Rihanna became an aggressively focused triple threat this year. Leading lanes in both music and fashion, she also took a step in to the realm of film. And there’s no doubt that the mischievous Barbadian has definitely upped her celebrity stock with the help of a camera or two over the last 12 months. Aside from the Paris Hilton-esque ‘It Girl’ persona she’s been pushing, she’s also been flying the flag for the pop world like no other. Returning with her seventh album, much to the anticipation of her fans, there’s evidence this time around of growth and maturity within Rhi Rhi’s game.
While Unapologetic at times plays like a generic teeny bopper party CD, there are surprising moments of pop superiority featured on the 14-track offering. The first of which is the album’s lead single “Diamonds.” Instead of sprinkling some non-meaningful lyrical content over an industry selected beat, Rihanna has managed to craft a pop song with some spiritually creative merit to it. Using pop music as an inspirational vessel, Rihanna visits a part of the human soul that not too many Top 40 starlets get to. Taking a leaf out of her good friend Katy Perry’s book [think "Part Of Me" and "Firework"], Rihanna lifts up those in need of a helping hand and further cements the feeling of awesomeness that those in a happy place live everyday.
Another stand out comes in the form of the two-timing “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary.” Beginning with what almost sounds like an interpolation of a Sting and The Police record, the Carlos McKinney and The-Dream produced pair of backdrops offer a blueprint for Rihanna to lay her thought-provoking lyrics. While she might not write her own songs or be be the world’s best vocalist, she knows how to deliver a record with passion when she needs to.
A lot of noise was made about the potential collaboration alongside Chris Brown, “Nobody’s Business,” but after just a single listen you’ll get over the hype and move on to the next. Another high-profile feature on Unapologetic sees Rihanna team up with her “Love The Way You Lie” partner in crime Eminem – however, not even close to mimicking the type of quality heard on their previous smash, “Numb” is hypnotically boring at the best of times. Wasting the opportunity to have one of the best to ever do it spit some perfection on a track, the real Slim Shady is heard rapping, “I’m the butt police, and I’m looking at your woo woo woo.” You win some, you lose some; and on this occasion the L was taken.
As mentioned previously, a lot of the album’s content can be considered generically average. There are however some lyrically stagnant tracks that somehow bang to the point where your ear can’t help but be caught. A couple of these cuts include the Mike WiLL produced “Pour It Up,” which plays like the producer’s remake of his own track “Bandz A Make Her Dance” (Juicy J), and the Future assisted “Loveeeeeee Song.” Both tracks do nothing to educate the youth on any important matters, nor do they try to. They’re just instrumentally driven pieces of music that fill the void left by some of the more experimentally stale tracks.
Listen: Rihanna – “Pour It Up”
The only other moment on Unapologetic that strikes some kind of positive chord with the ear is the No ID laced “No Love Allowed.” Combining reggae with ska, the outcome sounds like something that No Doubt might have passed on for their comeback album Push And Shove. Other producers to feature include David Guetta (“Right Now”), StarGate and Chase & Status (“Jump”), and Labrinth (“Lost In Paradise”).
All in all Unapologetic is an average album that regardless of musical quality will be eaten up by the consumer, especially so close to Christmas. Rhi Rhi’s talents are at their strongest when she’s dealing with self-promotion and being as provocative as humanly possible. She’s no Madonna and she probably will never be, but she’s definitely on the path to longevity and knows how to play the game. Her artistic delivery and sexual prowess are unmatched by anyone else in today’s industry.
She wears the crown, but she’s yet to put together that pop-tastic masterpiece that will secure it in place.