The Physics of Rihanna: Can You Actually “Pour It Up”?

The video is straightforward but the song raises some basic questions about physics

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Don Arnold / WireImage / Getty Images

Rihanna performs live on stage at Allphones Arena on Oct. 3, 2013, in Sydney

At first glance, the new video for Rihanna’s single “Pour It Up”  (which you can watch below, if you don’t care that it’s not safe for work) is mostly about stripping, twerking, thrones, water and money.

Listen to the words, though, and it begins to raise another level of questions. “Pour it up, pour it up,” she sings. “That’s how we ball out.” But what is “it” and how is it being poured “up”?

Though the verb “pour” can sometimes indicate high-volume movement in any direction (as in, “we poured into the venue”), it usually means that something, often a liquid, is falling out of a vessel (as in, “pour out a little liquor“).

So, when it comes to the most common sense of the word, gravity dictates that things that are poured go down, not up. That basic law of physics even applies to the dollar bills that Rihanna sings about (as in, “money on my mind, throw it, throw it up, watch it fall from the sky…”) and tosses around throughout the video, unless there’s some sort of unmentioned air current lifting the benjamins as they’re poured out and subsequently up.

But don’t worry about the science of the song. There is a physics-approved substance that Rihanna could be pouring up: a chain of beads.

With beads like this, they do actually go up when being poured onto the ground. Simply “throw [the chain] up,” as Rihanna implies, and then you can “watch it all fall out” while you “pour it up.” In this case, the momentum of the falling chain accomplishes the pouring action; the time delay created by the chain switching directions causes the upward motion. (There’s a more complete explanation of the science here.)

As you can hear in the “Pour It Up” video, “pour the chain of beads up” just doesn’t fit the rhyme scheme, but that must be what the songwriting team meant. Mystery solved!

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