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Man Down (song)

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"Man Down"
A black and white image of wearing oversized sunglasses with "Man Down" written vertically on the right hand side
Single by Rihanna
from the album Loud
Released May 3, 2011 (2011-05-03)
Format
Recorded 2010 at The Village (music) and Westlake Recording Studios (vocals)
Genre
Length 4:28
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Sham
  • Kuk Harrell (vocals)
  • Bobby Campbell (assistant vocals)
Rihanna singles chronology
"S&M"
(2011)
"Man Down"
(2011)
"California King Bed"
(2011)

"Man Down" is a song by Barbadian singer Rihanna from her fifth studio album, Loud (2010). It was released by Def Jam on May 3, 2011, as the fifth single from the album. Barbadian singer Shontelle and the Virgin Islander production duo Rock City wrote the song with its main producer, Sham. Inspired by Bob Marley's 1973 song, "I Shot the Sheriff", it is an electro-reggae, ragga and reggae track that involves Rihanna on the run after she shoots a man. Critical response to "Man Down" was positive, with Rihanna's confident performance (emphasizing her West Indian accent) and vocal agility praised. August Brown of the Los Angeles Times called the song a direct warning to her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.

In the United States, "Man Down" reached number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 9 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song topped the chart in France for five consecutive weeks and reached the top three in Belgium and the Netherlands. Anthony Mandler directed its music video, in which Rihanna's character shoots a man after he rapes her. The video was criticized by the Parents Television Council, who faulted Rihanna for suggesting that murder is an acceptable form of justice for rape victims. "Man Down" was on the set list for two of Rihanna's tours – the Loud Tour (2011) and the Diamonds World Tour (2013) – and was covered live by British singer-songwriter Leona Lewis as part of a mashup with Lewis' 2008 single, "Better in Time".

Recording and composition[edit]

Bob Marley onstage with a guitar
Rock City wanted to recreate Bob Marley's 1973 song "I Shot the Sheriff" from a female perspective.

"Man Down" was written by production duo Rock City (Theron Thomas and Timothy Thomas), singer Shontelle and its producer, Sham,[1] and recorded during Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth tour. The song's instrumental tracks were recorded by Cary Clark at The Village in Los Angeles, California. American sound engineer Kuk Harrell produced Rihanna's vocals with Josh Gudwin and Marcos Tovar at Westlake Recording Studios, also in Los Angeles. Bobby Campbell assisted with vocal production and recording. The song was mixed by Manny Marroquin at Larrabee Sound Studios in Los Angeles, assisted by Erik Madrid and Christian Plata.[1] In a Flavour Magazine interview, Shontelle said that Rihanna called her during the Last Girl on Earth tour and asked her to be involved with the song. According to Shontelle, Rihanna was present when "Man Down" was written in the recording studio.[2]

In an MTV News interview, Rock City said they intended to write a song that would embody Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" (1973) from a female perspective.[3][4] They added that although some listeners interpreted the song literally, others saw it as a metaphor.[3][4] Rock City wrote "Man Down" to "tap [Rihanna's] island origins in a way that sounded authentic".[3] Rihanna later described the sentiment she wanted to express as "gangsta", elaborating 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 a four-minute, twenty-six-second electo-reggae, ragga and reggae song with "Caribbean-rhythms".[6][7][8][9][10] The song, in the key of C minor, is in common time with a moderate reggae feel and a tempo of 77 beats per minute.[11] Rihanna's voice spans more than one and a half octaves, from F3 to E5.[11] With its strong Barbadian "patois",[6] Slant Magazine critic Sal Cinquemani described "Man Down" as one of Rihanna's "most confident vocal performances".[9] According to its lyrics, Rihanna is on the run after she shoots a man.[9][12]

Release and reception[edit]

A man wearing a purple vest and cap.
August Brown of Los Angeles Times saw "Man Down" as a warning to Rihanna's ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.[13]

