It’s kinda hard to believe that Barbadian songstress and pop princess Rihanna is seven albums into her career as a recording artist. Since 2005, she’s grown from just another bubble gum singer having a style laced with Island flavor to an international pop music icon, tabloid/TMZ favorite, unrivaled fashionista and all-around party girl. With the release of her latest album, Unapologetic, Rih Rih does her best to silence critics from all corners.
Rihanna’s strength has never really been with her voice, but her success has come in the last few years from having songwriters and producers around her that know how produce hits, and crafting music that’s radio friendly, memorably hooky, sexually suggestive and reflective of the fast lane pop star lifestyle myth all at the same time. Think in the vein of “Rude Boy” and “S&M”. The formula has worked like gangbusters for her since A Good Girl Gone Bad, and it continues here. With “Jump”, she give her own dirty-pop update of Ginuwine’s “Pony”, while “Right Now” continues the trend of fast-paced, EDM-inspired major label pop R&B helmed by David Guetta; it’s sure to get night clubs from the Jersey Shore to Ibiza pumping all night long.
Surprisingly, Rihanna also shoots for success in the area of the big Rock/Pop/R&B/Contempo ballad “What Now”, but misses the mark slightly in the area of real, raw emotion. Another track that Unapologetic could have done without are “Numb” featuring a disinterested Eminem that sounds like he may have done the record as a favor. And “Loveeeee Song” with Future lays it on very thick, with the rapper singing disingenuous, auto-tuned coos to Rih Rih that seem to fall on deaf ears.
But there’s much more good than bad on the singers seventh album, with piano-driven “Stay” featuring Mikky Ekko giving off an almost operatic duet vibe, party pop winners like “Power It Up” and “Fresh Off The Runway”, and the song that everyone has been waiting a few years to hear, “Nobody’s Business” with former lover Chris Brown, which pays successfully trendy homage to Michael Jackson, an artist that has obviously influenced both Rihanna and Breezy.
Rih Rih remains successful by not only continuing to make chart-topping pop hits, but also by taking chances. True, she’s been criticized for being more style than substance, more fluff than talent. But there’s no denying that Ms. Rihanna is now a wily music veteran that knows how to make a danceable and relevant pop record. Unapologetic is just that.
– Ronald Grant