Rihanna’s Harmony Korine–directed video for “Needed Me” feels a lot like Spring Breakers (VIDEO).

Harmony Korine’s Video for Rihanna’s “Needed Me” Is Basically Spring Breakers II

Harmony Korine’s Video for Rihanna’s “Needed Me” Is Basically Spring Breakers II

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April 20 2016 1:05 PM

Harmony Korine’s Video for Rihanna’s “Needed Me” Is Basically Spring Breakers II

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No, James Franco’s instantly quotableRiff-Raff–inspired Alien is nowhere to be found, and you won’t see anyone donning bright-pink ski masks—but Rihanna’s new NSFW video for Anti single “Needed Me” feels clearly inspired by Harmony Korine’s polarizing Spring BreakersHere, Korine sets the action in a gritty part of Miami, where some Alien-like characters brandish guns and ride out on dirt bikes. Tattooed strippers dance in slow motion, the camera lingering (or leering?) over their bodies in the same way it did the hard-partying college women in that 2013 tale of youthful rebellion gone dangerously awry.

Rihanna, meanwhile, plays our action anti-hero, cool and seductive as ever. She smokes and stares out into the distance from the patio of her luxurious pad, clad in a billowy, sheer cover-up that doesn’t really cover much of anything. Later, she slowly makes her way through the grungy strip club brandishing a pistol, setting her sights on one unlucky tatoo-heavy guy getting a lap dance—and just like that, Rihanna’s a stone-cold assassin.

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It’s a fitting alignment of sensibilities, really—in the past, Rihanna hasn’t been afraid to traffic in some pretty hardcore violence and nudity (see also “Bitch Better Have My Money”), and the song “Needed Me” itself encapsulates her oftentimes hard-edged persona (“Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage?/ Fuck your white horse and a carriage”). As with Spring Breakers, it’s difficult to tell if this video is trying to say anything particularly meaningful or is just an example of empty exploitation. Maybe it’s a bit of both, but one thing is for sure: It’s impossible to look away from. 

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.