Remember those bygone days of 2011, when Rihanna's big video was paparazzi-razzing "S&M," subsequently sued by two separate photographers claiming she or co-director Melina Matsoukas ripped off their imagery? That year has passed, Rihanna's big video is "We Found Love" (sorry, "You Da One," but you're just not that eventful), and it's got a plagiarism mini-scandal of its own. 2012: it's exactly like last year!
Specifically, would-be whistleblower Bryan Derballa claimed that Rihanna's video was ripped off from a lot of stills by dismal-chic photographer Sandy Kim. To keep you from having to sift through all Kim's work, Derballa put together a side-by-side comparison. Problem is, Kim's known to take NSFW photos--nudity, cursing, drugs, the works--most of which make the Rihanna rundown. So for those of you not inclined to see naked people while you're reading this, we've gone over all the stills and whether we think there's any merit to the accusations. And yes, we realize the point's the combined effect of all the images, not just individual comparisons, but humor us.
THE SHOWER SCENE
Sandy Kim: Some guy in a shower.
Rihanna: Some guy in a shower.
VERDICT: Oh, come on. A shower only gives you so many confrontational camera angles. Sandy's dude doesn't even have visible peroxide! Stretch
THE CORNFIELD SCENE
Sandy Kim: Close-up of a cornfield where someone androgynous looks sketched out.
Rihanna: A wide shot of a cornfield where Rihanna, who doesn't look androgynous at all, clutches herself in the distance. It's too far away to judge how sketched-out she looks.
VERDICT: These shots look nothing alike, but they are both cornfields. Suspicious
THE PILL SCENE
Sandy Kim: Drugs all in a row, like some kind of illegal checkerboard.
Rihanna: Pills tossed up in the air.
VERDICT: Even our whistleblower admits it: "Sandy isn't the only person to shoot pills." Stretch
THE COLORFUL SMOKE
Sandy Kim: About 75% of a woman's arms and her tilted-back face make up maybe a third of the frame; the rest is taken up by an only slightly scuzzy building and a flare of orange smoke.
Rihanna: Rihanna, whose entire face is visible, right-side-up, outdoors and smiling, looks over toward a flare of red smoke.
VERDICT: If you put aside everything about the framing of these shots.... Sure, Why Not
THE PEROXIDE GUY
Sandy Kim: A guy indoors in a dull building in dull lighting has a regrettable expression and even more regrettable bleached hair.
Rihanna: A guy indoors in a dull building in dull lighting, who may or may not be a Chris Brown analogue, has a potentially regrettable expression and definitely regrettable bleached hair.
VERDICT: We don't want to chalk this up to coincidence, because it'd mean two people chose this look of their own accord, so... Suspicious
THE VOMIT SCENE
Sandy Kim: Real vomit in a toilet indoors.
Rihanna: Ribbon vomit on the ground outdoors.
VERDICT: Oh, come on. Even given music-video constraints, one is hardly stylized and one's nothing but stylizing. Stretch
THE BEDROOM SCENE
Sandy Kim: Woman, nude, flops down on her bed in her sparsely-furnished, barely-lit starter apartment.
Rihanna: Rihanna, in garters, flops down on her bed in her sparsely-furnished, barely-lit starter apartment.
VERDICT: It's like this guy's never seen an American Apparel ad. Stretch
THE GROCERY STORE SCENE
Sandy Kim: A woman in very ripped tights is shot from behind in a grocery store aisle. She's alone. The lighting's decent.
Rihanna: Rihanna and her guy make out in a slightly more open grocery store aisle in dim lighting. To be fair, they are shot from behind. RIPOFF!
VERDICT: Really? Even given these extensive differences, I've seen this scene five separate times while learning video editing. Stretch
THE CROWD SCENE
Sandy Kim: Someone crowdsurfs among a lot of outdoor revelers.
Rihanna: Someone crowdsurfs among a lot of outdoor revelers.
VERDICT: This is essentially what outdoor crowdsurfing looks like, but... Sure, Why Not
DUDE LYING DOWN SCENE?
Sandy Kim: Bleach-blond dude reclines on a rug, smirking at the camera and very much awake. He's flanked by lots of decorations. The lighting is impeccable.
Rihanna: Bleach-blond dude is passed out in the distance on the floor in the same cluttered starter apartment. He isn't even smirking on the inside.
VERDICT: Do we really have to elaborate? Stretch
THE RESTAURANT SCENE
Sandy Kim: A dude sits beneath a take-out display with photos in security-camera lighting.
Rihanna: Rihanna and her dude stand at the counter, arms around the shoulder. There's someone else in the shot. The display is mostly text-only. There's action in this scene. I guess it's still security-camera lighting.
VERDICT: This is getting really old. Stretch
THE BIKE SCENE
Sandy Kim: A curly-haired woman and the dude from the cornfield(?) ride tandem on a bike on a well-lit street past a bright, cheery townhouse. She pedals.
Rihanna: Rihanna (who is curly-haired here) and her guy ride tandem on a bike while waving that red smoke flare about. He pedals.
VERDICT: The bicycle built for two has been celebrated in song for years before either of these two, but in context.... Sure, Why Not, But Just Barely
THE CAR SCENE
Sandy Kim: Scuzzy guy in a car looks toward the camera. He doesn't have peroxide hair.
Rihanna: Rihanna's guy, in a car, looks toward the passenger seat.
VERDICT: Again: there are only so many camera angles in the seat of a car. Stretch
THE PDA SCENE
Sandy Kim: A woman takes off her shirt in a subway car while a guy looks down at his bag. The MPAA would classify this still as "nudity" but not quite "sexual content."
Rihanna: Rihanna and her guy make out in the seat of car. They are both clothed enough to be safe for work.
VERDICT: Nope. Stretch
OVERALL VERDICT: Are the aesthetics similar? Undoubtedly, but it just takes a trip to Tumblr to find more of the same: realism via bad lighting, edgy stuff and general malaise. Or to a Skins episode. Or to The Weeknd. Or to an Urban Outfitters or (again) American Apparel ad, or, hell, Calvin Klein of years past. After all, there's nothing new in the room that gets no sun.