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Rihanna - Loud

Rihanna, Loud

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

RIHANNA appears to have exorcised the ghosts that marked her fourth album, Rated R, with the spunky, playful and far more upbeat follow-up, Loud.

Like its name suggests, this fifth studio album from the 2-year-old record machine is “sassy, fun, flirty, energetic” and a good time record designed to get her back on top of the music scene.

Hence, a dance backdrop replaces the dark guitars that marked Rated R, while the darker lyrics are more playful… showcasing a naughty side that’s to be celebrated rather than pitied.

Rihanna declares her intentions from the outset with the teasing S&M, in which she declares: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.” If anything, it’s a brazenly provocative opening effort that may startle some of her more caring fan brigade, who may have feared for her welfare in light of her much documented assault and subsequent lyrical response.

Rihanna, though, seems determined to move on… even going so far as to declare “got my Ray-bans on” and revelling in the party spirit she wants her album to generate on Cheers (Drink To That). Hell, she even declares: “Don’t let the bastards get you down”… as if in reference to the hard knocks she’s suffered of late.

But crucially, there’s a much more inspiring vibe surrounding this collection of songs, with the sassy R’n’B and pop elements mixing well with the electronic dance loops and sultry beats the singer generates.

The opening four or five tracks are particularly satisfying… with S&M flowing nicely into the slick beats and orchestral synths of What’s My Name? and a satisfying mix of vocal styles with collaborator Drake. It’s destined to become another monster smash in waiting.

Cheers then eases into Fading, with its Enya-like instrumentals early on and nice piano loops, before former single Only Girl (In The World) capably demonstrates the dance vibe that’s prevalent throughout – a sort of R’n’B inflicted fusion of Kylie’s recent dance material and Rihanna’s X-rated observations and edginess. It sits comfortably within the mainstream pop world and the Ibiza super-club scene.

Thereafter, Rihanna mixes things up a little more… with California King Bed slowing down the tempo, stripping things back temporarily to an acoustic vibe and coming over all ballad-esque. It’s cheesy in the way that every obligatory ballad moment is… but it’s quite nicely delivered and could even appeal to the Taylor Swift brigade!

Man Down then taps into the singer’s Barbados roots… dropping a calypso vibe and coming over all “I shot the sheriff” with lyrics such as “I didn’t mean to end his life…” and “I just shot a man down in Central Station, in front of a big old crowd”. It’s another nice change of pace and an interesting new direction for the LP.

Raining Men, featuring Nicki Minaj, then sounds siren horns, drops a meaty beat and comes over all lusty and needy… albeit less successfully. Likewise Complicated, which finds Rihanna belting out some anguished vocals over a pulse-like synth loop and limited beat.

But Skin then returns the album to top form… seductive, dirty, slightly warped and always edgy. Rihanna seems to be revelling in her bad girl seduction… teasing the listener (and her fans) with a late night tale of sex and debauchery. She does it much better than the likes of Janet Jackson, even if lyrics like “you know I like it rough” seem a little misguided given her real-life history.

But then Rihanna is all about provocative, as we’ve said before, and she underlines this aspect of her make-up with powerful final track Love The Way You Lie (Part II), which ends with a typically volatile rap from guest star Eminem.

It’s a deceptive offering in many ways… opening in stripped down, piano-led ballad form before dropping an atmospheric beat, some gritty guitar riffs and offsetting the early vulnerability of the lyrics with something a little more menacing (“just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts” and “maybe I’m a masochist”).

When Eminem comes in to rap lines such as “try and touch me so I can scream at you not to touch me” and “tell me how ugly I am, but that you’ll always love me” or even “you hit me twice, but who’s counting, maybe I hit you three times…” you tend to agree with the masochistic inclinations of this particular artist. But no matter, by then she has us seduced, transfixed, mesmerised and energised.

Rihanna is back… complete with fascinating contradictions and that edgy mix of pleasure and pain she now seems to thrive on.

Download picks: S&M, What’s My Name?, Cheers (Drink To That), Man Down, Skin, Love The Way You Lie (Part II)

Track listing:

  1. S&M
  2. What’s My Name feat Drake
  3. Cheers (Drink To That)
  4. Fading
  5. Only Girl (In The World)
  6. California King Bed
  7. Man Down
  8. Raining Men feat Nicki Minaj
  9. Complicated
  10. Skin
  11. I Love The Way You Lie (Part II) feat Eminem

  1. “She does it much better than the likes of Janet Jackson”- LOOOOOOOL please lay off the coke. She will never have the sex apeal of Janet. You must be a teenager because there is no way in hell any adult with a brain would think Rihanna is anywhere near Janet Jackson.

    Taylor    Nov 16    #