Another year, another Rihanna album. As an early holiday gift she got us by screwing St. Nick himself, Rihanna presents us with the graffiti subway laced album Unapologetic, making it her 7th album in her 7 year career. The Music Industry She-Avatar’s last album Talk That Talk was critically and well received, and the sex-tinged LP saw Rihanna go down a route where female pop-stars crash and burn on, and she has no intentions of trading favors and hitching a ride back to purity. The only question on our minds now is if she can keep up the stamina and deliver another Frankensteinian masterpiece to sacrifice to her Billboard overlords.
*the orange font is Lyrique‘s contribution. So, enjoy the review!
1. Phresh Out the Runway
(David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort, The-Dream, Robyn Fenty)
David Guetta puts aside his trademark electropop for this very urban, bass booming stomper about living it up like a true rock star. The profanity-filled cut is so overproduced that the synths are too clustered and the auto-tune is absolutely overkill.
To put it bluntly, the production is a MONSTER!!! Too bad that that is the only saving grace on the track. Rih is as about as unconvincing as a baby trying to say See You Next Tuesday out of her vag, and it only makes Rihanna sound silly. The constant F-bombs really turn me off the track lyrically. I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a fine line between being hard, and trying to be. 3.5 out of 5
(Sia Furler, Stargate, Benny Blanco)
Big tune from Rihanna! For me, it would have been better had she put her own spin on the record as opposed to copying Sia’s vocal inflections to the very last detail. The feel-good midtempo is centered on a brightly shining lover that screams the “happy” and “hippy” as she said it would. When she constantly sings “Shine bright like a diamond” on the hook, it does get repetitive after a while.
The Sia-written song is Rih’s best display of vocal dexterity on a single to date. it’s a miracle that the listener is able to notice while they are being pricked by Maleficent’s Spindle. The production on Diamonds produces enough Z’s to fill up a detention hall’s blackboard, and severely lowers the impact of the vocals and lyrics, which are actually quite good. Rihanna’s struggle with being a “role model” or “choosing to be happy” is something that most people have been tired of since ‘09, but it is conveyed through an honest lyrical concept. That alone warrants a listen to an otherwise middle of the road pop ballad. 3 out of 5.
3. Numb feat. Eminem
(Pop & Oak, Sam Dew, Ronald ‘Flip’ Colson, Robyn Fenty)
Dark synths and elongated vocals provide the premise for this gritty urban number. Production and beat is hard-hitting and moody, and lyrically, it features Rihanna succumbing to those elevated substances. The cut does not lead Rihanna into any newer ground or innovation and Eminem’s delivery is weak.
This middle eastern slow-burner will induce all slow-grinders to prematurely relieve themselves. Rihanna’s slow and exaggerated vocal delivery rides this track straight downtown, and it’s repetitive melody and deep bass is both hard and sensual. Eminem’s guest feature is very welcome in the track as well, as he rides the melody and switches flow back and forth without any problems while staying on topic. His addition adds seasoning to an already meaty track, albeit being ironic that he doesn’t use any expletives, while Rihanna is recovering from foul-mouth syndrome. 4 out of 5.
4. Pour It Up
(Mike Will Made-It, J-Bo, Theron Thomas, Timothy Thomas, Robyn Fenty)
“All I see is dollar signs.” Rihanna has a big fat bank balance and her fragrance is the rage so she has no problem boasting about her economic success. In the song, she adopts a staccato vocal delivery over a really sinister, dark and heavy beat. This is the equivalent to ‘G4L’ and it’s real gangster. Sadly, it’s not for me.
While Phresh out the Runway bore a little misfire for Rihanna’s forced “hard” delivery, Pour It Up makes it easy to glaze over. Riding on another bass heavy slow burner, Rihanna comes of more confident than forceful, which better suits her persona. It also helps that although lyrically simple, the verses are catchier than Gonorrhea at a brothel. Madame Rihanna easily lists all the things that she can do while she’s still “got her money” and makes for a swagger filled pelvic thruster. 4 out of 5.
5. Loveeeeee Song feat. Future
(Future, Denisea ‘Blu June’ Andrews, Robyn Fenty)
This sexy R&B jam entails a slippery bass and programmed instruments where Rihanna and Future pledge their intimate needs for one another. It’s smooth and sexy and really sets the tone for the latter half of the project.
