Of the three people featured on “FourFiveSeconds,” Rihanna's new song with Paul McCartney and Kanye West, two are regularly held up as paragons of artistic genius and one is Rihanna. McCartney is a Beatle who can still crush at Coachella; West is American Mozart, according to The Atlantic, and the new Steve Jobs, according to himself; Rihanna is a pop singer with exactly one co-writing credit on her most recent album. She's also had more No. 1 hits than anyone except for Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Elvis Presley, and, yes, The Beatles, but the fact that she's more of a performer than a writer means that a lot of people will never pay her much respect—because what can she be bringing to the table compared to two of the most important names in music?
Released on Saturday as the second glimpse of a reportedly "prolific" collaboration between McCartney and West, "FourFiveSeconds" is acoustic strumalong, sans percussion, with Rihanna and West trading lines about "wylin" out. I can't decide whether to call its sound totally surprising or totally expected. None of the artists involved have made a track quite like this before, and there’s not much resembling it on the radio right now, but it also follows a pretty basic formula. The instrumental arrangement pleases in its simplicity but not so successfully as to warrant the term "Beatlesesque"; the big vocal hooks nearly beg for an EDM remix; West delivers the least interesting lyrics of his career in a manner that explains why he normally uses autotune.