On March 1, 2011, Rihanna asked fans to help her choose the next single from Loud using Twitter, saying that she would film a music video within the next couple of weeks. After an influx of suggestions, the singer said she had narrowed the options down to four songs: "Man Down", "California King Bed", "Cheers (Drink to That)" and "Fading".[14] On March 12, she confirmed that "California King Bed" had been selected as the next international single.[15][16] However, the releases were changed,[17] and "Man Down" was sent to rhythmic and urban radio stations in the United States on May 3[18][19] – before the May 13 release of "California King Bed" – making "Man Down" and "California King Bed" the fifth and sixth singles from Loud.[20] The song was released in France and Switzerland on July 11[21][22] and the Netherlands on July 15.[23]

"Man Down" received positive reviews from critics. Some noted Rihanna's Barbadian diction; Jon Pareles of The New York Times said that the singer "plays up her West Indian accent",[8] and August Brown of the Los Angeles Times described the vocals as reasserting "her Caribbean lilt".[13] Brown called the murder ballad theme an apparent "warning" to Rihanna's ex-boyfriend Chris Brown and a response to his song "Deuces" (2010),[13] which denounces an ex-lover.[24][25] Cinquemani chose "Man Down" as the best song on Loud, calling Rihanna's vocal agility "surprising" and noting that the "fully-fledged reggae" song is co-written by a fellow Barbadian-born singer, Shontelle.[9] Entertainment Weekly writer Leah Greenblatt described "Man Down" as a song with "island rhythms".[7] In her review of Loud, Emily Mackay of NME called its experimentation more "organic" than that on Rihanna's previous album Rated R (2009), citing "Man Down"'s theme of "doomed youth".[26]

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, "Man Down" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 94 on June 1, 2011, peaking at number 59[27][28] and spending a total of 14 weeks on the chart.[28] On the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked at number 9 on August 6, 2011, remaining there for 2 weeks[29][30] and spending a total of 19 weeks charting.[31] It was number 47 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 2011 year-end list.[32] The track peaked at number56 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart,[33] number 20 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs chart[34] and number 40 on the Radio Songs chart.[35] "Man Down" was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of more than 2 million units.[36] The song reached number 92 on the Canadian Hot 100.[37]

"Man Down" debuted at number 65 on the French Singles Chart on June 6, 2011, a month before its release as a single.[21][38] It rose to number 1 on July 30, remaining there for 5 consecutive weeks, and was number 2 the week before and for 3 weeks after its chart-topping run.[38] It stayed on the chart until May 12, 2012, but re-entered three weeks later.[38] The song, on and off the French chart for the rest the year, continued to appear on it sporadically in 2013.[38] After a total of 73 weeks on the chart, the track's last French chart appearance was at number 172 on August 8, 2013.[38] "Man Down" was number 1 for two consecutive weeks in the Romandie (French-speaking) region of Switzerland.[39][40]

In the United Kingdom, "Man Down" entered the Singles Chart at number 117 on June 11, 2015,[41] reaching number 75 the following week.[42] The song peaked at number 54 in its fourth week, remaining there for 2 weeks[43][44] and spending a total of 11 weeks on the chart.[45] On the UK R&B Chart, "Man Down" reached number 15 on June 26, spending 18 weeks in the top 40.[46][47] In Belgium, the song peaked at number 3 in Dutch-speaking Flanders[48] and number 2 in French-speaking Wallonia.[49] It was certified gold by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) for selling more than 15,000 copies.[50] Although the song spent only 1 week on the Italian Singles Chart (at number 8), it was certified platinum by the Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana (FIMI) in 2014 for selling more than 30,000 copies.[51][52]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

Director Anthony Mandler filmed the music video for "Man Down" in April 2011 on a beach in Portland Parish, on the northeastern Jamaican coast.[53][54] Rihanna told Rap-Up that the video has a "strong underlying message [for] girls like me!", and urged women to listen to their mothers.[53] On May 1, 2011, three camera phone teaser photos, of Rihanna on a beach in a white Dolce & Gabbana dress and riding a bicycle in Portland Parish, were released.[55] The music video premiered on BET's 106 & Park on May 31, 2011.[53] In an interview for MTV News, Mandler said that "Man Down" required "a strong narrative and visual" and that fans could expect something "dramatic and shocking and intense and emotions and uplifting and enlightening".[54]

