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Rhetorical Analysis of “Man Down” By Rihana


RhetoricalAnalysis of “Man Down” By Rihana

RhetoricalAnalysis of “Man Down” By Rihana

Rhetoricis the use of communication devices to persuade, entertain, inspireand persuade. Rhetoric is the use of communication so as to attainspecific objectives with the target audience. Rhetoric is used in allforms of communication such as speaking, writing, music,architecture, and advertisement. It is used in every social situationand this makes it a dynamic mode of communication that can be usedacross many situations to achieve specific objectives ofcommunication. Persuasive communication is used to appeal to people’semotions in different ways. The purpose of persuasive communicationis to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs and emotions. This ispart of rhetoric communication. This discussion shall focus on theuse of rhetoric in the song ‘Man Down’ by Rihana. The discussionshall analyze the song in terms of the five premises of persuasivecommunication.

Thesong man down is about how Rihana killed a person who had raped her.She killed a man as he assaulted her and she could not find justice.The murder made her guilty and she had nightmares due to her action.She had no intention of killing a man, but the bitterness in hercaused her to kill him. She pleaded for mercy and understanding asthe man had pushed her into killing him. Her argument was that shedid it in self- defense and it was the man’s fault for raping her.In the video, she was seen dancing with a man at a party, but the manfollowed her and raped her when she turned down his advances.

Thefirst premise in this case is the ability to meet personal needs.Cultural differences define needs differently based on the prioritiesof the culture (Perloff, 2008). The needs premise is meant to needpeople’s emotional and physical needs. The emotional premise inthis song works by first capturing the listener’s attention. Thesong starts by appealing to people’s emotions. In the song, shesaid that she could not sleep and she felt guilty because the man shekilled was someone’s son. The emotional situation makes theaudience sympathize with her and take sides with her.

Theemotion of guilt is also evident in that Rihana said she did notintend to kill him, but she had no option when the man tried to rapeher. She felt guilty because she knew that he was someone’s son andthe murder would cause his family emotional pain. Rihana repeatedlycalled out to her mother to express that the action caused her guiltas she had not been socialized as a murderer. The guilt of killingsomeone reminded her of her upbringing and lessons on murder. Theguilt also made her want to cry especially because she knew that shefaced a harsh sentencing due to her crime. In the video, she had anexpression of shock after shooting a man and this demonstrated guilt.

Emotionalneeds according to the needs premise is based on motivation.Motivation is based on symbolism, where people certain symbolsrepresent emotional fulfillment (Perloff, 2008). In this song, Rihanafelt emotional satisfaction from killing her rapist. Although shefelt guilty, she said that there was nothing she could do after shewas raped. In the video, she demonstrated her pain especially everytime she saw the man happily living his life, after he had caused heremotional pain by raping her. Her motivation for killing the man wasto seek revenge for the pain she had caused her. The man was a symbolof pain in her life and she needed to find emotional healing bykilling the man.

Thesecond premise is the premise of emotions. The emotions are fear,anger, guilt, happiness, and pride. These emotions have cognitive andpsychological dimensions. The psychological dimension, a person’sbody changes in response to the situation at hand. The situationcauses psychological responses due to an appeal to the emotions of aperson (Perloff, 2008). The cognitive dimension appeals to a person’sperception about a person or a situation. The perception towards theperson or activity changes depending on how a person’s emotionshave been affected.

Thecognitive changes are very strong and are usually expressed verbally(Perloff, 2008). In the song ‘Man Down’ by Rihana appeals to thecognitive changes in that she verbally expressed how she felt aboutkilling a man who raped her. She said that the murder caused her tofeel guilty as she had no intention of killing a man. She felt guiltyand expressed this verbally. However, she was also feeling emotionalpain from the rape she had experienced and that is why she said thatit was only fair that she inflicted pain on him also since he hadinflicted pain on her. Her verbal explanations express guilt andpain. She was feeling guilty for murdering a man, but her emotionalpain from the rape was her reason for the action.

