By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated October 20, 2009 at 03:38 PM EDT

Rihanna debuted her brand-new single “Russian Roulette” right on time this morning at 11:23 AM Eastern via her official website. Written and produced by labelmate Ne-Yo, “Russian Roulette” is the first single from Nov. 23‘s Rated R.

The midtempo tune opens with a screaming processed-guitar solo that segues into an eerie-sexy bass rumble, accompanied by some unsettling imagery: “Take a breath, take it deep/’Calm yourself,’ he says to me/’If you play, you play for keeps/Take the gun and count to three.'” Soon thereafter comes the big pull-out-the-stops hook: “And you can see my heart beating/You can see it through my chest/I’m terrified but I’m not leaving.” The music ends dramatically with a single gunshot.

Guns, fear, a man pushing a woman to play a dangerous game — this is risque subject matter for any pop single. It’s even more daring for Rihanna right now, given her very public experience as a victim of violence earlier this year. (This is her first solo release since that February incident.) After a few listens, I think those risks absolutely pay off. Rihanna is in fine vocal form throughout, and Ne-Yo’s songwriting is economical and evocative per usual. I have a feeling “Russian Roulette” is a single we’re all going to be hearing a lot of in the coming months.

Stream it at or check out a fan YouTube clip after the jump, then tell us: How do you like Rihanna’s new sound? Will you be playing “Russian Roulette”?

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