Rihanna's two performances this weekend as the musical guest on the Anne Hathaway-hosted "Saturday Night Live" captured the alternating strengths and weaknesses that have plagued the singer's nearly album-per-year career. Gone, thankfully, were the "Tron"-like setups that have ruined many of Rihanna's TV performances over the last couple years, but her reliance on special effects reached more puzzling heights.
Rihanna is best when she pulls back, when all that really stands between singer and audience is her delicately imperfect voice. She rarely appears to be as confident a belter as some of her pop star peers, but what she lacks in vocal physicality she can make up for in dramatic interpretations.
The "SNL" setting for single "Diamonds," however, made a camouflager-sporting Rihanna again a bit player in her own song. She was upstaged not by the song's savvy production but by a stage-swarming green screen.
While the song's official video strives for moody trippiness, the "SNL" graphics were puzzlingly upbeat and grotesquely out-of-date. Rihanna looked trapped in new age-fantasy film, and her bandmates disappeared into the dated digital creations, creating the odd sight of flying saucer peace signs floating across what looked to be a disembodied keyboardist.