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Cold Case Love by Rihanna (Song analysis)
Posted on February 25th, 2010 at 5:23 pm by silvercc and

We all know about the Chris Brown-Rihanna scandal. We all saw the magazine and newspaper covers, watched the coverage on the news, the interviews, heard about it on every talk show possible, and were even provided with in-court coverage of the trial. 

Video: Inside Court

However, what some of you don’t know is that Rihanna made a song describing the domestic abuse. The song is called “COLD CASE LOVE ” on Rihanna’s newest album, “Rated R,” which was released on November 23, 2009 on Def Jam. It was written by Justin Timberlake, Robin Tadross, and James Fauntleroy II and produced by JT’s production group The Y’s. This song was so significant in the history of recorded music because this is the first song tackling the subject of domestic abuse from an actual victim. There have been other songs such as, Aaliyah’s “Never No More” and Eve’s “Love Is Blind,” however neither artist was highly publicized in the media as being a victim of domestic abuse. The fact that Rihanna’s fan base saw the picture of her beaten up and that her fan base is largely teenage girls, required her to stand as a role model for these young girls and say that domestic abuse is a crime, I’ve had enough, and you’re not going to do this to me anymore. Which is exactly what she did.

“Cold Case Love” starts off gradually with an ominous organ playing and a light piano melody to give off an eerie, depressing mood. Correspondingly, Rihanna begins singing, “On my roof, dark and I’m burning a rose. I don’t need proof, I’m torn apart and you know.” This line demonstrates the emotional abuse that someone in her position would have undergone.

In a slightly louder voice, Rihanna continues, “What you did to me was a crime, cold case love. And I let you reach me one more time, but that’s enough.” Here, Rihanna clearly states that the abuse that she endured was, indeed, a crime. Cold case refers to a crime that isn’t solved. I think she is speaking to all of those victims in the same situation, yet it will remain a “cold case love” because they will never stick up for themselves and finally say “that’s enough,” as she did. While singing, her voice cracks, the emotion and compassion is felt, making the song truly seem heartfelt.

A drumbeat begins, introducing the hook  and letting go of the melancholy mood, moving on to a more liberated one. She sings, “Your love was breaking the law but I needed a witness.” This represents aspects of the battered persons syndrome, which can be defined as a pattern of signs and symptoms, such as fear and a perceived inability to escape, appearing in persons who are physically and mentally abused over an extended period of time by a significant other or other dominant individual. When she mentions needing a witness, this displays one of the stages of the syndrome, denial. According to Lenore E. Walker in “Treatment Alternatives for Battered Women,” “the three phases are: the tension building phase [where the denial is initially introduced], the explosion or acute battering incident, and the calm, loving respite.” Basically she needed someone else to tell her that was he was doing was wrong, because she wouldn’t acknowledge it herself.

Rihanna continues, “So wake me up when it’s over, it don’t make any difference.” This introduces another stage of the syndrome, enlightenment. She’s acknowledged that there is a problem with her relationship; however, she stays with the abuser in an attempt to keep the relationship in tact with hopes of future change.

The hook goes on, “Will it ever be solved?” Serving as a disguised call for help. “Or am I taking the fall?” Here, “the fall” representing the potential effect of the abuse, which people sometimes don’t realize can be so severe. “The truth was there all along, tell me how did we miss it?” This once again, brings up the subject of denial. The truth was there all along, that the relationship was abusive, but they kept pursuing it.

The chorus is introduced, “We opened up a cold case love. And it got the best of us. And now prints, pictures, and white outlines are all that’s left at the scene of the crime of a cold case love.” In this line, a comparison is made to a crime scene. This is to show her audience that this could be the possible outcome if you allow the domestic abuse to continue. “Prints, pictures, and white outlines” also known as death.

A violin plays over a drumbeat and piano briefly until the second verse begins, “Should’ve investigated, the love blinded eyes couldn’t see.” This once again conveys certain aspects of denial. Love is blind and therefore blinded her sight, and typically the sight of other women in her position. Instead of acknowledging that there was a problem and investigating where the problem started and how to solve it, she remained blinded.

She continues, “And then I tried to cage it but your love ain’t the kind that you can keep,” clearly making a person reference to Chris Brown. Because their relationship was such a hot topic in mainstream media, it’s very hard to have a functional, faithful relationship when your both superstars, hence, his love not being the kind you can keep.

The verse continues, “Release me now ‘cause I did my time of this cold case love. My heart’s no longer cold and confined, I’ve had enough.” Here, she compares their relationship to doing time, as if she were a prisoner in jail. Stating that her heart was cold and confined, the opposite of someone happily in love. Again, declaring that she has had enough.

The hook plays once again, followed by the chorus with the same instrumentals. She then sings the bridge, “We’ve lost our way, took this too far. And I’ll never find the pieces of my heart. We’ve lost enough looking for a truth that was here all along.” They took things too far in not ending it when they first discovered that the relationship was abusive. She’ll never find the pieces of her heart, obviously referring to her now having a broken heart. In terms of them “losing enough,” Chris Brown not only completely defamed his character, but he lost many endorsements and fans, which was clearly reflected in album sales. Rihanna lost someone that she truly thought she loved and was caused a lot of stress and embarrassment as the media had a frenzy with coverage of the scandal.