Thepsychological dimension is expressed through body reactions to asituation (Perloff, 2008). In the video, Rihana ran away from thescene after killing a man. After shooting him, she stood there andwatched the man in the sense of emotional satisfaction. However,after some time, it dawned on her that she had committed murder andshe ran away. This indicated the psychological dimension of thefeeling of satisfaction and the feeling of guilt. Her body movementsshowed that murdering the man felt liberating, but it also made herfeel guilty.

Theemotion of anger was also evident in the song. Rihana appealed to theanger of the audience by showing the rape ordeal in the video and thefact that the man went on with his life after that. She alsoexpressed anger in the words of the song by saying that she killed aman for committing a bigger crime than hers. Her justification isthat she killed a man in self- defense and thus, the man brought thepain upon himself. The action of rape in the video is meant to makethe audience feel Rihana’s pain and anger and thus, justify heraction of murdering a man.

Theemotion of happiness as also well articulated in the video. People dodifferent things so as to find happiness. These things cause physicaland emotional fulfillment and thus, they lead to happiness (Perloff,2008). The video showed that Rihana enjoyed partying and dancing. Inthe video, she bought some coconut from the street and this was partof the joy. She then headed to a party where she enjoyed herself fromdancing the whole evening. The use of the happy scene in the videowas meant to capture people’s attention and demonstrate how therapist ruined Rihana’s happiness by raping her.

Theemotion of fear was also evident in the song ‘Man Down.’ Rihanarepeatedly called out to her mother to tell her that she had killed aperson. The act of calling out her mother repeatedly showed fearafter realizing that she had killed a man. She was also scaredbecause she shot a man in front of a crowd and people knew her. Inthe song, Rihana said that she was about to leave town. This showedthat she was fearful of what may happen to her if she stayed around.In the last stanza, she says that the judge should be told to giveher minimal sentencing. This was a means of persuading the crowd byusing fear to show that the action of killing someone equallyterrified her.

Attitudeis another premise of persuasive communication. Attitudes affect anddetermine people’s behavior. An attitude is reinforced by anintention to act, which is what causes a person to act (Perloff,2008). People initiate an action by declaring an intention to act,which is then followed by the action. There are four key stages thatinformation must pass through in order to persuade and these areattention, comprehension, retention, and action. People must payattention to the information being passed so as to get persuaded. Theperson passing information must attract the attention of the intendedaudience then proceed to pass the information.

Inthe song ‘Man Down,’ attention is captured on the first stanzawhere Rihana sang about killing a person. The song started by tellingpeople what Rihana had done and this created an attitude towards thesong, as well as capturing people’s attention. The audience’sattention is captured by keeping people’s interested in knowingwhat had caused her to kill a man. In the video, Rihana was veryhappy in the beginning and this did not correspond with the lyrics.This captured people’s attention as people were interested inknowing why she looked happy, yet she was singing about killing aperson. Capturing people’s attention is important as it makes themfollow through with the communication and understand.

Oncethe communicator has captured the attention of the audience, thecommunicator must make it possible for the audience to comprehendwhat is being discussed. Communication only takes place if the targetaudience understands what is being discussed (Perloff, 2008). In thesong ‘Man Down,’ comprehension is enhanced through a systematicelaboration of the events. The audience can follow the story from thebegging to the end due to the systematic arrangement of words andphrase, which enhances comprehension. The song talks about how theman raped Rihana and this makes people understand why she had killeda man. The video enhances understanding by showing how the man ruinedher happiness by raping her.

Thethird level related to attitude is retention. The ability by peopleto remember the information passed is what influences their attitude(Perloff, 2008). Influencing people’s attitudes is a major reasonfor rhetoric communication. If people are not persuaded, thencommunication has not taken place. In the song ‘Man Down’ Rihanastarted by persuading the audience that she felt guilty for heractions. She then retained the audience’s attitude by showing howthe man raped her. In the song, the attitude of anger is retained byasking what was she expected to do after the man took advantage ofher. Retention also involves remembering the subject of discussion.The chorus of the song reminds the audience that although Rihanafeels guilty for her actions, she killed a man for raping her. Thevideo also enhances retention by showing the events that causedRihana to murder a man.

