9:19 pm - 11/20/2012

Rolling Stone Blogs 777 Disaster, restores my faith in their journalists by throwing flawless shade.

To promote her new album, Unapologetic, Rihanna has set off on an ambitious globetrotting tour that will hit seven countries in seven days. Rolling Stone contributor Jeff Rosenthal is on the plane with a small army of fans and assistants, and an extravagant amount of champagne.

Day 1: Mexico
Read about the beginning of the trip, the hopes and dreams of a naive journalist, and generally things that are not shade but are still great at the source. It's all rather positive and beautiful and so, so innocent.

Rihanna, live and in concert, doesn't sing much. Her hits are so big she doesn't really need to, but – tellingly – she often puts the microphone by her crotch. (She relies heavily on her two slithering backup singers, who sometimes come in to push songs over the finish line. To her credit, she does do the brunt of the work on less-demanding songs: she belts "Wait Is Over" and giggles her way through "Take a Bow.") During "Cake," she pats her thighs, as if slapping cheese on them. Dressed in a Rock-n-Jock-style leather baseball jersey, micro-bra and biker shorts, Rihanna winds and wiggles; she'll stick her ass out and look around the backside, as if posing for a Coppertone ad. Somehow, she makes the Stanky Legg seem appealing, as she does during "Where Have You Been." An entire swath of the audience – several rows of people, every single one of them with cameras held high – moves as one while watching her, as if being swept away by water. It looks dangerous, even violent, though strangely beautiful: a mosh-pit in which all parties move in the same direction. I've never seen anything like it.

Day 2: Toronto
RIP this beautiful Canadian content. Read the blog, it's still in the simmering period. The closest it comes to shade is...

She seems so much more alive than last night; it's almost as if she's channeling Obama's second debate. (Was it the plane's altitude that caused her to be so tired? Or maybe it was the long hours waiting around? Did she drink too much of the champagne? Or maybe not enough?)

Day 3: Stockholm
Read the full Day 3 blog. The general tone of this entry is about how repetitive the shows are, and how rehearsed even the banter is. You can tell they're getting frustrated.

While many went to bed, Rihanna stayed out until six in the morning, slinging drinks for her after-party guests from behind the bar. Some ticket-winning fans made it in and found Rihanna to be sweet: "I told her my life story," said one. (She also shared with Rih’s manager a growing frustration among the fans riding with the 777 Tour, that they feel unappreciated and underwhelmed by the experience.) Sweden’s pushiest came to rub shoulders and throw elbows, a good-looking but horrible-acting group of malcontents. Apparently, as I learned from a local girl I met, alcohol in Sweden is incredibly expensive so everyone goes full-throttle-drinking on Friday nights. Last night was Friday night. It was either being fed up by aggressive patrons, or the fact that the rare Stockholm sun was coming up, that led Rihanna to throw her bartending towel down. With a huge smile on her face, she screamed, "I quit!"

Day 4: Paris
The Paris blog entry details the pros of the trip, in order to hammer home that while they appreciate the high points, the reality is becoming...

Or, in this case, a Delta. It feels stupid to complain: we're being flown all around the world to see Rihanna perform in concert seven times, and given free tickets with balcony access. That probably sounds pretty good! But it's too much. Every concert is a re-run episode that we're forced to watch, each with diminishing returns. The only real difference is found within one of her most popular applause lines: "What up, Mexico City?" "What up, Toronto?" "What up, Stockholm?" The buses are new in each city, which is important since we don't do much outside of them. We got to see Stockholm and Paris for an hour before we had to go to the venue; we never saw any of Toronto or Mexico City. There's no time to see the sights when you're sitting in parking lots, waiting for hours. As it is, the only proof we have of going to these cities are the adhesive strips wrapped around our luggage. A documentary crew has been wandering the aisles for many of our plane rides, but there's simply nothing to capture on camera. Their most popular shot? People sleeping.

We haven't seen Rihanna offstage since the first day, unless you count her popping up at baggage claim for a few moments on the morning of the second; she also had after-parties in Stockholm and Paris, both times showing up mere hours before wake-up call. As for last night's mega-party at Paris' VIP Room, where she was joined by Diddy, Cassie, Pharrell, Akon, Omarion and Craig David, the Twitter account for MSN's Canadian website said, "Putting off sleeping and editing to try and get a word with Rihanna, Diddy or Akon who are 2 feet away but blocked by security." (It was originally going to be just us, those who were flying with the tour. Def Jam was surprised to see it turn into a zoo. There was a hubbub among the radio winners this morning, after one of the Swedes got elbowed in the face by Diddy's bodyguard, according to several eye-witnesses.) The hotels are beautiful, but we're only sleeping two or three hours in them – four, tops. From journalists to fans to label reps to airline staff, the general feeling is one of mild depression-cum-hysteria.

