Jim Carroll

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Rihanna’s flying circus

There is something quite Monty Pythonesque about Rihanna’s current global press trip which sees the pop star, her sizable entourage and 150 members of the press trade flying around the world for a week. Travelling from Los Angeles and Mexico …

Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 09:25


There is something quite Monty Pythonesque about Rihanna’s current global press trip which sees the pop star, her sizable entourage and 150 members of the press trade flying around the world for a week. Travelling from Los Angeles and Mexico City to London and Paris to play shows in seven different cities over the course of a week, the #777tour sounds over-the-top, meglomaniac and something which was thought up after a particularly crazy, uber-charged marketing meeting. And we wonder why the record industry is FUBAR? This is a back-to-the-Seventies’ shizzle.

Come fly with me: Rihanna takes off from Los Angeles

Of course, if everything went according to plan, the tour would have worked a treat. Rihanna would have got a ton of great coverage, her new album “Unapologetic” (her seventh in as many years – she’s nothing if not prolific) would have received a massive PR boost and she would have been able to sell many tickets for her 2013 tour (which is believed to include a Croke Park date).

But, you know, the best-laid plans and all of that and the #777tour seems to have quickly gone from high fives all round on take-off to a bad farce complete with jet lag. This is what happens when hacks are hacked-off with the fact that the act has chosen not to engage with the gentlemen and ladies of the press and give them what they want (ie interviews, soundbites and headlines) and tries to palm them off with free booze instead (even expensive free booze).

Rather than the glorious colour pieces about what a smashing time everyone is having and what a good egg Rihanna is (though some of the more house-trained hacks will, no doubt, deliver such pieces – see the end of this post for an example of this), the #777tour has become all about streakers, mini-riots and general all-round ridicule, which is not what Team Ri-Ri wanted when they embarked on this Hannibalesque fandango. As David Simpson pointed out yesterday, though, we shouldn’t be surprised as a combination of pop stars, hacks and planes is always likely to lead to chaos.

Then, there is also the fact that some of the hacks onboard the plane have yet to hear the new album. They may have seen six shows – the last one is in New York tonight – but some haven’t heard the album which is the reason for all this international jet-setting. This telling observation tells you all you need to know about the reasoning behind the #777tour plot: keep everyone away from the new album as long as possible and build the hype over something else.

Keeping the media away from Rihanna also means that there will be no uncomfortable questions about her rekindled relationship with convicted abuser Chris Brown. Indeed, much of the new album seems to be about justifying the relationship (the song titles alone would make for a fascinating psychology study,book starting with the duet between the pair on a ditty entitled “Nobody’s Business”) and casting aspersions on anyone who wonders why on earth this young woman, a role model to many thousands of females around the world, has decided to give the guy who infamously thumped her black and blue the time of day again. Instead of answering questions about this and other matters from the 150 hacks she has invited to travel with her for a week around the world, Rihanna has decided to lock herself away from the fray. No wonder the hacks in steerage got restless.

What’s fascinating about the #777tour is that it has all fallen apart in real-time on everyone’s Twitter or Facebook pages. Thanks to the updates from the hacks initially excited to be on the same plane as the pop star before air and Ri-Ri rage set in, we all know that the tour has turned out to be less-than-successful. Social media updates mean we’re all onboard, which was probably a great idea when it was presented at that marketing meeting, but not such a great idea when things begin to go sour. Rihanna may be a fantastic, successful, talented pop star, but the impression from the #777tour updates is of an artist petulantly throwing a strop and refusing to engage with questions from the very same press people she and her team invited to join her as she, er, conquered the world in a week (she didn’t play Cork, though).

Of course, some people seem a little embarrased at being so mean to the pop star. After outlining how “each day was less perfect than the last”, Billy Johnson, Jr. then apologises to the star at some length.

“Initially, I planned to focus on all the things that went wrong with the 777 Tour. But the more I tried to write it, the more evident it was that I was viewing things from the wrong perspective. There were some major organizational issues with this 777 Tour, but there was a lot of good. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of us. Every person that I spoke to about this trip congratulated me. They assumed that I must have done something special to have been invited.

“I want to apologize to Team Rihanna for anything negative I said about this generous, extravagant gesture you have extended to me. I’ve been a music journalist for 20 years during which I’ve accumulated many some proud moments for which I have received recognition. But I’ve never been invited to be a part of something so lavish and celebratory.

“In 20 years, when someone mentions that Rihanna took a select group of 150 journalists from 82 countries to seven countries in seven days, I will be able to refer to my first hand memories. I am thankful for the team, many of whom I have worked with for years, for requesting my presence. It has been a momentous occasion.”