Intensities in Ten Suburbs

Just another WordPress.com weblog

10 Years, 100 Songs: #10. “Stacked Chips for the Rainy Day…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 15, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I’ve written about this elsewhere, but the career trajectory of Rihanna in the Naughty Oughties was a singular one, and something of a sight to behold. Imagine if Eddy Grant had gone on to have such a fabulous pop career in the last eight years of the 80s that not only was “Electric Avenue” not seen as his only hit, but it wasn’t even one of the songs we really best associated with him. That was Rihanna this decade, whose now-forgotten 2005 single “Pon De Replay”–a dancehall smash kept from topping the charts only by Mariah Carey’s season-long reign at #1–seemed for all the world like it would be her only hit. Then the next summer, she came out with “S.O.S.,” a slippery Soft Cell-aping number that presaged the stomp-pop that would dominate the Top 40 for the next couple years, but it still seemed like it could have been something of a fluke–a two-hit wonder, like Inner Circle or Sophie B. Hawkins. Then “Umbrella” hit, and the fact became undeniable: Rihanna was here to stay, as one of the biggest stars of the decade.

The track was a classic before Rihanna even said word one–hell, the track was a classic even before Jay-Z, who gets to rap the song’s lead verse, said word one. That drum intro, courtesy of underappreciated producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart (Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Mya’s “Case of the Ex,” the entire The-Dream catalogue, even JT Money’s hilarious “Who Dat?”), just slays all on its own, an instantly classic hip-hop break that almost sounds like something out of an old JBs or Jimmy Castor single. It’s so grabbing from the first hi-hat hit that you kinda want Jay to just shut up for four bars or so so you can hear it play unadulterated. The song gets better from there, of course, but I always thought that intro beat was the song’s secret weapon–a point somewhat reinforced by the use of the beat as the core of the backing track to DJ Earworm’s “United States of Pop” mashup of the top 25 Billboard songs of 2007–you’ll find that there are really remarkably few songs that don’t sound fantastic with that beat running underneath.

Jay-Z’s contributions to “Umbrella”  could probably be better described as more of an official endorsement than a legitimate guest verse. Jay’s pop clout in the second half of the decade was rivalled only by Lil’ Wayne and Kanye, in that all three (and really only those three) had the potential to turn a song by an unknown artist into a hit just by putting their arm around it and saying to the public “It’s cool, [song]’s with me,” getting them past the velvet rope of pop radio in the process. (See also: “American Boy,” “Down,” both 2009 Keri Hilson hits). In fact, Jay gets in and out of the song so quickly that it seems like he heard the original version of the song without him just before it got sent to radio, decided that it would work better with his introduction, and laid one down directly on top of the track without making any other adjustments to it. (For all I know, this is exactly what happened). But he certainly doesn’t detract anything from the song, he works in enough weather-related talk to get the song’s general conceit going (“In anticipation for precipitation / Stack chips for the rainy day”), and he gives Rihanna herself a pretty good introduction herself (“The rain man is back / With Little Miss Sunshine, Rihanna where you at?”)

One of the reasons that Rihanna was such an unlikely selection as one of the 00s’ ultimate pop divas was that, well, she didn’t really have a particularly great voice. It was usually fine over the course of a three-minute single, but even then you’d notice that she was never given all that much to do in the way of vocal calisthenics, and when she performed live at the VMAs, you could tell that her producers had done her some serious favors cleaning up her occasionally warbly coo in the studio. Rihanna’s skill was more at just crafting an appealing personality and doing what was necessary to carry a great hook. Something of a petite creature herself, her voice sounded appropriately coquette-ish, and compared to a Beyonce or Xtina, decidedly approachable. And what she couldn’t handle aurally she tended to make up for visually anyway, adopting striking and quickly-iconic getups in her videos (like the hip-hop Rogers/Astaire uni and silver body paint in the “Umbrella” video) to make sure that her presence was felt.

The appeal of “Umbrella” on Rihanna’s end is pretty much all chorus. The verses are essentially placeholders, shoehorning in some fairly awkward rhymes (“That’s when you need me there / With you I’ll always share”) and eyebrow-raising nonsense (“You’re part of my entity / Here for infinity”), just carrying the melody while everyone glances at their watches and waits impatiently for the chorus. But oh man, what a chorus. Not a syllable is wasted, not a word out of place, as Rihanna nails down both the extended weather metaphor (“When the sun shines, we’ll shine together,” “Now that it’s raining more than ever”) and the primary perseverence-through-hard-times lyrical theme (“Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end”). Most importantly, with the heavy, dramatic synths booming underneath, and Rihanna taking her vocals to the next level of intensity, it sounds utterly gigantic, the kind of chorus that only takes one or two listens to know in its entirety, even though you know that you’re going to hear it at least 100 more times before its day is done anyway.

