Review Summary: The hits just keep on coming.
“The second she walked into the room”, says Jay-Z, “I knew she was a star”. A big claim, certainly, but that young Barbadian girl delivered above and beyond the hip-hop legend’s prediction. Her name was Robyn Rihanna Fenty, later to be known soley by her middle name. Over the past few years, she has been one of the most familiar faces in pop music, but also one of the more respectable.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Fenty is the real deal- a genuinely gifted singer and an energetic performer with an uncanny ear for hit singles. This success has reached boiling point with her latest album, 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad
, which followed hot on the heels of 2006’s A Girl Like Me
and 2005’s Music of the Sun
. As this is written, the album has sold over two million copies in the United States alone. Just over a year after its release, another idea came through- what better time to make good use of Rihanna’s newfound superstardom" With this notion intact, Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded
was born. Whilst easily dismissible as a cash-in, there are a handful of surprises after the record’s usual end that will entice the listener into rediscovering the album.
, on its own, has not lost one bit of quality since last time around. Every single track has the foundations of a smash hit, and half of them already have made good on this. The unquestionable highlight of both the singles released and the album itself is the song you know all too well by now- opener “Umbrella”, featuring that unmistakable cameo introduction from the aforementioned Jay-Z. The song is an infectious slice of modern pop ingenuity, with unmistakable hi-hat clasps and dripping synth wavers that push Fenty’s voice to its smoothest and sassiest. You could waste your time pretending that you’ve never enjoyed the song, but everyone from Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho to the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer would know you were lying.
“Shut Up and Drive”, meanwhile, pits forceful electric guitar with a twirling electropop beat with shockingly formidable results; and “Don’t Stop the Music” is the album’s ultimate dance track, a neon trance high on syncopated handclaps, a charging bassline and a fantastically placed sample of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”. Even the normally lacklustre Ne-Yo makes an excellent turn on “Hate That I Love You”, sizing up rather well to his female counterpart in a lovelorn duet that makes good use of a simple acoustic guitar chord progression and stellar vocal interplay.
Even in non-single territory, Good Girl Gone Bad
continues to impress significantly- yet another attribute to Fenty’s star quality, in addition to her A-list team. “Breakin’ Dishes” is an empowering tirade against a suspicious lover, flaunting a sassy chorus (“I’m breaking dishes up in here all night!/I ain’t gonna stop until I see police lights!”) and hooks aplenty away from it. Near the end of the record, at the other end of the spectrum, “Question Existing” proves to be the biggest musical challenge for Fenty- a dark, 6/8 minimalist track with introspective confessional lyrics and some of the best production on the album. Whilst certainly without the energy or creativity of “Umbrella”, the song is nevertheless a standout of her career thus far.
The diversity of Rihanna’s abilities is exemplified perfectly by the one-two of the knee-dropping reggae flavour of “Lemme Get That”, featuring a quirky rap verse from the lady herself, followed by the quaint acoustic finger-picking and sentimental lyrical analogy of “Rehab” (thankfully not an Amy Winehouse cover- they’re both fantastic, but it simply wouldn’t work). Pop music is a very wide spectrum, and Rihanna has her mark firmly made in much of its territory.
The album proceeds to “Reload” with three additional bullets. Of these, it is the metropolitan robo-pop of “Disturbia” that hits closest to the target. Layering her voice with both low-key backing vocals and the extravagant Cher Effect, Rihanna paints a fragile picture of a paranoid and insecure state of mind- “I’ve got to get out/Or figure this shit
out/It’s too close for comfort”. With a driving beat and an infectious scat hook, it’s no surprise to see that “Disturbia” is yet another hit under Fenty’s belt. Even if you already own the record, this track is worth the selling price alone.
“Take a Bow” is, put quite simply, average in comparison to its peers. The song is a fairly unremarkable Beyonce-styled affair, with a dull snap beat accompanying some nice enough piano work. Fenty makes her vocals loud and clear, as always, yet fails to intrigue and entertain the listener in the way that she is able to. Lastly, “If I Never See Your Face Again” revamps the opener of Maroon 5’s excellent 2007 album, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
. The song’s sexual tension- thickly layered to begin with by obvious Prince fan Adam Levine- takes on a whole new meaning when it is transformed into a heated duet. Whilst the entire affair does seem a little unnecessary, especially given the quality of the original, it certainly makes for an interesting listen.
Good Girl Gone Bad
is, quite simply, the best mainstream pop record released by any female for quite some time. Not even Madonna or Britney have enticed the listener with such pop delights in recent years. And now that the album is Reloaded
, you’ve basically got no excuse to not give this a listen.