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Jay-Z ft. Rihanna and Kanye West - 'Run This Town'

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Grant | 12:25 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009


If I had to give five stars to a song this year without actually hearing it, this would be the one, hands down. I haven't been this excited about an artist line-up, since Elton John teamed up with Blue.

When the royal family of Hip-hop and R'n'B get together, you'd think there'd be no point in writing a review, just label it with 'Guaranteed Number 1', give it five stars and send it on its way. But for the sake of objectivity and the possibility that Fraser would never let me near the Chart Blog again, I'll carry on. All I'll say is, it's going to take something serious to convince me otherwise.

'Run This Town' is Jay-Z's first release of his comeback album, Blueprint III (I'm still not entirely sure how many times he's actually retired). Kanye produced it as well as featuring on it, and it's Rihanna's first 'musical' appearance since the events with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. The song is so hotly anticipated I'm only allowed to show you a clip of the video...

(Here's the clip. It's probably good it's only a clip as there's many-a-naughty word in the full version.)

Even from the intro, you can tell 'Run this Town' is going to be an epic track. The brooding piano chords covering the building sound of a street war gives the song a real cinematic feel before it's even begun... Five stars? Tick.

Rihanna kicks off with the chorus, delivering her usual Barbadian/American vibe and hooks. She really brings her A-game and her tone seems even stronger than before. Dare I say, she sounds better than she did on 'Umbrella'. If they all 'Run this Town' Rihanna definitely 'Runs this Track'... Five stars? Tick.

Next in, steps Jay-Z, not disappointing for a second with his usual addictive rap and quick lyrics. He backs up Rihanna with a few 'Wassups' and trademark backing sounds. The only criticism to Jay-Z's performance is that his verses don't last long enough, always leaving you wanting more...Five stars? Tick

Finally there's Mr. West. His production is faultless and the mix of drums, guitar riffs and a dog that appears to bark for six minutes straight is all thought through meticulously, but why oh why did he decide to rap? The song is too epic and serious for his style. His rap suits the cheeky tracks on his personal albums, but not a Jay-Z album... Five stars? Maybe not.

So, I can't give 5 stars as I thought, and not just because of Kanye. I can't see 'Run this Town' topping the charts because it's a bit too gritty for British mainstream success, and leans towards the American favoured Hip-hop rather than the British favoured R'n'B. Don't get me wrong, I still love it, but it's not quite five star material.

And what have I learnt from this experience? It's definitely best to listen to a song before you review it.

Four starsDownload: Out now
CD Released: August 31st
BBC Music page

(Grant Black)


  • Comment number 1.

    This is possibly my favourite song of 2009. I'm already discounting any future tracks being better than this.

    Ok, maybe that's over the top but it's certainly my favourite so far this year.

    I love Rihanna's voice and Jay's lyrics are fantastic.

    The melodic 'Heey heey hey' link the verses and chorus together magically and Jay's 'Whassup' reminds us just who's track this is.

    I disagree with you about Kanye West though. His style does suit this song but his lyrics really don't. I'm interested to find out who wrote his part, Jay or him.

    This is because it just doesn't fit with the rest of the song or the video for that matter. I mean, they could have at least had a Rav4 in the background or something.

    Apart from that though, superb. Rihanna brings the song to close beautifully.

    I'd have given it 5 stars, then again, I am a little bit of a Fanboy.


  • Comment number 2.

    Very entertaining review. Im yet to make my mind up about this track, Ill give it a few most listens first.

  • Comment number 3.

    well I have been liking this song for an absolute age . IT is actually the second release from JAYS BLUE PRINT album . The first was D . O . A . This 

    might bethe song that stops the SUGA BABES from being number one . Or Holiday could hold on . It should be interesting .

  • Comment number 4.

    D.O.A was never released, purely a statement.
    This track is average and is just another average track Kanye has appeared on with an average cameo, he should realise that to be King of Pop he'll have to focus on quality not quantity in the future.
    Overall, Jay Z hardly features & I hope from much better from rest of the album.

  • Comment number 5.

