Review Summary: Rihanna likes it rough.
Watching Rihanna grow to her current status in pop culture has been like watching a child develop. The innocent, unsure steps of 2005’s Music of the Sun
and 2006’s A Girl Like Me
saw the starlet make a name for herself by blending her exotic vocals with contemporary R&B. Then came the rebellion, aptly titled Good Girl Gone Bad
, which featured three worldwide hits in “Umbrella”, “Don’t Stop the Music” and “Disturbia.” Somewhere between Rihanna’s meteoric rise to fame and a violent altercation with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, her image changed completely. Her hair became shorter, her apparel became blacker
, more seductive, and ever-so-risqué, and her music videos seemed to straddle the line between a futuristic pop star dealing with turmoil and complete insanity. But even more noticeably, her music went through a complete transformation. The release of Rated R
in 2009 made sure that her evolution was recognized, as she pushed into darker territory that was more challenging from both an artist’s and listener’s perspective. Over the course of her wild journey, one thing has become clear about the experience: it has been no picnic for Rihanna. The good news, however, is that Rihanna (by her own lyrical admission) likes it rough. And through all of the trials and tribulations, she seems to have found her calling. If Music of the Sun
was an innocent childhood, and Good Girl Gone Bad
was a teenage rebellion, then 2010’s Loud
is a triumphant step into the confidence and stability of adulthood.
Rihanna holds nothing back with her fifth studio album. “S&M” immediately answers any questions about Rihanna’s direction with Loud
, as its incredibly infectious beat is the driving force behind her sultry vocals and provocative lyrics. Additionally, she kicks off the sexual nature of the album with self-assured proclamations like, “I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it” and “Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.” So much for subtlety. Her brazen approach actually works quite well throughout the album, though, and it just goes to show that she is not at all afraid to put herself out there. Loud
is a front-and-center statement of individuality, and her songs and lyrics stand as proof to back up her maturity. The slow developing “Skin” serves as the album’s chief ballad, as its vocal-driven sound makes teasing statements like, “Don’t hold back, you know I like it rough…No heels, no shirt, no skirt, all I’m in is skin.” A surefire way to set the mood, “Skin” is easily the most sexually passionate song Rihanna has ever composed…and that’s saying a lot. Still, the song manages to avoid sounding classless, as the overall honesty and earnestness expressed through her voice adds a sense of genuineness to Loud
Startling fetish confessions aside, Rihanna still shows a clear grasp on the R&B rhythms and techno beats that have always made her music so fun and accessible. In fact, the beat in the aforementioned “S&M” is so infectious that if it weren’t for the song’s overtly sexual lyrics, the listener probably wouldn’t even care what Rihanna was singing about in favor of digging the back-and-forth, quick rocking electronic beats. The soulful “What’s My Name?” is sure to top the charts with its effective integration of Drake’s rapped verses and Rihanna’s entrancing chants of oh nah nah, what’s my name
in the chorus. Another track that illustrates the quality songwriting present on Loud
is “Raining Men”, which features enormous hooks and a chorus that is catchy as hell. As a whole, there generally isn’t a song on the album that isn’t intriguing in at least one facet – either vocally and lyrically, or through a particular aspect of the music. That isn’t to say that all of these strengths come together on every song, but it definitely means that moments of boredom are few and far between.
In addition to all of Loud
’s unabashed lyrical themes and bold musical components, there are still plenty of vulnerable moments to be found. For instance, “California King Bed” laments the heartache of a long distance relationship: "Chest to chest / Nose to nose / Palm to palm / We were always just that close...In this California king bed, we're ten thousand miles apart." “Complicated” and “Love the Way You Lie, Pt. II” also serve as proof that Rihanna has carried a part of her innocence with her. The subdued electronic effects in the background of “Complicated” complement Rihanna’s vocal approach to the song quite well, as she works out an internal conflict of whether or not to love somebody throughout several extended verses. “Love the Way You Lie, Pt. II”, featuring Eminem, builds off the sheer emotion and overall sense of humanity from the first song of the two-part creation. All in all, it is safe to say that Rihanna has not abandoned her heart for gothic influences and sexual imagery…at least not completely
is a culmination of all of Rihanna’s prior musical styles. It features the suggestive, rebellious nature of Good Girl Gone Bad
while retaining the dark/edgy elements of Rated R
and the occasional snippets of her humble beginnings in Music of the Sun
. Whereas many of her prior ambitions may have felt impulsive, Loud
fuses them together so that they all make sense. Rihanna’s forward sense of sexuality may be the most attention-grabbing aspect of the album, but there are plenty of other things worth noting on Loud
– besides the fact that Rihanna likes it rough.