Actionis the final stage of attitude. Attitude is only important if it isfollowed by action (Perloff, 2008). Persuasion only takes place whenthe communicator acts on the attitude. Action is where the personcommunicating persuades the audience about the attitude by acting onthe attitude. In ‘Man Down,’ Rihana persuades the audience thatshe had to kill a man by showing how the man raped her for turningdown his advances. The video demonstrated how the man raped her aftershe tried o get away from him and this persuades the audience thatRihana was justified to kill a man.

Attitudesperform a social function of convincing people. Attitudes areinfluenced by beliefs. People’s cultural beliefs shape the attitudethey have towards a person or an action. People have a negativeattitude towards rape and rapists and most people have no mercytowards rapists. By saying that the man had raped her, Rihanaappealed to people’s cultural intolerance for rape and thus, theaudience sympathizes with her actions. Rihana established an attitudeof pain and anger at the start of the song and by appealing topeople’s emotions by asking what she was meant to do, after the manwho raped her kept living a normal life.

Consistencyis the fourth premise that influences interpersonal communication.Persuasion is about creating disequilibrium by ensuring that peopleare not comfortable with the current state of affairs (Perloff,2008). The person doing the communication brings equilibrium, whichmakes people comfortable, by creating attitude change. Thecommunicator creates loopholes in the state of affairs and thisbrings discomfort. The person then brings equilibrium by persuadingpeople and changing their attitudes towards certain actions orobjects. The process involves changing people’s attitudes bycreating a new mental framework through attitude change.

Thecognitive dissonance theory states that the consistency is created byunderstanding what attitudes people hold towards certain actions orbeliefs. People try to reduce psychological tension by acting on thelogical ways of resolving a problem. People resolve conflicts bychanging their beliefs to match those of a new phenomenon (Perloff,2008). In the song ‘Man Down,’ it is evident that murder isfrowned upon by society. This was the source of Rihana’s guilt asshe knew that murder was wrong and she was going to be jailed formurdering a person. Although she did not object to being jailed, shepleaded for mercy for she also knew that rape was not condoned by thesociety. The logical action according to the song is to have minimalsentence for Rihana had committed a crime in revenge for a biggercrime. The cognitive dissonance appeals to the fact that both crimesare punishable.

Incognitive dissonance, people also try to rationalize the problem byoffering logical explanations (Perloff, 2008). The logicalexplanations indicate that the person had a logical reason for doingwhat is considered culturally wrong. In the song ‘Man Down,’Rihana started by saying that she felt guilty for her actions andthat she did not mean to hurt the man she had killed. However, shelater asked what she was supposed to do, after the man had raped her,she was aware that killing the man was unacceptable, but she alsoargued that her action was justified as the man had raped her. Shealso recognized that she had to pay for her mistakes and that is whyshe begged for mercy in the form of minimal sentencing.

Consistencyis maintained by reassurance of security and use of rewards. Thereassurance of security reduces the discomforts created by dissonanceand helps people to feel comfortable and protected (Perloff, 2008).The use of reassurance is in the form of offering security anddemonstrating an understanding. In the song ‘Man Down,’ Rihanasought reassurance by calling out on her mother continuously as a wayof reducing the tension that was caused by the guilt she felt. Shealso sought reassurance by asking for mercy and asking her mother torequest the judge for minimal sentencing. People tend to seek comfortwhen there is cognitive dissonance from people who are viewed asmeans of protection.

Theuse of rewards also reduces cognitive dissonance. Rewards areimportant in creating a sense of comfort as they act as a way ofreducing tension. In ‘Man Down,’ the reward to Rihana was throughthe death of her rapist. This had the effect of reducing the pain shefelt as a result of the rape ordeal. Her guilt would be reduced byhaving minimal sentence for her action because she had killed the manout of anger. The reward would be minimal punishment as recognitionof the pain she had endured due to the rape.

Thefour premises of persuasive communication are well utilized in thesong as the audience is persuaded on the need for murdering a man whoraped Rihana in the song ‘Man Down.’ The arrangement of text andthe use of emotional intelligence communicate with the audience formthe beginning of the song to the end. The power to get the attentionof the audience and keep their attention shows a strong use ofrhetoric devices in communication. The use of premises of persuasivecommunication effectively is the basis for keeping the audienceinterested and keeps the communication going.

However,the use of attitude may not be effective if the attitude is notfollowed by action. Effective attitude is used when the attitude isfollowed by suitable action, which makes the action memorable.Attitude is important in communication as it shapes the mode ofcommunication and forms the basis for communication (Perloff, 2008).The use of attitude, however, may be hindered by the lack of actionand this may make the attitude not memorable. The song ‘Man Down’by Rihana uses attitude to appeal to the audience. The attitude isaccompanied by strong emotions, which capture and retain theaudience’s attitude.

Inconclusion, rhetoric communication is the use of communication topersuade, entertain, inform, and inspire people. Effective use ofrhetoric is important in interpersonal communication as it can beuseful in reinforcing believes and values of people. When usingrhetoric, it is important to consider the cultural setting withinwhich communication takes place so as to achieve the desired results.Rhetoric is used in speech, written communication, architecture andeven art such as music. The use of rhetoric in music is important asthe music is used to communicate to people across different social,cultural and geographical backgrounds.

Thesong ‘Man Down’ by Rihana uses rhetoric a lot so as to persuadethe audience. The song is about how Rihana killed a man who had rapedher and how this caused her to feel guilty. The persuasion in thesong is aimed at explaining to the audience the reason for killing aman. The video helps in communicating the message to the audience andmaking it possible to communicate by using the audio and visualtechniques of effective persuasion. The song additionally uses thefour major premises of effective persuasion to communicate to theaudience. The four premises are needs, emotions, attitudes andconsistency.

Theneeds premise is based on the basic needs of human beings thatinclude emotional protection. The needs are also in the form ofMaslow’s hierarchy of needs, which hold that human needs aresatisfied in particular order from the most basic needs for survivalto the elaborate needs, which improve comfort. The next premise isthe premise of emotions. Human beings experience the emotions offear, anger, guilt, happiness and joy (Perloff, 2008). These needsare met in different ways are motivators of human behavior. Thepremise of attitudes determines whether an action takes place or not.Attitudes precede behavior and it is, therefore, important to ensurethat attitudes are followed by actions. Finally, the premise ofconsistency is charged with retaining and ensuring that certainactions and attitudes last. Consistency is reinforced so as tomaintain attitudes and memory.

Theanalysis of the song ‘Man Down’ teaches the important ofcombining various premises of persuasive communication so as toenhance communication. Communication is not just about passinginformation, but also influencing people. The song teaches that goodmusic ought to be properly arranged so as to help people tocomprehend what the singer is talking about. The music must becommunicative and it addresses an issue that the society can easilyidentify with. The song uses the four premises of communicationeffectively both in the words and the actions in the video. Thispersuades the audience to sympathize with Rihana although she hadcommitted a crime.

Societymust learn how to analyze mediated communication. The society canthen understand how to enhance communication, so as to make itinteresting and achieve lasting results. Effective communicationpasses information and then reinforces it to make sure that theaudience does not forget what is communicated to them. The role ofpersuasive communication is to ensure that people understand and actaccording to what is communicated to them (Perloff, 2008). Themediated communication must ensure that people do not only get themessage, but they also change their attitudes.

Mediatedcommunication must also observe the cultural context so as to remainrelevant. Any communication that does not observe the culture of thepeople often achieves no persuasion as people cannot relate to whatis being communicated. The communication must be sensitive tosocietal norms and values for it to pass the desired message. Peoplemust learn how to use mediated communication to appeal to a largeaudience by remaining relevant and making it easy to understand whatis being communicated.


Perloff,R. M. (2008). Thedynamics of persuasion: Communication and attitudes in the 21stcentury.New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.