to be a Queen.../ but I'm from the left side of an island" in what Fontaine described as a "perfect raise-your-smartphone-candle moment". Rihanna displays an "uplifting" vocal on "Mother Mary" as she confesses how Brown's attack affected her.
Dan Martin for NME felt that "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" could possibly be the best song on Unapologetic, writing that it moves Rihanna into a "new sonic and emotional space" due to its confessional feel. Billboard named it "a deeply personal song sold by Rihanna's uplifting vocal." Chris Youine for 4Music compared the song's musicality to the work of English rock band The Police and Sting, describing its composition as "instantly likable and clever". Younie concurred with Martin on the subject of Rihanna's extreme confessionalism, and wrote that it is very personal. Greg Kot for Chicago Tribune thought that "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" was Unapologetic's "emotional centerpiece". Stacy-Ann Ellis of Vibe agreed, calling it "the most autobiographical seven minutes on Unapologetic. It’s almost too raw in its intimacy." Ellis added: "It’s here we notice Rihanna’s life could be the basis of a Shakespearean play. During its intentionally abrupt tonal transition, the honesty becomes devastating." Spin's Caryn Ganz compared "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" to "Message in a Bottle" (1979) by The Police and wrote that on the song Rihanna sounds as both "a petulant teen and a world-weary woman". Dan Stern for MTV Buzzworthy felt that Rihanna was channeling Madonna the second part of the song, "Mother Mary".
Andy Kellman of AllMusic selected the song as one of the album's highlights, noting that it has "a wide theatrical scope akin to that of The-Dream's own 'Nikki, Pt. 2/Abyss.'" He further analysed: "Over a swelling and receding production with echoes of Kim Carnes' 'Bette Davis Eyes,' Rihanna mourns ("Felt like love struck me in the night/I pray that love don't strike twice"), then confesses ("Mother Mary, I swear I wanna change"), then surrenders ("I'm prepared to die in the moment"). Perhaps no one should read anything into it." Christina Lee of Idolator observed that the song "casts out the album’s most heartbreaking line — 'I’m prepared to die at the moment' — but puts it in a context that doesn’t explain enough." Esquire's Miles Raymer thought that Police would have been a better band if they would have had Rihanna as their lead singer instead of Sting; however, he described "Mother Mary" as something to skip. Alike Raymer, Bernard Perusse for The Montreal Gazette felt that only "Love Without Tragedy" was worth listening to and described it as demonstrating "a tiny bit of hope" on the album. In a review of the album, Jessica Hopper of Pitchfork Media wrote that "Rihanna sings a grim rhetorical: "What's love without tragedy?" However, according to her the real question that she and her songwriters is presenting on the record is "Who is Rihanna without Chris Brown?" "Nathan Slavick for DJ Booth was critical of the tracks theme, writing that "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary", along with "Stay" and "No Love Allowed", all discuss the topic of Rihanna being a non-controversial person who is struggling to find love in a "mad world". He further wrote that none of them are impressive."
Credits and personnel
- Recorded at Sarm Studios, London, UK; Westlake Recording Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
- Mixed at Larrabbee Studios, Burbank, CA.
Upon the release of Unapologetic, "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" charted in France and on two charts in the United Kingdom due to strong digital downloads. It debuted on the French Singles Chart at number 95 for the week dated December 1, 2012, and remained on the chart for one week. On December 2, 2012, it debuted at number 113 on the UK Singles Chart, and number 19 on the UK R&B Chart.
|UK R&B Chart (OCC)||19|
|UK Singles Chart (OCC)||113|
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