    Awright, it's Reggie here on YOUR Radio 1 chart show.
    I'm well excited about this track with, err, like the Royal Family, yeah, of hip-hop, can't wait to hear where that's gonna chart later on.
    My tounge is literally hangin out, yeah, wonderin where this is gonna chart.
    Now, Den's Mum, on the M3, is lovin' the JLS. Big shout to Den's mum, yeah, cos we luv Mum's on this show! Yeah!
    Ah, no, but Lil'Princess in Bootle finks its gonna be Kanye West ft Akon ft Knobbles.
    Hey, int that Calvin Arris tall? He's a right tall fella, he's, I dunno, as tall as summat right tall, isn't he? But Tinchy Stryder, yeah, he's like dead short. I wonder, yeah, if they did a record together then they'd like be an average height.
    Whaddya fink Fearne? Oh, she's not here for a while cos she's interviewing slebs in that America for the show, can't wait to hear what she has for us.
    So, right, KingKong on the M55 is lovin the Lily Allen....
    [continues ad nauseam until we all just give up & go back to our iPods]

  • Comment number 6.

    Ah wow, did I say "tounge" back there, ha ha. I mean, what's a tounge? I meant to say "tongue", of course.
    I donna, I say some right crazy stuff sometimes, sa good job Fearne ain't here cos she ates me sayin thinks wrong.
    Ah remember once, yeah, Fearne was sayin to me, well, it was me n Tynchy (who is well short!) about what the Saturdays thought about Girls Allowed.
    Ah, it was well funny, but I laughed so much my pop came out of my nose.
    Has pop ever come out of your nose? Brilliant, innit! Fearne always gets right cross about that.
    She was awright until we stopped doing TOTP. Why don't we do that no more Fearne? Oh yeah, she ain't ere.
    I used to LOVE TOTP! My mum (we love mums!) used to say Pops (as we called it!) brought the nation together. I wonder who's doin it now.
    I wonder if me & Fearne will do it again? That would be sick! I wonder where she is...
    Ah well, here's number 19, who's gonna be YOUR number 1 - why do I have to keep saying that. And why can't we count up instead of down? It's easier countin up, innit, form like 1, then it's 2. I wonder need that producer to hold up the cards any more & I could do them myself.
    I wonder where Fearne is?
    Oh yeah, after 19 it will be, err, a record by that David Gray.
    And soon you'll know who is Number 1.
    Please text me. Someone. It will help me.

  • Comment number 7.

    Please text if pop has come out of your nose. It's brilliant.
    Or text if pop HASN'T come out of your nose.

  • Comment number 8.

    Whoa Reggies taking a real beating tonight o.o

  • Comment number 9.

    Some funny beating though!

    But, can we please reign these comments in and back to the song...

  • Comment number 10.

    The production for this song sounds like a duck quacking!

  • Comment number 11.

    I reckon it could actually be a strong contender for number one. It's getting a lot of play on the music channels and the radio, it's topping Most Requesteds, loads of people I know absolutely adore it (even people who normally don't like Jay-Z/Rihanna/Kanye) etc. Live Your Life by T.I. runs in the same vein as this track, in terms of genre, and that still got to number two. Even though the charts dominated by a lot of dance and grime right now, because this track obviously has bigger hitters and even bigger hype due to 'recent events', it should get number one. All in all, a great track always goes high in the charts anyway, and this is a great track. I don't think Rihanna's ever sounded better.

  • Comment number 12.

    "a great track always goes high in the charts anyway"

    That's a matter of opinion, Moz, and there are plenty of people who wouldn't share yours. I'd say there is a LOT of great music that gets nowhere near the higher echelons of the charts; and conversely, a lot of music that charts highly that is utter guff.

    Not chart-bashing particularly - this would be a dumb place to do that - but sadly great music and chart success are often two very different creatures.

    I've not heard this yet, but am mildly intrigued. I liked DOA a lot.

  • Comment number 13.

    I must say , I did enjoy reading Grant's review .

    The way he kept to talking about the song all the way through . (Is it a first ? ) lol
    Totally rivetting to read .
    Really intense and informative . Loved it !

