|Rihanna's not apologetic on her latest effort; should she be?|
The reasoning behind her yearly release schedule is dubious at best (at worst, she's an iPhone, as her manager basically called her when questioned on the subject). The best someone could say is that at least Rihanna always has something fresh for her fans, the Navy.
Well those who quickly got sick of spinning last year's Talk That Talk can rest assured that Unapologetic may have a bit more shelf life in it.
Scratch that, it has a lot of shelf life in it.
Rihanna's latest effort has enough badassry to succeed as a follow-up to her last album, but there is a lot more vulnerability this time around, calling to mind the vastly underrated Rated R (no pun intended, I promise). Rihanna replaces many of the sexual innuendos and club-bangers from before with slower tracks that contain more intimate lyrics than we're used to from the superstar. For instance, there is lead single "Diamonds", which makes a lot more sense in context with the rest of the record, serving as a true standout. Even without the rest, it is certainly an unexpected and interesting path for Rihanna. Then there is the very simple, but lovely ballad "Stay", a duet with Mikky Ekko, that sounds like it was made for an episode of Grey's Anatomy. "What Now" has a bit more punch to it, as Rihanna laments about the residual pain of a break-up. One of the album's highlights, and of the best songs in Rihanna's collection, is "Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary", mash-up of two songs that are pretty much two sides of the same coin, in more ways than one. The first is a radio-friendly midtempo about a dangerous love, naming-dropping Marilyn Monroe and James Dean for reference, while the second is a haunting prayer to the titular religious figure. While both songs would work excellently alone, together, it makes for an arresting listening experience. It certainly would be easy to interpret these songs in the context of her relationship with Chris Brown, but they are strong without him even entering the picture.
One song certain to polarize music listeners is "Loveeeee Song", featuring weird rapper Future. Some will like it, while others will despite it (or at least Future's voice in it). A much more acceptable collaboration comes from Eminem, who features on "Numb", which is fine, but is nowhere near the pure genius of "Love The Way You Lie". In fact, Eminem completely upstages her with his verse, which is a shame since it doesn't sound like he's trying too hard.
Rihanna doesn't totally drop her knack for a dancefloor filler or a swagged out boast. "Right Now", featuring David Guetta, is proof that she is the go-to vocalist for the hottest club tracks. "Nobodys Business", featuring her ex Chris Brown is a surprisingly delicious disco treat, and one of the most enjoyable tracks either has put out in awhile (especially Chris). Lead-off track "Phresh Off The Runway" is simply fierce, while "Jump" finds her at her most dirty-sexy, interpolating the classic freak anthem "Pony" by Ginuwine. "Power It Up" sounds like a 2 Chainz thowaway, but Rihanna certainly pulls it off. She also pulls off "No Love Allowed", but at the most basic level; it's literally a rehash of her 2010 single "Man Down", without the pulsing energy. "Lost in Paradise" is one of the least interesting tracks, which is a shame that it's one of the closers.
After Talk That Talk, which was frankly a blistering but flop attempt at being a badass, Rihanna has released a collection that is a lot more fun, introspective, and reflective of her abilities as an artist. Even with the million-dollar production behind it, Unapologetic has Rihanna as bare as she is on the album's cover, with some scribbles in places. It may be one of the first albums she's done where you can listen fully (meaning without skipping to the singles) more than once.
The title claims she is "unapologetic" about this release, and she definitely doesn't need to.
Standouts You Should Download: Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary, Diamonds, Nobodys Business, Jump, Right Now