Rihanna - Unapologetic

Posted 3 years ago
Tags: Rihanna,

Almost precisely a year after the release of her chart-topping, double-Platinum certified Talk That Talk LP (featuring recent hit single "Cockiness"), Rihanna is ready to blow up the Billboard 100 once again with her seventh studio album, Unapologetic. The 14-track set includes Stargate and Benny Blanco-produced lead single "Diamonds," with guest features including Chris Brown, Eminem and Future.

Unapologetic Album Review

For seven years now Rihanna has moved slowly but surely from sweet, innocent, island-kissed crooner to a hard partying, headline generating, pop dominatrix. It didn’t happen overnight, but all the same, it happened. It’s been a long time since she was a Good Girl, and not only has she Gone Bad, being merely “bad” seems almost quaint. But it’s exactly that middle-finger raised lifestyle that’s made her perfectly built for success in the internet era. In an age where songs can sometimes feel like filler in between Tweets, Instagram pics and blog headlines, Rihanna has perfected the balance between celebrity and artist.

It’s perhaps fitting then that Rihanna’s new album, the aptly-titled Unapologetic, is more interesting to talk about than it is to listen to. Ri Ri has never possessed a powerhouse voice, but she’s turned that weakness into a strength by becoming a musical chameleon. Place her in any musical environment, be it a stripper friendly banger, Euro-house jam or R&B slow jam, and she can adapt. On previous albums though she still managed to sound like she was in charge – it might be easy to forget that Rated R truly took some musical risks. Unapologetic is by no means a bad album, it’d be nearly impossible to combine the music industry’s best songwriters, producers and Rihanna’s charismatic delivery and not create quality music, but as an album Unapologetic has no real core, no real theme; unless you count “making hits” as a theme.

Conveniently, or at least for the purposes of writing this review, Unapologetic divides evenly into three sections: hip-hop bangers, pop dance numbers, and heartbroken ballads. Oddly you would expect Rihanna to sound the most uncomfortable on hip-hop bangers, but instead that’s often where the album excels. At the very least she has an ear for picking dope beats that should be the envy of her purely rap peers. Once the Numb instrumental inevitably makes its way onto the interwebs every rapper alive is going to try to “freestyle” over it, although they’ll of course look ridiculous next to Eminem’s guest verse. Similarly, opening track Fresh Off the Runway finds Rihanna on the verge of just straight out rhyming, pretty well I might add, and Power It Up brings on a Mike Will beat for Rihanna’s version of Bandz A Make Her Dance. It’s shallow, but it’s enjoyable – I think I could get used to MC Ri Ri.

Then, after track four, Rihanna’s rap leanings disappear, never to return. The beats and (quasi) rhymes are replaced first by the brand of EDM-pop that she rode to the top on We Found Love, which finds a new polish on the warm Diamonds. It’s catchy, it’s accessible, Diamonds is everything pop is supposed to be, and Rihanna blends into the mix here just as seamlessly as she did making it rain on Power It Up. It’s the same fist-pumping blueprint that she uses again on the David Guetta-assisted Right Now, which also brings in some of those uber-trendy, distorted dubstep wobbles, while Jump jumps fully onto the EDM bandwagon, much to my personal chagrin. Following closely is the more epically minded What Now, which carries a distinctly ‘80s vibe thanks to heavy synths and a shredding guitar solo, and Nobody’s Business, the “please talk about this song about leaving us alone” reunion with Chris Brown. I’m sure plenty of people will play these songs on repeat; I’m not one of them, but the Billboard charts suggest they’re out there, and there’s a lot of them.

And then, of course, there are the slow ballads, the songs on which Rihanna reveals that beneath all the excess and controversy she’s still just Rihanna Fenty, the island girl struggling to find love in a mad world. Stay, No Love Allowed and Love Without Tragedy are all variations on the theme, and none of them particularly impress. All this leaves Unapologetic feeling like an album that was put together primarily for the sake of putting together an album, and when you’re Rihanna maybe that doesn’t really matter. Maybe when you’re Rihanna people will buy your album based primarily on the gravitational pull of your fame rather than musical quality. And maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what Rihanna’s refusing to apologize for.

DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins

Comments
Written by
Posted 3 years ago
Get The PLUG app by DJBooth and get the best hip-hop writing and news delivered daily.

Sample Text - Sample Link
0:00
3:00
Shrink
Hide

More from Rihanna

Featured Video

Hip Hop News

Teyana Taylor Reminds Us Why She’s A Star In Kanye’s “Fade” Video

Teyana Taylor's stunning dancing in Kanye's "Fade" music video was the highlight of MTV's VMAs. Read More
Posted 12 hours ago by Yoh

Drake’s Summer Sixteen Tour Took 8 Months of Planning

A veteran booking agent explains what went into booking and scheduling Drizzy's huge summer tour. Read More
Posted 12 hours ago by DJ Z

Lil Wayne Proclaims “F*ck Cash Money” as Label Frustrations Mount

Lil Wayne is a prisoner to Cash Money and he isn't happy about it at all. Read More
Posted 15 hours ago by DJ Z

The Conceptual Genius of Vince Staples’ “Prima Donna”

Vince Staples' "Prima Donna" is an incredible story that only gets better when you change the track listing. Read More
Posted 16 hours ago by Yoh

Talib Kweli & The Beautiful Struggle to Constantly Call Bullshit

Kweli is a master emcee and perhaps an even-better educator. Read More
Posted 16 hours ago by Matteo Urella

We Need More Female Producers, But a Select Few Are Currently Making Noise

As gender continues to fade behind equality and the burgeoning notion of identity, the culture will eventually change. Read More
Posted about 18 hours ago by Matteo Urella

TRENDING NOW



Flame

TOP 20 MUSIC CHARTS


Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.