Rihanna – Unapologetic (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
HARD to believe that just three albums ago Rihanna was singing about the devastation of becoming a victim of domestic abuse on the hard-hitting Rated R. Her attacker, Chris Brown, left her with major contusions on either side of her face among many other injuries.
It was an incident that took the music world by storm, prompting outpourings of sympathy for Rihanna and lots of anger at Brown.
Hard to believe, then, that they appear to have patched things up to such an extent that they’re now dueting together, quite cosily, on Rihanna’s latest, Unapologetic. And the album’s name tells you all you need to know about what Rihanna herself thinks of anyone who questions the wisdom of that choice.
Indeed, much of the lyrical content of the album seems focused on putting her side of the argument and silencing the naysayers and doubters, while simultaneously throwing in the sexually provocative material that has become her trademark.
She can carry a tune on her day, to be fair. But this album leaves a bad taste. And it’s nowhere near as good as Rihanna’s best, which to date has been Loud in my opinion.
The Chris Brown number Nobody’s Business is undoubtedly the attention-grabber, not least for its opening line of “you’ll always be mine, sing it to the world, you’ll always be my boy, I’ll always be your girl”. Set against the type of ‘70s’ inflicted soul-pop that Michael Jackson would be proud of, it’s a defiant slap in the face to anyone who dares point their finger. It also smacks of folly.
Sure, “it aint nobody’s business”, as she sings, but why air your personal life so publicly? That is, perhaps, the bigger question.
Elsewhere, it’s the usual mix of funky electronic beds and R’n’B beats set against the distinct, sassy vocals.
Opener Fresh Out The Runway is a really dirty offering, with grinding synths, volatile lyrics and a harder-hitting dance sound than the more Ibiza leaning Talk Talk Talk.
Former No.1 Diamonds is an easy pick for an album highlight, beginning slower and building to a catchy chorus, while cheekily paying homage to Shirley Bassey and her Diamonds Are Forever. It’s the sound of Rihanna at her most accessible and euphoric.
One of the bigger disappointments, however, is Numb, her reunion with Eminem, which lacks the emotional power of I Love The Way You Lie (Part II), and which gets repetitive quickly and droning, by virtue of an uninspired electronic bed.
Loveeeeeee Song, a couple of tracks later, has some slicker electronic surges surrounding it but lyrically is inert and, again, leaning towards some of the more hypocritical elements of the album emotionally (“oh baby, I’m not asking for the world” and “I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, I need love and affection”).
Likewise, Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary, which poses the question “what’s love without tragedy”. But again the song feels generic and lacks any real urgency or vitality.
David Guetta provides assistance on the dancefloor filler Right Now, while Chase & Status co-produceJump, which finds Rihanna inviting a lover to “ride my pony”. But even these moments emerge as borderline distasteful given the circumstances surrounding the singer’s personal life.
Unapologetic may satisfy the die-hard fans but it shows little sign of progression or invention other than to be provocative. She’s good at doing that but the problem with being provocative is that you’re always flirting with being offensive. And there are times when the album gets it completely wrong.
Download picks: Diamonds, Stay, Jump