Rihanna’s seventh studio album needs no apologies
On November 19 Rihanna released her anticipated seventh studio album. Fuelled by her cryptic and often scandalous social media updates, speculation over her collaborative record with Chris Brown and led by Diamonds, the album does not disappoint.
I described Rihanna’s 2011 Talk That Talk album as a ‘fragmented attempt to return to a former self,’ with it containing stellar highs but knocked back by some lows. Here, she manages to bring together all elements (former versions of herself) and whilst the album may have been noted for its dark sense of confusion, I think Unapologetic is possibly one of her best LPs to date.
Aside from the idea that it is expected one should get better with time and a distinct decrease in overtly sexual songs, it shows a much more developed Rihanna. One who takes control of her projects as the executive producer of the album (also Talk That Talk), is willing to lay her soul bare and is just as cocky in the same breath.
Right from track one the album is must, thorough listen and where Talk That Talk failed to piece together the variety of songs in a cohesive manner, Unapologetic has completely prevailed. From the piano based, vocal highlight ballad, Stay, to the electronic dance, club anthem, Right Now – Rihanna delivers a confident, emotionally wrought and honest album that I want to listen to over and over.
As the album opens with the David Guetta produced Phresh Out The Runway – a cocky, hip-hop ode to ‘Bad Gal Ri Ri’. Utterly infused with attitude she delivers lyrics like: ‘I bet you wanna know what my crew about/ you really wanna know how we get down/ walk up in this bitch like we own this ho/ own this ho like we own this ho,’ over hand claps and distorted, electronic synthesisers reminiscent of her infamous Birthday Cake.
Next up is the lead single, Diamonds, which acts as a beautiful reminder of just how well Rihanna can use her voice. While she’ll never reach notes that some of the world’s greatest vocalists have, the Bajan twang in her voice gives her an edge and uniqueness that can be mimicked by no other artist in the industry. An optimistic song contrasted by a dark video, Rihanna’s emotions fight their way to the fore, as she opens: ‘find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy’.
One of my immediate Unapologetic favourites was Numb. The intoxicating ear candy of a track sees Rihanna team up with Eminem on something a little more experimental. Rihanna slurs her lyrics over a droning, dub-style beat with tiny hints of reggae sounds, whilst Eminem plays a sexual predator in his rapid verse.
Gangster Rihanna returns in the minimal Pour It Up – a haughty reminder of just how much money she has. ‘Who cares how you haters feel/ still got mo’ money/ call Jay up and close a deal/ still got mo’ money,’ she verbalises before confessing ‘all I see is dollar signs’ on the hook of the track dubbed a strip club anthem.
A symbol of Rihanna’s emotional confusion or inconsistence is apparent from the Future aided, futuristic, auto-tuned Loveeeeeee Song. ‘Why window shop when you own this?’ Rihanna dips between singing and almost rapping on each verse, declaring a need for ‘love and affection’. On track 13 though, there’s No Love Allowed. The island-inspired, reggae-infused, drum-free track produced by No I.D. sees Rihanna routinely rep her roots as on Loud album’s Man Down. She sings of a dangerously, heartbreaking love:
‘Like a bullet your love hit me the core/ I was fly until you knocked me to the floor/ It’s so foolish how you keep me wanting more/ I’m screaming murderer how could you murder us/ I call it murder no love allowed’
This idea of confusion is also evident on What Now. The album’s eighth track is a powerful ballad on which Rihanna questions just what do with the challenges she is thrown; ‘and I just wanna scream/ What now I just can’t figure it out,’ she sings stadium-style, on the hook.
One of the best tracks on the album is the David Guetta produced Right Now. The track is sure to go on to be a club anthem as Rih highlights why she believes we should be living for the here and now – a recurring Unapologetic theme: ‘Tomorrow way too far away/ and we can’t get back yesterday/ but we young right now/ we got right now,’ Rihanna’s voice bellows over an electronic, dance, dream of an instrumental.
Jump is a track to be throughly enjoyed from it’s sexual connotations, to the Ginuwine Pony sample and stupidly, explosive, ferocious dubstep Chase & Status produced hook that makes you want to go absolutely wild. Headache warnings apply, Jump is a serious head banger!
The track that caused the most controversy, speculation, or what have you, is Nobodies Business. It features her infamous ex-beau, who she appears to getting cosy with, again. Chris Brown and Rihanna proclaim their devotion to each other with lyrics like ‘you’ll always be mine, sing it to the world,’ on the light, late 80s throwback beat.
Nobodies Business is followed up by Love Without Tragedy and hidden track, Mother Mary. The placement of the song is very telling, and where she questions what love is without tragedy she also sings: ‘you took the best years of my life/ I took the best years of your life/ felt like love struck me in the night/ I prayed that love don’t strike twice’
The song then cuts into Mother Mary and a humble Rihanna recollects on a time when she ‘never thought this many people would even know my name,’ before stunningly stating ‘I’m prepared to die in the moment’.
Lost In Paradise pits Rihanna’s ballad vocals against an cool, momentous, electronic bass beat. With cryptic lyrics like ‘what am I supposed to do with this heart,’ Rihanna then goes on to lay the contents of her heart bare, or at least half of it, on the album’s deluxe edition bonus track, Half Of Me. ‘Saw me on the television… you’re entitled to your own opinion,’ she accepts as she promises we’ve only seen ‘the half of it’.
The deluxe edition of Unapologetic has two remixes of Diamonds and both the Dave Aude 100 Extended and Gregor Salto Downtempo mixes offer unique answers to the listener’s want for an upbeat version of the lead song.
This album is one you’ll have on repeat for a while. There will be songs that jump out at you from the first listen. What increases the value of this album though is that the songs you deem mediocre at first will jump out at you later, like the airy Get It Over With – keeping the album ‘phresh’.
Unapologetic is a fantastic blend of pop, dubstep, electronic dance and hip hop. This album is an addictive must-have, much like the superstar’s Rihanna for River Island collection, when it hits stores next spring.
Buy this album on iTunes: Rihanna – Unapologetic