  • Comment number 14.

    I must say "RUN THIS TOWN " is one of the most powerful songs , I have heard this year .

    It sounds immense and intense in a club.
    That Rhianna chorus is really , really strong ! A big , big hook .

    The more I hear this song , the more I like it , and hearing it loud in a nightclub setting gave it an extra star .

    The video suits the song perfectly , and also gives it an extra star .

    My own little rules for reviewing songs , was always to hear them at least 5 times , in different times and settings , and obviously if a dance or club orientated track , I had to hear it in a club before reviewing it . This is a must !

    I know some people who review songs after hearing them only once , and then maybe running the whole review with the only one thing that they got from the song . Strange .

    I am sure we have all heard songs firstly and disliked them , to find several plays later that they are a lot more special than we gave them credit for , especially when you hear others who you respect totally raving about said song .

    I suppose what I'm saying is .
    Great review Grant !

  • Comment number 15.

    Will Run this town get to NUMBER 1 ?

    Well , I reckon it's a battle between this song , SUGABABES and DIZZEE who is favourite to be NUMBER 1 this SUNDAY .

    I think the top 3 for Sunday 6th SEPTEMBER could look like this.

    2)GET SEXY
    3)HOLIDAY .

    Definitely those 3 , and we have 9 days to go !


    Anyone else wanna try ?

  • Comment number 16.

    JAY-Z'S BLUEPRINT album is released 14/9/9 .

  • Comment number 17.

    Spirit, I like your style of reviewing! I once reviewed a track after hearing it once, I hated it on first listen and gave it one star. However, I heard it more and more and realised it was a great track and I had to apologise for my earlier review and write a new one!

    How humiliating!

    Anyways, I now make sure I listen to the song 5 times or more like you said! As for the club thing, I know what your talking about, a song can sound much better when played in a club.

    Sadly, you're not gonna hear every club orientated track every time you're in a club...unless you go out every night! Which most people can't afford!

    Anyways on to this review! Such a powerful song, I think Rihanna gives one of her most powerful vocal performance ever! Jay-Z's rapping is brilliant! I was most looking forward to Eminem's comeback but that has been sort of underwhelming. Jay-Z however has been consistently good, avoiding synths and Auto-Tune and gimmicky type songs. I love the way both this and D.O.A. have brilliant guitar riffs! I agree with MozFoz, this is very like Live Your Life, a song I couldn't get enough of last year!

    Boy, this comment is long! I love the epic sound of the track but i agree with haterzup that Kanye West's contribution kinda stains the song a bit as his lyrics about "bee-stings" and hot women kinda ruin the epic quality of the song and move it into pop rap territory!

  • Comment number 18.

    I've been listening to DOA a lot recently and I've heard the backing music somewhere before, I swear.

    Does anyone else reckon it sounds like J.Lo's Get Right?

    LinketyLinkLink: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    It's definately similar!

  • Comment number 19.

    Who referred me to The Moderators?

    It only contained a youtube link!

    As I was saying; Has anyone else noticed a similarity between the music in DOA and Get Right by Jennifer Lopez. Sounds the same to me!

    This ones linkless... Happy?

  • Comment number 20.

    I posted a youtube link the other day and it died. You cant.

  • Comment number 21.

    I dunno Danny, we're not allowed to use links on this site anymore. And apparently we can't use bad language even if we block out some of the letters in a curse word with a * symbol!

  • Comment number 22.


  • Comment number 23.

    Just heard that ARSHAVIN just scored for ARSENAL !

    Just wondering if this gets thru the filter ! lol

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Oh ok so apparently that word isnt allowed. For anybody wondering, think of the name for the run off of impurities from the iron smelting process!

  • Comment number 26.

    I do not work in the iron smelting business . Any chance of another clue ?

  • Comment number 27.

