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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)
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 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. Anthony Mandler directed the song's music video, which depicted Rihanna shooting a man after being raped. It portrays the killing as a form of justice. The music video garnered significant controversy, particularly with the Parents Television Council (PTC) who criticized Rihanna for suggesting that murder is an acceptable form of justice for rape victims. "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 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] "Man Down" was described as one of Rihanna's most confident vocal performances to date by Slant Magazine critic Sal Cinquemani.[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.[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, a response to 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 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]

The song debuted at number 65 on the French Singles Chart on June 6, 2011, one month prior to its official release.[34] It ascended to number one on July 30, and remained atop the chart for five consecutive weeks; it further charted at number two for the week before and three weeks after its streak.[34] Following its debut, "Man Down" remained on the chart every week until May 12, 2012; it fell of the chart the following week, but re-entered three weeks later.[34] The song made multiple re-entries throughout the later half of 2012, and it made sporadic appearances throughout 2013.[34] Spending a total of 73 weeks on the chart, "Man Down" last entered the chart at number 172 on August 8, 2013.[34] It further charted at number one for two consecutive weeks in the Romandie (French speaking) region of Switzerland.[35][36]

In the United Kingdom, "Man Down" debuted at number 117 on June 11, 2015, on the UK Singles Chart.[37] The following week, it reached the inside of the top 100, charting at number 75.[38] It reached at peak of number 54 in its fourth week, and it remained there for two consecutive weeks.[39][40] The song spent 11 weeks on the UK Singles Chart in total.[41] On the UK R&B Chart, "Man Down" peaked at number 15 on 26 June, spending 18 weeks inside the top 40.[42][43] In Belgium, the song peaked at number three in the Dutch speaking Wallonia region,[44] and number two in the French speaking Flanders region.[45] It has been certified Gold by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), denoting sales of more than 15,000 copies.[46] Despite only spending one week on the Italian Singles Chart at number eight, the song has been certified platinum by the Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana in 2014, denoting sales of more than 30,000 copies.[47][48]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

The director Anthony Mandler filmed the music video for "Man Down" in April 2011 on a beach in Portland Parish, located on the north-eastern Jamaican coastline.[49][50] Rihanna told Rap-Up that the video has a "strong underlying message" and urged women to listen to their mothers.[49] On May 1, 2011, three teaser images captured on a camera phone were released. They showed Rihanna on a beach wearing a white Dolce & Gabbana dress, and riding a bicycle through the streets of Portland Parish.[51] The music video premiered on BET's 106 & Park on May 31, 2011.[49] In an interview with MTV News, Mandler stated that "Man Down" is a song which required "a strong narrative and visual", and continued to reveal that fans could expect something "dramatic and shocking and intense and emotions and uplifting and enlightening".[50]

The video begins when Rihanna shoots a man who is walking through a busy train station. After committing the crime, the camera focuses on the murder victim and Rihanna later 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 friends. There are also scenes of Rihanna alone inside a bedroom at dusk. Then, at a nightclub, Rihanna dances and flirts with another club-goer (the man that she shoots at the beginning of the music video). As she leaves the club, the man follows her outside and becomes violent toward Rihanna. The video then cuts straight to the scene of a disheveled Rihanna crying in the street, after what is presumed to be an alleged sexual assault. The video concludes with the singer running to her home where she grabs a gun hidden in a dresser drawer.[52]

Controversy[edit]

The Parents Television Council (PTC) criticized Rihanna for the portrayal of "cold, calculated execution of murder" in the music video. The PTC argued that the depiction of a female murdering a rapist as a form of socially acceptable justice was not permissible and they disagreed with Rihanna's reason for opting to choose such a storyline, that the video has "a very strong underlying message [for] girls like me".[53] The PTC continued to state that had Chris Brown murdered a woman in a video and premiered it on BET, "the world would stop", adding that Rihanna should not be allowed to release the video without repercussions given the content.[53] The week prior to the council issuing a statement on the narrative of the music video for "Man Down", they had taken issue with Rihanna and Britney Spears' performance of the remix of "S&M" at the Billboard Music Awards, labeling it a "profanity-laced, S&M sex show on primetime broadcast television".[54]

As a result of the PTC's outburst, other commentators argued that the council appeared to be employing double standard, with Julianne Escobedo Shepherd of AlterNet writing that they did not condemn Kanye West for showing deceased women hanging from ceilings and West himself holding a decapitated head in his hand in his music video for "Monster". Shepard further noted that Eminem and Rihanna's video for "Love the Way You Lie" was not criticized either, despite showing "glorified and romanticized" domestic violence.[55] Mandler responded to the controversy during an interview with Hollywood Reporter, saying that the video was provoking the very reaction that he had set out to achieve, and that it was highlighting an issue which remains taboo in modern society.[56] He continued to say that while growing up, Madonna was releasing music videos which generated a lot of controversy, and that he feels as though the medium of music videos is currently being wasted.[56] Rihanna also responded to the PTC's criticism directly, stating:

A woman with her head tiled up slightly, smiling.
Actress and rape victim Gabrielle Union stated that she could relate to the narrative of the music video.

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![57]

Despite the negative criticism, advocate of women's health and actress Gabrielle Union, who had previously been a victim of rape, came out in support of the music video. She described the video as "brave" and stated that while 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!![55]

Live performances and covers[edit]

A woman accompanied by two back up singers all wearing black.
Leona Lewis performing a "Better in Time"/"Man Down" mashup 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,[58] at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend on May 24, 2012.[59] and the Diamonds World Tour (2013).[60] 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,[61] following the announcement that she would be one of the Hackney Weekend ambassadors.[62] Lewis included the "Better in Time"/"Man Down" mashup on the set-list of her Glassheart Tour (2013).[63] 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",[64] while The Guardian‍ '​s Malcolm Jack described the performance as cringeworthy and Lewis as a "reasonably priced Rihanna."[65]

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.
Personnel

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

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Belgium (BEA)[81] Gold 15,000*
Italy (FIMI)[82] Platinum 30,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[83] Gold 15,000x
United States (RIAA)[84] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

*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
Netherlands[22]
Switzerland[21] July 15, 2011

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]