by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Rihanna ft. Jay-Z - "Umbrella". After the relative off-year of 2006, this, Amy Winehouse, and Amerie's "Gotta Work" show that pop in 2007 is back, back, back. (Maybe the new Avril single applies as well but - !?!!! - I haven't heard it yet.) With its crisp drum break "Umbrella" is post-"1 Thing"; with its alt-rock r&b it's post-"Since U Been Gone"; with its "umbrella / ella / ella / ay ay / ay" it's even post-MIA. More weirdly however, there's something almost post-rock about "Umbrella" -- it's ripe not just for indie-rock covers, but for takes by the po-faced likes of Explosions in the Sky or Mono. Despite Jay-Z's giddy intro, the song's not in the least bit light: it's serious, sincere, full of promises and forevers. "Crazy in Love" had a similar weight but here nobody's singing about infatuation, new love - Rihanna's singing about certain love, alwayses, literally the weathering of storms. The lyrics are heavy: "You're part of my entity / yeah, for infinity." Not a track for the first date, or the second; probably more suited for a diamond anniversary (Jay-Z: "No clouds in my stones." / Rihanna: "Took an oath, gonna stick it out til the end.") It's dark, droning, forceful (and yet totally summer-boombox awesome). Sean's promise: By the fourth time you hear it you will understand that it is amazing.

Or, said another way:

For two and a half weeks they had been fighting. Little things - he arrived late for breakfast; she forgot to check her email for the name of that band; he let the spaghetti sauce splatter all over the stove; a waiter was rude and she was rude back even though she "didn't have to sink to his level". It's what at one time would have been called "squabbling" but today, in this day & age or maybe just today, was called fighting. Elsa and Jamie had been fighting. It was Wednesday and they had last been together on Monday night, at a play, where she had given a standing ovation and he had not.

Elsa had not slept - as Tuesday became Wednesday she lay wide-eyed in her sheets, listening to the rain that stopped-started outside the window. Street lights flashed through the curtains and she just wanted to close her eyes and fall asleep. She couldn't. She buried her head under her pillow; she curled her feet to her chest; she stretched out and drummed her heels against the mattress. She wanted to sleep. She kept thinking about Jamie, trying not to think about Jamie; she kept thinking about Jamie and trying not to think about him.

In the morning she sat in her kitchen and felt grey, dusty, worn. She drank a glass of stale water and then refilled it from the tap. She sighed. And the glass broke in her hand. She leapt to her feet and brushed the shards from her palm into the garbage bin. She was thinking: I wonder what Jamie would say. She sopped up the water with paper towels and collected the pieces of glass from the table. "Fuck," she said, but only after she had finished tidying everything up.

She went to work and looked at her computer screen and typed and at 10:40 she went into the staff-room and filled a mug with water from the water-cooler.

"How're things?" said Mirabel.

"Good," said Elsa.

"You and Jamie should come over for dinner on Saturday."

"That would be nice." Elsa looked at the mug. It was earthenware, blue and gold. She imagined it shattering in her hand. And then it did.

"Jesus!" said Mirabel.


Elsa broke one more mug that morning, then a water-bottle at lunch, then a plastic cup in the afternoon. When she got home after work she broke two glasses - one short, one tall. And listen, she never meant to break any of them. They just came apart. She wasn't squeezing them til they shattered, she wasn't having an involuntary spasm. Glasses, bottles, mugs, everything was just coming to pieces when she touched it.

She called Jamie.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," he said.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"Fine," he answered. "How are you?"

And she told him about the glasses, about how everything was breaking all the time, water always dripping from the ends of her fingers. And he said "Oh no! Elsa, are you okay? Are you okay?" and she said "I'm okay," and he said "Should we go see a doctor, or a specialist, or a scientist or something? Figure out what's going on?" And she heard the way he said "we".

"No," she said, "just come over, Jamie. I love you so much. Please just come over. All I want is for you to come over."

"We'll hold glasses together," he said. "Let 'em shatter."

"Let 'em shatter," she said. "Come over."


[Rihanna's homepage]

Posted by Sean at April 6, 2007 9:34 AM

superb pop tune, even though the best part of it is totally M.I.A. Something about it reminds me of Sugababes Freak Like Me..

Lovely, sad wee story

p.s. avril lavigne's new song is sooo wrong..

Posted by Milo at April 6, 2007 10:45 AM

very sweet story dear Sean...lovely.

Posted by BMR at April 6, 2007 12:31 PM

i like the story better than the song. touching. best thing i've read all week. thank you for that.

Posted by Joe at April 6, 2007 3:37 PM

do you mean "girlfriend?" here is the "french" version:
hahah. Love the Ontario french immersion accent!

Posted by amy at April 7, 2007 2:22 AM

Sean, I won't listen to the song now because it's 2:56am and my home has thin walls. but i read your story and I happy that I did. It was very lovely. the blue and gold, and "she had given a standing ovation and he had not". And "she heard the way he said "we". lovely indeed.

Posted by maryam at April 7, 2007 2:57 AM

Fuck, Sean.

Posted by g00blar at April 7, 2007 9:08 AM

Hi guys,

I like this music blog very much and listen to every track you post but now Im wondering if you know about a music blog that focus on jazz music mainly?

Steinar Þór Ólafsson

Posted by Steinar at April 8, 2007 5:45 PM

you make short work of the near-impossible task of doing right by music with words. and you've outdone yourself with this one, sean. thank you.

Posted by meg at April 9, 2007 1:55 AM

I just came across "Umbrella" because of this blog, and this single is now my "Since U Been Gone".

Posted by Orlando at April 11, 2007 11:41 PM

Jesus what the hell happened to this site? Rihanna ft Jay-Z are you serious? Pop had an "off year" in 2006? its "back back back" in 07?

I think everyone here needs to take a step back and look at what you're posting about.

And all the commenters, need to start getting critical instead of just slobbering all over whatever's posted on this site.

Go ahead and delete me if you have to but I speak the truth.

Posted by Ron Mexico at April 16, 2007 4:18 PM

"Sean's promise: By the fourth time you hear it you will understand that it is amazing."

Ron's promise: If you need to hear a song 4 times to understand that it's amazing, it's not amazing to begin with.

Posted by Ron Mexico at April 16, 2007 4:21 PM

Fuck off you pretentious whiny little shit, so what now, people can't like a pop tune?
Take the stick out of your arse and then maybe you'll see something more once the shit behind your eyes clears.
It irks me so much when people like you make this pointless remarks which contain nothing but a bitter little snipe because its so beneath you to like anything at all.

Posted by Jane Doe at May 9, 2007 12:52 PM

i've always remembered this post, the story stuck to my thoughs like sweet maple syrup...but i still never understood the power of that song.

until yesterday. I was in a cafe, the sun was bright and I was paging through a Spalding Gray monolouge, through a particularly heartbreaking moment of his life, and there was that song, blasting through the speakers. And all of a sudden everything you said made since, and there were my tears in my half-finished latte, on page 67 of my book.

When I walked home, long after this moment, i tried to scroll through my ipod, tried to find a song that matched that moment just as perfectly, and you know, i never did find one.

thank you, i know it's been months, but thank you all the same.

Posted by umbrella-d at May 19, 2007 7:47 PM

love the song. love the story. i almost cried. thanks.

Posted by Sarah at May 21, 2007 11:10 PM

I didn
t read this story because I thought it was going to be bull shit. is it?

Posted by cameron smith at December 31, 2007 2:04 AM

pretty much. but what's wrong with that?

Posted by sean at December 31, 2007 2:26 AM

Nice little story. Better song.

Posted by wcw at January 6, 2008 2:22 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

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