    Curtains, of course it's matter of opinion. That's the point. I'm sure others disagree with me, but for me a track which is universally agreed upon to be great will chart high, because people buy it. It's happened in history. I mean take Dizzee Rascal as a modern example. An acclaimed but more underground grime artist. He had top 10 hits but didn't really become a popular household name until he made a Great Track, Dance Wiv Me. I don't think he got there because he was Dizzee Rascal, he got there because of that song alone. Conversely, he now goes to the top because he's Dizzee Rascal (Holiday just isn't that great to me).
    However you make a good point in your argument, there is some Great music which never sees the popularity it deserves, due to lack of funding and promotion, no desire for mainstream success or some other reason.

    Great is a very over-used word really. Some tracks are called great then after two months people think it's overrated.

    Liam - if GCSE science serves me right - it begins with an S doesn't it?

  • Comment number 28.

    Yes it does Moz ;)

    Dizzee Rascal has sold his soul in my opinion. I dont blame him for making Bonkers, its a stand out track of the year. Dance Wiv me was good but smacks of just wanting to sell records and Holiday .. well... its just a massive sell out really isnt it? Im disappointed.

  • Comment number 29.

    This is a boring song/rap. Every rapper says that they run the town. Which town do they run? Certainly not mine. This song is sold entirely on hype. I don't fall for hype anymore, I'm too old for that. If anyone else made this track then it wouldn't even chart. It is rubbish unless you have fallen for the hype surrounding these uninspired millionaires. Rihanna is not even singing she is wailing throughout this dirge. I hope someone knocks it off the top pretty soon. Kanye, give it a rest mate. You peaked with the song gold digger, now you're a being a golddigger ya'self.

  • Comment number 30.

    Love how the reviewer said that this song would NOT get to number 1 !

    WHAT ?

    As soon as I read it , I knew it would come back to haunt the writer.


  • Comment number 31.

    Liam , LIAM ... challenging my predicting skills !

    Have a look at post 15 on here , sent on the 28th of AUGUST .

    How did I do with the top 2 ? lol

  • Comment number 32.

    Sadly pretty well :p

    I dont doubt your predicting skills Spirit. Because normally you say "top ten" which is a pretty good bet for Mika and the like! Where do you get lists of new releases? I think we should play a game!

  • Comment number 33.

    Ha reading up about this song, its apparently about Illuminati and devil worship. Interesing comments on the tube anyway.

  • Comment number 34.

    "I haven't been this excited about an artist line-up, since Elton John teamed up with Blue."

    I'm presuming this is a joke?!

  • Comment number 35.


    And lol @ Kanye at the VMAs.

  • Comment number 36.

    Anytime you wanna play Liam , let me know ......

  • Comment number 37.

    Ok gimme a list of new releases to predict, you do the same!

  • Comment number 38.

    The easiest way would be to give a prediction for each song that is reviewed here. They are mostly reviewed a long time before they chart , so that the media and the tabloids can't influence us with their sales flashes etc .

    So that we can be fair and no one can be way off beam , I suggest the categories we predict are :

    NUMBER 1
    TOP 10 HIT.
    TOP 20 HIT
    top 40 HIT.
    Fail to make top 40.

    Should add some fun and friendly tension to the proceedings .

    What do you think ?

  • Comment number 39.

    Songs are put on here during the week before they chart arent they?

    Lady GaGa - 'Lovegame' - TOP 5.
    Basshunter - 'Every Morning' - Not heard yet, will decide later. TOP 10 for now.

    These are released next week. This week we have..

    Shakira - 'She Wolf' - NUMBER 2. Behind ..
    Taio Cruz - 'Break Your Heart' - NUMBER 1.
    Madonna - 'Celebration' - Top 10. Not top 5.

    Pixie Lott, David Guetta Ft Akon and Jay-Z Ft Rihanna & Kanye West will also hold onto the other top 5 spots.

    This week's chart battle will be a tough one. Theres my prediction :p

    Yours Spirit?

  • Comment number 40.

    This is interesting.

    In one of todays papers , it says that Taio is ahead in the chart flashes , so I think we are both gonna get that right , but then I feel anyone who has an ear for music can hear the vast international appeal of this song , with all it's memorable hooks , and the fact that Taio's star is rising . It has huge appeal .

    The Madonna promotion team are in overdrive , she has a greatest hits out soon , and the pressure is on to ensure a top 5 placing .
    This is guaranteed . Top 5 .