What could have been a decent slow jam is turned into date rape by an awful feature by rapper Future. I even once thought that this dude was Yung Joc released out of Bad Boy bondage due to their high as defecating seagul vocoder techniques and vocal delivery. The production is slow and sexy, but the effect is mostly dulled after Future wakes you up out of your sonic intoxication as soon as the verse hits. Rihanna, however still sounds turned on and up for the task. If only I still was. 2.5 out of 5
(Stargate, Chase & Status)
The hypnotic, electronic grind of ‘Jump’ combines urban beats over dark atmospherics and dubstep overtones. There’s a lot of sexual innuendo in the track and she samples Ginuwine‘s 90s classic ‘Pony.’ “When you f*ck them other girls I bet they be wondering why you always call my name.” she sings confidently “You don’t need another lover.” Another swipe at Karrueche Tran? This is real slick, rendering it a grittier, edgier and modern take on the sexually appetising number. Hot.
Rihanna decides to sample Ginuwine with a middle eastern inspired track. While the chorus has Rih declaring “If you want it, Let’s do it, Ride it, My Pony” on a track that sounds more akin to Rih dry humping a camel while watching a Transformer masturbate. The fusion of middle eastern melodies and dubstep works well enough, but the repetition and lack of variation with the production holds this song back from its real potential. 3 out of 5.
7. Right Now feat. David Guetta
(David Guetta, Stargate, Nicky Romero, Ne-Yo, The-Dream, Robyn Fenty)
Ne-Yo‘s demo to this was pretty safe and generic. However, Rihanna always knows how to deliver some spark to a clubby dance track about living life in the moment. No matter how basic. Tomorrow is far. Yesterday is gone. It’s all about right now, she tells a lover. There’s just no time to waste. A very catchy number, with lots of pounding synths.
Looks like that Transformer went from relieving itself to developing schizophrenia. This dubstep number is a lot more palatable for those who need their strobe light seizure intake, and is a lot more energetic. While playing spokeswoman for those who want to live in the now, Rih confidently endorses her claims and addresses leaving the past where they are, and partying it up for better days. The music is well produced, and varies enough in it’s dubstep production to at least hit all the generic bulletpoints in production credits. 3.5 out of 5.
8. What Now
(Olivia Waithe, Robyn Fenty, Parker Ighile, Nathan Cassells)
Rihanna showcases an amazing vocal performance on this gushing pop ballad, a track where she vents her frustrations with love. There are specks of electronic/dubstep elements in the chorus, and she’s singing her heart out. Vocally, this is Rihanna at her strongest.
In probably her most distinct pop ballad, Rih pours her emotions into a rollercoaster of piano laden melodies, and hard synth pop rock choruses. Contemplating everything that has happened to her through love and how she is perceived has her asking about what’s next in her life, let alone her career. This ballad really shows how far Rih has come vocally, especially in the chorus. She has finally transitioned from an ear-bleeding goat yodeler, to a more polished bleeter. Congratulations. 4 out of 5.
9. Stay feat. Mikky Ekko
(Mikky Ekko, Justin Parker, Elof Loelv E)
This ballad is built on an understated and simple piano-driven production, where the singer softly and vulnerably sings about wanting her lover to stick around despite certain obstacles. The songs appeal is in its simple and understated musical arrangement and personalised lyrics.
Another ballad, this time in a more relaxing and traditional rendition. Rihanna really has grown vocally, as she is able to express longing for a loved one with a very honest clarity in her voice. Mikky Ekko makes a guest feature on this track, and compliments Rihanna well, as both of their distinct vocals add weight to the melody, and neither vocalist overpowers another, taking a more minimalistic approach. The harmonies are fluid as well and natural. A very well written and produced track indeed. 4 out of 5.
10. Nobody’s Business feat. Chris Brown
(The-Dream, Robyn Fenty, Los da Mystro, Michael Jackson)
My jam of the moment. Over a catchy beat and overly-processed vocals, ‘Nobody’s Business’ is an answer back to the mass/media criticism over her alleged decision to get back with her abuser. The retro-flavoured number has some disco influences and interpolates the lyrics from Chris Brown’s idol, Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ It’s very infectious.
