Review Summary: Return to her tropical roots
For an artist who only started recording at the age of 16, Rihanna has certainly gone through many changes, both musically and appearance-wise. Her first album, 2005's Music Of The Sun, wasn't exactly groundbreaking but still good with that beautiful Barbadian vibe - the sort of album that was made for lying on a sunbed on holiday surrounded by palm trees. Just a year later she released A Girl Like Me, which, although it still retained her Caribbean sound, was a bit more commercial and more Americanized, more R&B really. Then she released the album that really made the public sit up and take notice, the album that propelled her into charts all over the world, 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad. With massive hits including Don't Stop The Music, Shut Up And Drive, and of course the huge Umbrella, she became a global superstar. It took her a little longer as she was enjoying the dizzying heights of GGGB to release her next album, Rated R, and that one shocked the world as it brought out Rihanna's dark side, with deep meaningful tracks and an almost gothic, alternative makeover that made her almost unrecognisable from her girly, summery Pon De Replay days.
Then, 2010 brought us Loud, with yet another radical image-makeover, seeing Rihanna become feminine again with her new red curls, and her first new Loud single, Only Girl (In The World), which, had it been released a little earlier, would have stormed Ibiza. The track, although it sounded fresh, had a bit of an old-skool vibe to it, and was a massive hit in the UK, where I live, a permenant fixture in the charts and on the music channels. Next came What's My Name, which to me sounded like it would fit in perfectly on her GGGB album, as it was pure R&B, and also, a massive hit. Then S&M, probably Rihanna's danciest and most controversial track yet, proved her to be a long long way from the innocent purity of her first 2 albums.
Now onto the non-singles.Cheers (Drink To That), with the Avril Lavigne sample, was very different to anything she's released before, and, although it took me a few listens to enjoy it, I now think it's one of the best on the album. In my opinion, it's on this track, alongside Man Down and the fantastic Raining Men, that she really showcases her Barbadian roots clearly in her voice. Fading is a perfect pop track and one of the strongest on the album. Complicated is OK, but a bit too europop for me, and Skin is a bit boring. Love The Way You Lie Part 2 isn't too bad, but personally, I wasn't a big fan of the original and this doesn't really grab me either. California King Bed is good but a bit too ballady for me, and in my opinion would sound better on her previous album in exchange for Rude Boy, which, with its Jamaican flava, would fit in better on Loud.
All in all, though, this is a good album and probably my favourite of Rihanna's after GGGB.
BEST TRACKS: Fading, Only Girl, What's My Name, Raining Men, S&M
WEAKER TRACKS: Complicated, Skin, LTWYL Part 2
MY OVERALL RATING: 3.5 stars