    Lady Gaga's peak position will be on Sunday week after it's physical release , so I would guess TOP 10 .Hard to tell as it's the 4th single , and the album has been out nearly 40 weeks.

    SHAKIRA - SHE WOLF - This will hit the TOP 10 on downloads this Sunday , and then I expect it to be NUMBER 1 , the following week . I did predict this about 2 months ago on RYBAK , so I can't change now . The video is proving to be a talking point , it has a distinctive verse and chorus , laden with hooks and will prove a dancefloor pleaser . It is also the lead track from her album . The only problem keeping it from NUMBER 1 is if TAIO hangs on , with his catchy pop song .

    Bass hunter , I will need to listen to more . Help ! ( Thanks LIAM ! LOL )

    Let the battle commence !

    The heat is on ! :)

  • Comment number 41.

    I thought I might predict another NUMBER 1 single , many , many months in advance .

    For sheer goosebumps , tears and an overall tingle of pride .


    I predict this will be NUMBER 1 .

  • Comment number 42.

    God, I LOVE Empire State Of Mind, it has to be Jay-Z's next single after this one. It features my favourite R&B singer Alicia Keys and he performed it on VMAS and Jonathan Ross (sadly without Alicia).

    Anyone else hear it? And who thinks it should be the next single?

  • Comment number 43.

    Yeh its brilliant. He keeps performing it so it will probably be his next.

  • Comment number 44.

    Sorry to tell you , but Jay Z and Mr Hudson are currently NUMBER 35 with Young Forever , so this could be the song that radio grabs hold of before the excellent Empire .

    Liam , couldn't help smiling at your comment yesterday that David Gray had gone quiet .

    His new album Draw the line is NUMBER 5 !!!

  • Comment number 45.

    I don't care! Jay-Z has to release Empire. I will totally boycott him if he doesn't...!

  • Comment number 46.

    Looks like I won't have to boycott Jay, Empire State of Mind will be released as the next single!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    Ok so my prediction for this weeks top 5 wasnt spot on, but it was based on Shakira releasing fully this week. She'll climb next week with physical.

    And Ive no idea how I missed David Gray's new stuff. I'm a massive fan and will get hold of it soon!

    Empire State of Mind was a completely obvious choice for the next release and Im very glad of it. And its already charted higher than the one with Mr. Hudson, so that removes that argument.

    Well done on Madonna Spirit. On listening I think it deservers a top 30 placing, but I guess the public have just been Madonna deprived or something. 15 places off on Gaga though :p

  • Comment number 48.

    Lady GAGA gets a full physical tomorrow , so expect it to climb next week !

  • Comment number 49.

    Not gonna hit top 10.

  • Comment number 50.

    It is hard to tell as it's the 4th single and many fans have the album .

    Tv and radio airplay is strong and her profile is huge .

    I expect it to climb very near the top ten . Tough one to predict .

  • Comment number 51.

    You guys are absolutely right !

    JAY -Z is currently NUMBER 15 with EMPIRE STATE OF MIND !

    What are your verdicts on the album ?

  • Comment number 52.

    I absolutely love the album! Jay-Z is currently my favourite rap star!

  • Comment number 53.

    Random , Liam I also think Empire state of mind is an absolutely great song and ALECIA KEYS gives a great vocal.
    This song is gonna be really popular, it's climbing I-TUNES like a gymnast .
    Radio is picking up on it too .
    It will be top 10 on Sunday I reckon. A lot of people are bigging it up.
    This is a good song .

    Like I said before if Taio can outsell Shakira , he may keep number 1.
    Her album has been leaked online , so the sales of the single may be affected. Shame . It's a great song . They are bringing the release date of the album forward to combat this , but the damage has been done .
    Let's see . Advantage Taio.

  • Comment number 54.

    Ah so Empire State went top 5 not top 10. Also Lady Gaga didnt hit top 10! (Thank God). Shame Shakira didnt perform as well as she might have.

    What Im most surprised/shocked/concerned about is David Guetta and Akon still being number 2!?!?! Its awful!!


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