But the key to “Umbrella”–and this is obviously no secret–is the titular word itself. It’s one of the fantastic things about pop music that a mere superfluous syllable can make the difference in between a hit single and a classic song, and “Umbrella” proves that lesson better than any other. There was no necessary reason, either lyrically or musically, for Rihanna to stretch out the word “Umbrella” into the extended “Um-buh-rell-la” (As in “You can stand under my um-buh-rel-la”), but it makes all the difference in taking a good chorus and making it absolutely unforgettable. Almost as brilliant was the decision for Rihanna to echo the word after (“Um-beh-rel-la, ella, ella, eh eh), making sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the word would linger in listeners’ memories, but it was still that extra syllable that once you heard it, if you had any knowledge of the nutty history of pop music, you just knew “Wow, this song is going to be big.”

Improbably, the Good Girl Gone Bad just kept getting bigger even after “Umbrella,” with three #1 singles last year to cement her status as one of the world’s biggest pop superpowers. Then, a curveball–R&B superstar and longtime beau Chris Brown was arrested for beating the crap out of Rihanna, casting the young star, who seemed more confident with each new release, as a victim for the first time. It will be interesting to see how she recovers from here–gloom-and-down comeback single “Russian Roulette” was certainly a fascinating response, and the significantly less dramatic “Hard” seems well on its way to being one of the first megahits of the 2010s. But I just hope she’s able to come back from this without letting it define her career–Rihanna has earned her evolution from a one-hit wonder to a two-hit-wonder to being one of the signature stars of the young millennium, and pop music will be a better place with her continuing to grow throughout the next decade.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To
36. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
35. Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want
34. The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl
33. Jay-Z – “Takeover
32. Maroon 5 – “This Love
31. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye
30. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes
29. Timbaland f/ OneRepublic – “Apologize
28. Beyonce f/ Jay-Z – “Crazy in Love
27. Coldplay – “Yellow
26. Lil’ Wayne – “A Milli
25. Shaggy f/ Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent – “It Wasn’t Me
24. The Strokes  – “Last Night
23. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone
22. Radiohead – “Idioteque
21. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Going Down
20. The All-American Rejects – “Move Along
19. OutKast – “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)
18. Interpol – “PDA
17. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body
16. Vanessa Carlton – “A Thousand Miles
15. The Clipse – “Grindin‘”
14. Cam’Ron f/ Juelz Santana & Freekey Zeke – “Hey Ma
13. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge
12. Soulja Boy – “Crank Dat Soulja Boy
11. StainD f/ Fred Dusrt – “Outside
10. Rihanna f/ Jay-Z – “Umbrella”

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To
36. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
35. Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want
34. The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl
33. Jay-Z – “Takeover
32. Maroon 5 – “This Love
31. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye
30. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes
29. Timbaland f/ OneRepublic – “Apologize
28. Beyonce f/ Jay-Z – “Crazy in Love
27. Coldplay – “Yellow
26. Lil’ Wayne – “A Milli
25. Shaggy f/ Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent – “It Wasn’t Me
24. The Strokes  – “Last Night
23. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone
22. Radiohead – “Idioteque
21. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Going Down
20. The All-American Rejects – “Move Along
19. OutKast – “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)
18. Interpol – “PDA
17. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body
16. Vanessa Carlton – “A Thousand Miles
15. The Clipse – “Grindin‘”
14. Cam’Ron f/ Juelz Santana & Freekey Zeke – “Hey Ma
13. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge
12. Soulja Boy – “Crank Dat Soulja Boy
11. StainD f/ Fred Dusrt – “Outside”

Advertisements

6 Responses to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #10. “Stacked Chips for the Rainy Day…””

  1. MBI said

    This is the song of the decade for me. Not necessarily my favorite song of the decade (though, not necessarily NOT my favorite song of the decade either). But it is the ’00s summed up for me. I. Fucking. Love. This. Song. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it is so fucking gratifying when the biggest song of the year is also the best.

    Side note, I don’t know if it’s her Caribbean roots or what, but I really think Rihanna is the only person able to pull off the ella-ella-eh-eh part of the end, and of course as evidence of this I can cite Chris Brown’s pallid contribution to the remix, but let’s face it, Chris Brown was always a terrible and unconvincing performer.

  2. John C. said

    It should be noted that the beat is the “Vintage Funk Kit 03” loop from GarageBand.

  3. ZD said

    Yahoo! My hit list now has seen three of its members make the countdown over the last four entries. Write up Wasting My Time by Default and I’ll officially be on a roll!

    Also, I totally dig this song and am actually surprised it wasn’t higher on the list. Although I’m not that big on Crank That Soulja Boy and am surprised it wasn’t higher on the list either, so I guess it’s all good.

    Keep it comin’ bro!

  4. intensities said

    It should be noted that the beat is the “Vintage Funk Kit 03″ loop from GarageBand.

    Well, I’ll be damned:

  5. MBI said

    On another note, I’ve heard later single mixes of the song take out Jay-Z’s verses entirely, and it just does not work right. You have the opening act before the headliner, apparently, even if said opening act is one of the biggest names in music.

  6. Kyle said

    As Singles Artists, Rihanna vs Britney is a good argument.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: