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Meaning of ‘Four Five Seconds’ by ‘Rihanna’ feat. Kanye West, Paul McCartney

Released: 2015

Features: Kanye West, Paul McCartney

“FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney, is a desperate cry for understanding and peace amidst a world that’s quick to judge and slow to forgive. The lyrics express a tangible frustration and the struggle to maintain sanity, resist retaliation, and make it through the week when kindness is mistaken for weakness.

The opening verse sets the tone, laying bare the strain of weariness and disenchantment: “I think I’ve had enough, I might get a little drunk.” Rihanna confesses her desire to let loose, to abandon the strain of self-control she always carries. The lines “I might do a little time ‘Cause all of my kindness, Is taken for weakness” highlight the concern that her patience and good intentions would be twisted and used against her. It’s a reflection of that all-too-common circumstance where people misinterpret gentleness as fragility, and she’s teetering on the edge of reciprocating their hardness.

The chorus, “four, five seconds from wildin'” describes a state of being just seconds away from breaking under the pressure, from reacting impulsively. The countdown to the end of the week, “we got three more days ’til Friday”, and wanting to survive until then encapsulates that feeling of living life on a tightrope, hoping for a safer landing spot come the weekend. The urgency to “make it back home by Monday mornin'” signals a longing for stability and peace, a retreat from the surrounding chaos.

The second verse introduces Kanye’s character in a similar frustrating scenario, also close to “spaz,” or lash out. His sunny morning optimism turns sour when trash talk reaches his ears. The ‘mystery’ in question could be the unnamed detractors stirring the drama. ‘Spaz’ is a slang term, representing an explosive reaction, subtly implying the thin veneer of control he’s fighting to maintain.

The subsequent lines reveal regret for past actions and appeal for understanding, an admission of recklessness paired with an inability to apologize. It’s an indication of that struggle within, knowing one’s actions are wrong, but also realizing that they’re a result of frustration and misunderstanding.

The idea of pride and freedom being up for sale, “See they want to buy my pride, But that just ain’t up for sale,” is an allegory for how society often tries to commodify and manipulate a person’s identity, especially when you’re under the spotlight, further intensifying the pent-up frustration.

By breaking down the lyrics, we see that “FourFiveSeconds” is a poignant look at the internal struggles of those pushed to the edge by the world’s misunderstanding and demands. Despite its beautifully simplistic acoustic melodies, it’s a raw and emotional plea for empathy and patience on a deeply personal level.

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