It was a cunning idea to invite 200 journalists to cover this event, because – if it goes well – that's seven straight days of wall-to-wall positive coverage by 150 outlets. But when it doesn't work, it's a big risk. After four and a half days, it's somewhere between a wasted opportunity and living in Rihanna jail. If this whole thing is Rihanna's idea, as she so claims, then you'd think she'd put in the effort to make it work: she could get on the microphone, or do something to make us feel like she's on the same plane as us, to differentiate one day from another.

Day 5: Berlin
The blog entry for Berlin is the one after the Night of the Munity, when there was streaking and all the journalists went insane and the fans barely held back from Lord of the Flies levels of insanity.

Much has been made of the conditions on the Rihanna plane, which have been as grim as we say, our coping tactics way funnier than the lazy jokes people make at our expense. (No, we didn't expect to hang out with Rihanna and gossip about Drake. We simply felt there should be a reason for us being on this plane with her and seeing these seven shows, and there apparently is none. Also, shouts to those who think their experience would be at all different from that of the 200-plus people who are voicing their frustration. You're wrong, but shouts to you.) The fact is, as this whole thing has spun out of control, many of us – the journalists looking for something or anything to do, the fans who skipped out on their jobs for a week because they were promised something they never got, the label reps doing their damnedest to just get us to the next city – have put a bright face on a bad situation. This has been our Vietnam – when this is over, we'll never talk about it again. (lol, I can't.)

(Srsly, go read the blog-- there is a recap of the events of the mutiny that would go here regularly.)

All of the tension that had built up seemed to dissipate; I now can't wait to see this documentary that I'd been dreading. Last night wasn't a mutiny so much as a much-needed visit to the chiropractor; we were all drunk on laughter (and empty bottles of wine) at 5 a.m. Word swept through that Rihanna was going to say something, to address everyone and thank us all for braving this cruel social experiment. Of course she didn't, which only fed the very-loud and never-ending rumors that she's not on this plane at all. In fact, she was, but she probably never will be again. And that's fine: we seem to be having more fun without her.

Day 6: London

Go read day 6. If you've bothered to read any of the other ones, you know it's worth it. I've chosen some of my favourite bits for you to see.

They all seemed pretty happy that it's over.

We recited her onstage banter word for word, tightening her script until it broke: the introduction to "What's My Name?" goes, as Rihanna said in just about every city, "My name isn't oh-na-na. It's Rihanna!"</b> Someone started a rumor that one of the passengers was a child actor from Jurassic Park. Since we hadn't seen her on the plane in days, an on-air personality from Canada's MuchMusic printed up a missing poster that depicted Rihanna, looking for answers while walking up and down the aisle. A writer fell asleep while typing, his entire screen filled with a series of j's and k's. Twenty people surrounded him and laughed.

A day earlier, the entirety of the plane had risen up as one, journalists starting jokey chants of "Save our jobs!" and "Just one quote!" (Fans, kept to the back section of the plane, joined in with a spoofed-up version of one of her songs: "Where have you been?/ Cause I never see you out/ Are you hiding from me/ On our flight?") It was all an effort to lure Rihanna out of her private quarters, to be able to write about something other than the fact that we all had nothing to write about. She never came out, and the bad press continued. (She ended her London show by screaming, "Haters are liars!" It's something she's said often, but never before on this trip. It seemed directed at the journalists that she herself had invited.)

[Her guitarists staged a mini-concert to appease the media.] It was a lovely gesture – these guys did nothing wrong, except pretend to know the lyrics – but why wouldn't Rihanna at least show her face, to acknowledge our presence (or even hers)?

The landing gear descended. Everyone was told to return to their seat; I had never left mine. And then a strange figure darkened the door of first class. She walked out with shades on, making her way down the aisle. There was less enthusiasm from her, less from us; we weren't the same people we were six days ago, when we first boarded the plane. No champagne showers; many of us were hungry and tired, a huddled and disinterested mass. It was almost like Rihanna didn't (or doesn't) know of anything beyond her seat: with a smile that curled up and out, she said, "I would fuckin' do this again!" She continued on this too-little-too-late tour, noting that if she hadn't had to take care of her voice, she would have acted differently with us. "Usually I go, go and go. And this time I had to sleep," she continued. "Usually I would be back here partying my balls off for ya'll but I really had to pay attention and take care of my health because I'm on the plane all the time." She'd been out all night in at least three cities, buying lingerie in Paris, hanging out with Brooklyn Decker in Toronto. But she never had three minutes to see us.

[After the journalists & fans tried to swarm her after her re-appearance...] With just moments to spare, people sat down in their seats. It made me realize why no one would ever get access to her: because many of these supposed professionals weren't mature enough to treat her like a person, and she most certainly wasn't interested in treating any of us like people either.

As we deplaned, the fresh air of Newark's airport filling our faces, a flight attendant said, "You're free!" Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.


Edited after the fact per mod request. Go read the blogs for the full report!
ediesedgwick 21st-Nov-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
lol not really though. i honestly think its funny that her delusional stans only have chart positions to talk about because she has literally no talent
floetcist 21st-Nov-2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
Seriously. They don't talk about her singing, dancing, music, etc. Just her number ones.
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