As much as I am adamant on my disdain for Chrihanna, I must admit this song is not half bad. The song is clearly trying to be the new Something in Common through a Michael Jackson funnel, especially with Rihanna in the beginning of the song chanting “ain’t nobodys biniss,” which sounded so forced. Other than that, I can appreciate that Chris Brown doesn’t sound like he just got done going down on a helium gas pipe. The disco flavored track does what it is supposed to do, making a stand for their deadly relationship. 3 out of 5.
11. Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary
(The-Dream, Los da Mystro, Robyn Fenty)
This intense and tragic ballad is possibly another reference to that unfortunate night between herself and Breezy. Tragic love is such a bitch, so much that she compares herself to tragic stars like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. The song features a synthy chorus and lush guitars, before fading out to the darker, moodier ‘Mother Mary’, which is just as mournful.
For an album called “Unapologetic,” Rih really is trying to plead her case towards the end of the album. While equating herself to Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, Rih describes through cryptic vocal delivery the hazy events that transpired in early 2009. “Red lipstick, rose petals, Brown Eyes, Tuxedo, and fast cars.” Does this sound familiar to anyone? The song switches to Mother Mary two minutes later, as she then delves into full on prayer mode. While giving her confession, she expresses to the Virgin Mary and Mr. Jesus that she wants to change, but how it is hard to do so with all of the fame as she is her own idol. The introspection here is honest, as she contemplates how to change herself for the better while living in the moment. 3.5 out of 5.
12. Get It Over With
(Brian Kennedy, James Fauntleroy, Robyn Fenty, Brian Seals)
This atmospheric ballad is built on soaring strings and it’s a bit of a grower but still nice to listen to.
A storm is looming, but Rihanna would rather just brave through it then just wait for the inevitable. The lyrics to the slow contemplative number are once again generalized beautifully for consumption. Is she talking to herself about waiting to cry, a lover, a friend? This can be taken in through many ways, as she just wants to get over whatever it is that is storming in someones heart. The vocal interpretation to a constant melody plays like a collage of thoughts. There is no typical composition here, just a steady stream of messages, and it works well, reminding me of what Brandy should have done with Two Eleven. 4 out of 5.
13. No Love Allowed
(No ID, Sean ‘Elijah Blake’ Fenton, Robyn Fenty, Alexander Izquierdo, Steve Wyreman)
It would appear reggae beats and ‘murder’ goes hand in hand with Rihanna. Yes, it’s ‘Man Down’ 2.0 but this one isn’t as thrilling. No, she doesn’t kill a man this time but instead she finds her heart struck by a deadly love. Island flavoured beats with the accent is where Rihanna excels at the most.
Another throwback to Rih’s island roots, this Reggae track once again delves into being shot to the heart, only Rihanna dies… metaphorically over love lost. Wait… how come her Reggae songs are always talking about someone dying? The production is minimalist but not to its detriment, but it doesn’t really go anywhere either. 3 out of 5.
14. Lost In Paradise
(Stargate, Labrinth, Ester Dean, Robyn Fenty)
Rihanna weathers the storm after a broken heart on this dubstep-laced production. This is pretty underwhelming for a closing number. A shame given that this is the same team (sans Labrinth) behind flawlessness such as ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘What’s My Name’. Album filler at best.
The album finally comes to a close while a heartbroken Mario realizes Peach is in another castle. The Dubstep production is wide and varied, as Rihanna once again mourns over lost love. While trying to find out what to do with her heart next, she figures that she would rather stay lost than to be heartbroken again. Her uncertainty is understandable, as you can only take your heart being punched in so many times. 3.5 out of 5.
Unapologetic starts off strong with an entourage of Urban jams, probably the most she has had throughout any LP, but starts to falter towards the middle of the album, while dragging us to the finish line. The real issue with it is that it bears no balance. One minute you are grinding to some slow jams, while another minute you might as well lock yourself in a bathroom and slit your wrists. It also doesn’t help that the latter half of the album doesn’t match the concept of the album. When I look at the title and cover art, I imagine a CD that is punchy and brazen, and although it starts off that way, Rihanna slowly dives into a whimpering, heartbroken hot mess. Most of the songs work on their own, but as an album, it somewhat misses the mark.
3 out of 5.
Toya’s Standout tracks: Diamonds, Jump, Nobody’s Business, Love Without Tragedy
Lyriqueizmuziq’s Standout Tracks: Phresh out the Runway, Numb, Pour it Up, What Now, Stay