Album: A Girl Like Me
Rihanna feels guilty for cheating on her boyfriend in the gutless ballad “Unfaithful.”
A pitiable piano and frantic strings open the single, creating an unsettled tone. In the first verse, she says she usually makes selfish decisions which cause her pain. She wishes she immediately knew the right path to follow. She says her boyfriend is a gentleman and he cares more for her than anyone in the world. He makes funny faces when she’s upset to cheer her up. However, she’s been making excuses not to see him and making dates with another guy.
“Story of my life/Searching for the right/But it keeps avoiding me/Sorrow in my soul/Cause it seems that wrong/Really loves my company/He's more than a man/And this is more than love/The reason that the sky is blue/The clouds are rolling in/Because I'm gone again/And to him I just can't be true.”
In the pre-chorus, she says he’s been grilling her lately, asking her for specifics when she tells him she’s meeting with her girlfriends. She hears the disappointment in his voice when she reassures him that nothing is going on. He tries to talk to her but when they do see each other, but she mostly pretends he isn’t there.
“And I know that he knows I'm unfaithful/And it kills him inside/To know that I am happy with some other guy/I can see him dying.”
In the chorus, she says she has to stop cheating and chipping away at her boyfriend’s plummeting self-esteem. She doesn’t want to be the one who desicrates his trust in women, causing him to never marry and become a misogynist.
“I don't wanna do this anymore/I don't wanna be the reason why/Everytime I walk out the door/I see him die a little more inside/I don't wanna hurt him anymore/I don't wanna take away his life/I don't wanna be/A murderer.”
In the second verse, she says the tension between them is evident. She makes herself look pretty and puts on a slinky dress. He knows it’s not for him nor is it for her girlfriends. It’s for another guy and he has suspicions as to who it might be. They are simply going through the motions of a relationship.
“I feel it in the air/As I'm doing my hair/Preparing for another date/A kiss upon my cheek/As he reluctantly/Asks if I'm gonna be out late/I say I won't be long/Just hanging with the girls/A lie I didn't have to tell/Because we both know/Where I'm about to go/And we know it very well.”
The pre-chorus and chorus are sung again.
In the bridge, she says he loves her too much to let her go. She thinks less of him for it and wants out of the relationship already. She can’t continue with the charade any longer.
“ Our love, his trust/I might as well take a gun and put it to his head/Get it over with/I don't wanna do this/Anymore/Uh/Anymore (anymore).”
The chorus is sung again to close the single.
Rihanna uses every reason to justify her cheating. None of them are actually believable. First, she says he’s a wonderful guy and deserves better. Second, he’s fully aware of her inexcusable behavior and therefore, it’s his fault for not picking up on her passive-aggressiveness. Third, they are in love and he’s still loyal to her (even though he’s supposed to know she’s out with someone else). The third reason contradicts the chorus and doesn’t give her much crediblilty. Her blatant disrespect towards him is horrible.
Rihanna’s sulky, self-serving vocals are constrained and nondescript. She pushes each note with labored breaths. Her struggle is felt as she whimpers through every lyric.
The manipulative arrangement distorts the real problem with rapt strings, clinging to any hint of agitation and a glum piano, fabricating plausibility and regret for Rihanna (which she can’t be bothered to show).
The dishonest “Unfaithful” is an ugly three minutes, forty-eight seconds.
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