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The music video for "S&M" was filmed in Los Angeles during the weekend of January 15, 2011, and was directed by Melina Matsoukas. Matsoukas told Billboard that the video was inspired by Rihanna's "sadomasochist relationship with the press... it isn't just about a bunch of whips and chains." On January 27, 2011, a behind-the-scenes clip related to the video was posted on Rihanna's official YouTube channel. The music video premiered on VEVO on February 1, 2011.
As the video opens, Rihanna is dragged, kicking and resisting, into a press conference where she is covered with plastic wrap and taped to a wall. She is surrounded by microphones and gagged reporters. The video then cuts to an outdoor scene, in which she wears a cream-colored latex dress and walks perez Hilton, who wears a ball gag and is on a leash. In the following scene, Rihanna is seated and surrounded by CCTV surveillance cameras. As she eats pink popcorn, her chair begins to rotate, prompting her to stand up and whip reporters, who are taped to the wall of the room. Next, she rolls on the floor with her hands and feet bound with rope. As the bridge of the song approaches, Rihanna wears a white latex bikini and rabbit ears, and images of headlines, such as Illuminati connections she has been accused of, are projected against her body and the wall behind her.
After the chorus, she appears in a newsroom. Reporters surround her and take photographs, and she is sprawled across a desk in a pink latex dress. The end of the video intercuts scenes from throughout the video and new ones of Rihanna suggestively eating bananas, strawberries and cream, and bejeweled ice cream. The video ends as she lies on a newsroom desk wearing a smiley face eye patch with The Rolling Stones tongue logo over her mouth. As scenes of Rihanna and other people in dominatrix clothes are interspersed, various explicit acts with the singer with a feather boa and a top with the word "censored" across it are displayed.
Reception and banEdit
The music video was generally well received. A journalist for The Huffington Post wrote, "Rihanna is perfectly good at being bad – and this video proves it". A journalist for OK! called the video "red-hot, kinky and totally tongue-in-cheek", and Willa Paskin of New York similarly described it as a "goofy" take on the S&M-themed music videos typical of Madonna and Lady Gaga. Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone described the video as a "visual onslaught of candy-colored kinkiness" that viewers would enjoy despite its bright colors and sexually suggestive activities. Brad Wete of Entertainment Weekly stated that Rihanna delivered the risque video he was expecting based on the song's lyrical content, and Jason Lipshutz of Billboard praised the video's "exquisite set pieces that offer a twisted take on hardcore sexuality".
The video was immediately banned in eleven countries due to its overt sexual content. It was flagged for content by users on YouTube, which restricts access to it to users over the age of 18. Rihanna responded to the news via Twitter, writing, "They watched 'Umbrella' ... I was full nude". An unrestricted version of the video was later uploaded to Rihanna's official website. The director of the video, Melina Matsoukas responded to the news in an interview with MTV News, stating: "When I go out to make something, I kind of go out with the intention to get it banned – [well] not to get it banned, I always want my stuff played – but to make something provocative ... But it's making an effect and people are having a dialogue about it, so, to me, that's successful."
Copyright infringement lawsuitsEdit
The music video caused further controversy when photographer David LaChapelle sued Rihanna, Island Def Jam and related parties for copyright infringement. LaChapelle alleged that the video infringed upon eight of his photographs published in GQ, i-D, Vogue Italia and elsewhere between 1997 and 2010. The lawsuit, which claimed unspecified damages, alleged that the video was "directly derived" from his pictures, copying their "composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting".The lawsuit included claims of trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, unfair competition under New York state law and unjust enrichment, which were later dismissed. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of New York's Southern District Court denied a motion to dismiss the copyright violation allegations, noting similarities between the works:
Both works feature: hot-pink and white striped walls; two single-hung windows in the middle of the back wall; windows with glossy hot-pink casings and interior framework, with opaque panes exhibiting a half-vector pattern of stripes against a yellow background; a solid hot-pink ceiling; hot-pink baseboards; a hot-pink couch under the windows; women wearing frizzy red wigs; a woman posed on top of a piece of furniture; black tape wrapped around a man; and a generally frantic mood ... [Both works are] well-lit and intensely saturated, with all of the details in sharp focus and almost no shadows.
On October 19, 2011, Rihanna was ordered to pay LaChapelle an undisclosed sum of money. LaChapelle won the lawsuit because a New York courtroom concurred that the "'pink room scene', which shows Rihanna dominating a man in front of pink and white striped walls, was very similar to LaChapelle's famous "Striped Face" photograph and pinpointed a scene where Rihanna is against a blue background wearing pink latex and placing a sweet on her tongue." After the case, LaChapelle expressed that the lawsuit was "not personal, it's strictly business". The photographer continued to explain why he felt a lawsuit was appropriate and likened the use of his ideas in the video to singers' sampling other artists' lyrics and melodies for use in their work, saying "Musicians commonly pay to sample music or use someone's beats and there should be no difference when sampling an artist's visuals."
In June 2011, German photographer Philipp Paulus sued Rihanna and her record labels, alleging further copyright violations with regard to a scene in the music video where Rihanna wears an expansive dress and is taped to the wall with a plastic sheet in front of her. Paulus believes the image was appropriated from his own photographic series, Paperworld.