The video opens as the protagonist (Rihanna) shoots and kills a man while he walks through a busy train station. She flees before a flashback to the previous day, when she rides her bike, meets friends and is alone in a bedroom at dusk. At a nightclub the protagonist dances and flirts with another club-goer, who then attacks her when she leaves the club. Disheveled, the woman cries in the street after an implied sexual assault, and the video ends as she runs home to grab a gun hidden in a dresser drawer.[56]

Controversy[edit]

The Parents Television Council (PTC) criticized Rihanna for her portrayal of "cold, calculated execution of murder" in the music video, arguing that murdering a rapist as socially-acceptable justice is impermissible. The group disagreed with Rihanna's rationale for the storyline: that the video has "a very strong underlying message [for] girls" like Rihanna.[57] According to the PTC, if Chris Brown murdered a woman in a video that premiered on BET "the world would stop" and thus Rihanna should not have been allowed to release her clip.[57] The week before the council's statement about the video it had objected to Rihanna and Britney Spears' performance of the "S&M" remix at the Billboard Music Awards, having called it a "profanity-laced, S&M sex show on prime-time broadcast television".[58]

After the PTC's statement, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd of AlterNet wrote that the group seemed to employ a double standard; it had not condemned Kanye West's music video for "Monster", in which dead women hang from ceilings and West holds a decapitated head. Shepard added that Eminem and Rihanna's video for "Love the Way You Lie" had not been criticized, despite "glorified and romanticized" domestic violence.[59] Director Anthony Mandler addressed the controversy in an interview for The Hollywood Reporter, saying that the visual evoked the reaction he intended and that it highlighted an issue still taboo in modern society.[60] He recalled growing up in an era in which artists such as Madonna released controversial music videos, and noted that contemporary videos no longer tackle taboo subjects as frequently.[60] Rihanna responded to the PTC's criticism on Twitter:

A woman with her head tiled up slightly, smiling.
Actress and rape victim Gabrielle Union said that she could relate to the music video's storyline.

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![61]

Actress and women's-health advocate Gabrielle Union, a rape victim, voiced support for the video on Twitter. Union called it "brave" and, although she did not agree with the eye-for-an-eye sentiment, she could relate to the situation:

Saw Man Down by Rihanna. Every victim/survivor of rape is unique, including how they think they'd like justice to be handed out. During my rape I tried to shoot my rapist, but I missed. Over the years I realized that killing my rapist would've added insult to injury. The desire to kill someone who abused/raped you is understandable, but unless it's self defense in the moment to save your life, [it] just adds to your troubles. I repeat self defense to save yourself/protect yourself, I'm all for. Otherwise victim/survivor taking justice into your own hands with violence equals more trouble for you!![59]

Live performances and covers[edit]

Rihanna has included "Man Down" on the set lists of several concerts and tours, including the 2011 Loud Tour,[62] BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend on May 24, 2012[63] and the 2013 Diamonds World Tour.[64] British singer-songwriter Leona Lewis performed a mashup of her 2008 single "Better in Time" and "Man Down" at BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge in June 2011,[65] after the announcement that she would be a Hackney Weekend ambassador.[66] Lewis included the "Better in Time" and "Man Down" mashup on the set list of her 2013 Glassheart Tour.[67] Lewis' rendition received a mixed response from critics. Katherine Hollisey-McLean of the Brighton Herald complimented the fusion of "Better in Time" with reggae beats.[68] But The Guardian‍ '​s Malcolm Jack called the performance cringeworthy and Lewis a "reasonably priced Rihanna."[69]

Credits and personnel[edit]

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

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Belgium (BEA)[85] Gold 15,000*
Italy (FIMI)[86] Platinum 30,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[87] Gold 15,000x
United States (RIAA)[36] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

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

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
United States May 3, 2011
  • Rhythmic radio
  • Urban radio
Island Def Jam Music Group [18][19]
France July 11, 2011 Digital download Universal Music [21]
Netherlands [23]
Switzerland July 15, 2011 [22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]