The bridge is followed by a louder drumbeat with Rihanna repeating the chorus twice, with even more emotion. The final two minutes concludes with an electric guitar playing over the new drumbeat and all of the previous instruments. It fades out with the piano playing softly. Over the course of the song, the mood went from eerie to upbeat, representing the relationship. When she was with him, she was unhappy. When she finally had enough and ended the relationship, she was content with her decision.

As you can see, these lyrics are very personal. According to, Rihanna was quoted in The Sun’s December 4, 2009 issue saying, “There are lots of emotions and things that go through your mind, things that you don’t want people to know about. On songs like ‘Stupid In Love’, ‘Fire Bomb’, ‘The Last Song’ and ‘Cold Case Love’, they get really personal. I’m able to listen back to it now but in the beginning it was really weird. I couldn’t even listen to demos or anything. It was too deep for me. I kept having to leave the studio when people wanted to listen to the songs.” Although it may be difficult to record, this is the type of a song that has such an influence on its audiences because it is so genuine and personal, yet relatable.

This song transitioned Rihanna from another superstar victim of domestic abuse to a role model for teenage girls (and even some grown women for that matter.) The objective of the song was to fully capture the emotions (heartbreak, denial, guilt, sorrow, pain, etc.) involved in an abusive relationship, up until that pivotal moment where you make an escape, or continue to endure and accept the consequences that may follow.  Prior to the creation of  “Cold Case Love,” never was there a song that a victim of domestic abuse could turn on and feel empowered to stand up against the violence, just as the singer did and publicly succeeded.  This is why “Cold Case Love” is significant in the history of popular recorded music.

Works Cited 

Chapman, Jane R. and Margaret Gates
    The Victimization of Women: Treatment Alternatives for Battered Women by Lenore E. Walker. California: Sage Publications 1978 

 Rihanna Discography <> Retrieved February 25, 2010

Song Facts- Cold Case Love <> Retrieved February 25, 2010

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Comments so far:

Link Here | February 28, 2010,

You have made a great point. Sure Aaliyah & Eve have sung about domestic violence, but when someone experiences domestic abuse first hand and sings about as Rihanna did, it gives the song a true, raw, honest meaning. Rihanna felt she had a social obligation to women around the world as she decided to spread her message about domestic violence. I commend her for her courage and am happy she was able to take such a horrible experience as an opportunity to spread the message on not accepting any kind of domestic violence and motivating them to get help. By Rihanna telling her side through her music, she was able to tell the truth which is unfortunately still viewed as a stigma to talk about, domestic violence. Rihanna made history by bringing such an important topic into ears and minds of women and men.

  Stephanie |

Link Here | March 1, 2010,

I love me some Riri (my nickname for her). I must admit I was one of those people speculating about how she would handle the situation. I think she took responsibility for her status as a role model by leaving Chris Brown, but she leaves us this song to let us know how difficult that process can be. She might still be with him were it not for the fact that she felt it would send a bad message to her fans, which is what she said in one interview. I love the tone of her new album, which is much darker than her last, and I hope she continues the success she had previously. I like that you included pics and the little cartoon. This mutimedia approach gives us a better sense of how society processed the incident. Good work. However, I think, though I am not positive on this, that Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With it” would also qualify as a song about domestic abuse, since it was highly publicized that she was in an abusive relationship with Ike Turner and finally left him. One part of the song states-
I’ve been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I’ve been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way

  Jamie Parganos |

Link Here | March 2, 2010,

Jamie, I agree that Tina Turner was highly publicized as being in an abusive relationship with Ike Turner and that “What’s Love Got to Do With it” may have indirectly addressed the relationship through the stanza you pointed out. However, “What’s Love Got to Do With it” never directly addressed or explained the abuse, and its consequences in the way that Rihanna did.

  Silver Chaudry |

Link Here | March 2, 2010,

It’s good to see that Rihanna is setting a good example for younger girls and women who are in abusive relationships, especially since she’s such a big influence to other girls. If she hadn’t done what she did, she would be showing other girls that it was ok to be abused and that as long as she “loves” him there’s no problem. It’ll probably take a few more years or so, of the same message in other songs, for other women to finally realize that being in a abusive relationship is not healthy. But Rhianna’s song is a good starting point.

  schen |

Link Here | March 11, 2010,

I completely agree. You have made some good points in your analysis. This song definitely is a great way to reach out to everyone out there in abusive relationships. In many cases, partners in abusive relationships are afraid to speak up or tell someone they are being abused and rihianna’s song is a good way to open up their minds in telling someone about their situation. The fans up Rihanna definitely take the words of the song very emotionally, especially if they are experiencing similar situations. Now that I think about it, this song definitely made a huge impact to many people.

Joe Chillemi

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