In the past year it feels like Rihanna has been on every media outlet known to man. From Instagram photos to gossip posts to Oprah specials, Rihanna has turned herself into everyone’s bad girl next door. But somehow, in the midst of all the exposure, her album seemed to creep up on me. Over the years I had grown to be quite the Rihanna fan. To be honest, I’m about one fishnet full body suit away being apart of the “Rihanna Navy”. With that being said, I am completely baffled at what happened yesterday.
Leading with the very well put together, easy to listen to single “Diamonds” I had high hopes for this album. Although her previous album, Talk That Talk, was jammed full of hits and showed her ability to be great in almost every genre it lack the cohesiveness that I look for in an album. Rihanna seems to be on a bit of a self-exploratory journey in many direction, but her music seemed to be constantly progressing in the right direction. Then came Unapologetic.
Download album, check. Look at cover art…meh…check. Click play…instant headache. Without any forewarning “Phresh Off The Runway” explodes in my ears. It takes about 30 seconds for my mind to even register that I am playing the right song after the intrusion that just happened to my ears and brain. It is actually a cool song but whoever chose to lead with it should have came with an intro of some sort. Although the lyrics brought on the familiar “girl, bye!” feeling a la Beyonce’s “Diva”, the beat is so aggressive that you will get in the groove of it regardless. Next comes the aforementioned “Diamonds”. Then something strange happens. You start to feel like your in a purple smoke filled room as the melodic, trippy beat of “Numb” flows through. Although, Eminem’s verse is effortlessly blah the track easily became one of my favorites.
Then the album takes a nose dive starting with the attempted stripper anthem, “Pour It Up”. The track is about as lackluster as the dead-eyed stripper walk she is describing. It had a lot of potential to be an instant hit, especially here in Atlanta. Unfortunately, instead of twerking the song only makes me imagine her texting or rolling a blunt while she was recording the very anti-climatic song. I am relieved when the song finally ends until I hear the raspy garglings of Future.
Could it finally be the “authentic” hood song she’s been reaching for since this album started? Nope. It’s “Loveeeee Song”. L-O-V-E-E-E-E…..eeeee…eee…e. Although I’m sure this song will be in heavy rotation in some Black & Mild smoke filled club while girls slow grind barefoot on some really nice gentleman, it did absolutely nothing for me on any levels. I couldn’t help be to laugh the entire time. Just awful. There really isn’t ANYTHING to say about this song. Maybe it could’ve been salvageable with another partner. Who knows?
Sampling the 90s hit “Pony” by Ginuwine Rihanna’s “Jump” has gotten a lot of buzz on the internet. This dubstep styled song, which we have become accustomed to expect from RihRih, falls short where her similar tracks Where Have You Been”, We Found Love, and the likes excelled.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take the album anymore Ms. Fenty redeems herself with the David Guetta produced track, “Right Now”. It has all of the energy that “Jump” was supposed to convey. It instantly picks up the vibe that had been smothered slowly for the last fifteen minutes. From that point on the 15 tracked project begins to feel like an actual album again. Like it has a budget and actual producers, the whole nine.
I normally skip most of the ballads and mushy songs on Rihanna’s albums as of late, but the slower tracks are actually what gave this album some weight. They showed depth in the very shallow pool that Unapologetic had become. The very simple “What Now” and “Stay” are two of my favorite tracks on the album. Displaying vocal range that we don’t normally expect from Rihanna, these songs have the potential to be classics rather than hits. Although the first half of the album sounds like they were recorded in RihRih’s “Marley room”, these tracks have a quality that reminds you that Rihanna is indeed a superstar.
There’s the undoubtedly controversial “Nobody’s Business” featuring her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. It’s a good song, but it makes my skin itch. Moving on. “Love Without Tragedy-Mother Mary” is reminiscent of a good 80s MTV hit. I totally dig this two part song. The rest of the tracks are quality but not that memorable for me.
Rihanna’s albums tend to sound like two seperate albums smushed together. However, this album actually sounded more like a mixtape. The first half seemed like a forced attempt by a young women trying to assert her growing personality through her music. Unfortunately, it came out as the sonic roller coaster that was as overwhelming as the “We Found Love” video. Although I can appreciate trying to embrace and express her inner rachet, there is a time and a place for everything. If she wanted to go in that direction I would’ve preferred a full album Rihanna’s trapathon instead. But at the end of the day, Rihanna is a well-trained Pop superstar who has mastered her craft over the years. She (or her handlers) did not let us forget that at the end of that experience. I am appreciative of that.
After listening to it a few times, I would give the album a B-. When it was bad, it was really bad. BUT when it was good, it was kind of great. My favorite songs are “Numb”, “Stay”, and “Love Without Tragedy-Mother Mary”.
Unapologetic is now available for purchase.
This album makes these clips even more hilarious.