Last night in Los Angeles, Rihanna celebrated the debut of her tough, NSFW video for "Bitch Better Have My Money" by taking hostages. Nearly 100 fans were invited to a Tidal-sponsored event, blindfolded and then put onto luxury buses with the windows covered by black curtains — destination unknown.
Invites were emailed on Monday to local Tidal subscribers and the quickest to respond were given just enough details to attend. Some arrived expecting a live Rihanna performance. Others didn't expect to see her at all. Either way, it was to be another exclusive "Tidal X" event promoting the service launched by Jay Z and now co-owned by a crowd of major artists, including Rihanna herself. During the commute, a host led a Rihanna quiz show on the first bus, throwing cash at blindfolded fans for reciting lyrics and answering trivia questions. When the buses landed, it was at the landmark Bob Baker Marionette Theater downtown, where ancient handmade puppets greeted guests inside.
"Oh, it's kind of creepy," one young woman said as she walked through a dark hallway — she ended up in a room full of drinks, desserts and a waiting pair of Tarot card readers. Piñatas hung from the ceiling and Rihanna hits blasted from a stereo.
After fans took their seats, the "Bitch Better Have My Money" video soon boomed from a big screen, opening with a parental advisory warning that promised grown-up "language," "nudity" and "violence." It delivered on all three, with feature-film production values and its star taking bloody revenge for debts unpaid.
"Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!" Rihanna shouted when she finally appeared to loud cheers, her long red hair draped over one shoulder. She thanked fans for "allowing me to kidnap you." The singer introduced the filmmaking duo from French collective Megaforce who co-directed the music video with her. "It took four days and nights to shoot this," Rihanna said. "They held me down and helped me execute my vision. . . . Did you like it?"
Almost as soon as she asked, there was a loud bang in the room, and a shower of dollar bills fell from the ceiling as fans scrambled. Rihanna was suddenly gone.
She returned later as guests mingled over food and drink and she personally handed out more wads of cash, something like the stylish crime boss she portrays in the video. One guest, Penny Davis, 50, opened her purse to show two neat stacks of bills, still snug within bank straps. "She handed this to me," she said, eyes wide with disbelief. "She kissed my hand. Very warm. Had me shaking afterwards."
Before her exit to a waiting Cadillac SUV, Rihanna posed for group photos with her guests. "If you can see the camera, the camera can see you," she instructed, speaking from experience. "You guys are the best fans ever. Thank you so much."
As guests lined up for the bus ride back to their cars, many were still taking in the brief but exciting encounter with the platinum superstar. "It was really cool. I honestly didn't think she would be here," said Natalie Uzcategui, 30. She brought her sister, Stephanie, 23, who was still talking about the video. "It seemed like a movie and I wanted to see more."
For another fan, Jessica Ulloa, 25, the close proximity to Rihanna left a new impression of the singer. "It gave you the idea of her being someone real. She's nice and sweet, and I like her more," said Ulloa, who arrived not knowing what to expect. "It wasn't a performance but it was something, and we were close and she trusted us to be respectful of her space. A lot of artists don't do that."