All hail queen xenomorph: an anti tour filmography
More than just a concert, Rihanna’s Anti world tour is a dazzling piece of cinema. Every costume, every set piece, every light cue draws inspiration from some of cinema’s classic films. After viewing the tour during its May 5 stop in Los Angeles, I compiled a list of films you should watch that will remind you of Rihanna’s breathtaking visuals long after the stage has been disassembled.
EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978)
When the lights rise and Rihanna begins to pull you into her world, she enters from the audience in a majestic white cloak, knee-length white boots, and a jumpsuit. With the cloak’s hood draped over her head, she strides mysteriously through the crowd as she approaches a stage that’s dressed like a desert wasteland. It’s definitely evocative of the postapocalyptic model shoots from the John Carpenter thriller Eyes of Laura Mars, starring Faye Dunaway.
Placed across the stage are pulsating, glowing, larva-like pods. With the futuristic, almost out-of-this-world landscape as her backdrop, Rihanna launches into “Sex With Me,” and it’s as if the stage has been set for a Xenomorph to hatch before us. Or, more likely, Rihanna is the Queen Xenomorph herself.
Addressing Rihanna’s futuristic, alien set, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jane Fonda classic Barbarella. A science fiction icon, Rihanna evokes Barbarella’s sexy yet powerful and domineering wardrobe as she stomps across the stage. The Anti tour feels like nothing you’ve ever seen on this earth, and it not only draws inspiration from goddesses of science fiction, but hopefully lays groundwork for a science fiction future that places black women in the driver’s seat and a ray gun in their hands.
During the sweeping, thundering “Desperado,” Rihanna is bathed in gold light as she sings about being on the run with a lover, while she simultaneously wonders if her love will ultimately abandon her. The lyrics and the imagery are even more striking when juxtaposed with Shirley Bassey’s warnings of a man who loves gold more than he’ll ever love her, along with the visuals of the opening credits to the 1964 James Bond film.
THE WITCHES (1990)
Rihanna’s boldest transition involves her rising from the stage in a dark Death Eater robe with a hood draped over her head. Performing the song “Man Down,” which is all about shooting a wayward lover and leaving him to die, she appears as a witch, casting a spell on anyone who would be foolish enough to cross her. While there are plenty of inspirations being drawn from here, such as The Craft or other darker occult films, it’s The Witches, starring Anjelica Huston, that comes to mind the most: It’s a film starring witches from across the globe gathered to do evil magic and curse the wicked, and Rihanna embodies all of them in this moment.
Rihanna dons a simple black, fringed, sheer jumpsuit for her performance of “Rude Boy.” Her backup dancers have short blond wigs and caps covering their heads. They look like a coven, or a hive of Grace Jones–inspired divas. It’s absolutely reminiscent of the psychedelic vampire flick Vamp, which starred Grace herself. During the performance I attended, Drake was lured to the stage to perform “Work” with Rihanna. How fitting for a vampire to lure her prey into her nest.
PARIS IS BURNING (1990)
A mash-up of Calvin Harris’s “How Deep Is Your Love” and “We Found Love” becomes a Studio 54–esque romp with vogueing backup dancers in glittering bodysuits. Rihanna becomes a sensual disco queen while dancing to the Calvin Harris beat, singing raw and live and sounding better than her actual single with Calvin, “This Is What You Came For.” The dancers’ death drops and exaggerated moves will make you think you’re at a New York ball competition long before Madonna appropriated it for “Vogue.”
GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989)
Like Vigo’s purple ooze seeping from the sewers of Manhattan in Ghostbusters II, the finale of Rihanna’s Anti tour features soap and bubbles sliding down a plastic curtain and filling the stage to the brim. By the time Rihanna steps onto an elevated stage to sing “Kiss It Better,” the ’80s guitar riffs will make you think you’re on the set of Ghostbusters right in time for its dark, mesmerizing climax.
PURPLE RAIN (1984)
And speaking of “Kiss It Better”: it already sounds like a delicious unreleased Prince song, but to honour our fallen music hero, the song is mashed up with “Purple Rain” in the final moments of the concert. And then, as if to remind you that what you’ve been watching isn’t just a tour but a cinematic event, a screen lowers to the stage and the credits roll.