Review Summary: Her most diverse and emotionally profound effort, but also quite possibly her most interconnected and defining.
Disregard whatever Rihanna has ever said and done. Forget the offer to stand under her Umbrella, because she’s morphing an R&B clubstress into a heartrending character weeping over personal struggle and hardship. The last year has been somewhat of a battlefield on all fronts, but interestingly, rendering an ocean of diverging hip-hop beats with dank linings and meek cores seems to be just the cure for a recovering soul. One comes to the conclusion that if not for the past event(s), could such coarseness like this have been plausible" Was it on the table, spurring at the moment" Likewise, it’s hard to imagine how a perking life prior could conjure such bleak emotiveness, while still managing to keep a toolbox of proverbial sounds and ideas close to heart, spinning of a few supplementary experiments in the same breadth. Self-doubt, misfortune and choice are evenly disclosed over the album’s arch, binding in climax during the rocking semi-malevolent “Fire Bomb”
, before quickly taking stakes with Auto-Tune and will.i.am
in the sweetly mystifying “Photographs”
. Pop and electro-Caribbean may have been supplanted with raw-rock and darkened synth, but it’s hard to question it when it appears to work remarkably well across most if not all of the cuts.
The punchbowl array of production crews (StarGate/Chase & Status/Brian Kennedy/Ne-Yo) can be thanked for sculpting much of the album’s sensible diversity, placing much of Rihanna’s colour-palette brutally recognisable alongside her swayed vocal capabilities; here they’re everything between prominent deep Barbuda, sweetened timidity, harsh defiance and finally agony. Her self-composure during “Russian Roulette”
and “The Last Song”
for example make us viciously aware of how potential outcomes could have eventuated, whereas “Rude Boy”
and “Rockstar 101”
press upon the more physical
side of human nature, with Rihanna fitting in accentuation appropriately at the seams. In each case, not only can she sound distressed, insolent, fun or saddened, the musical accompaniment and production style magnify her intensity across the board. So far ‘raw’ and 'angry’ have been the words of choice, but it’s certainly not quite as black-and-white as the cover art may suggest; this is more than a two-dimensional bag of emotions. In spite of all this, do be cautious while approaching the so-far designated singles as they are rather quaint in respect to their succeeding contemporary counterparts. “Wait Your Turn”
, and “Stupid in Love”
may as well have been regurgitated from the Girl Gone Bad
sessions through tainted eyes. In the past this approach has worked well because she’s been a major singles staple – here taking the time to explore more than Universal’s 2007 ideal of Rihanna at her prime will more than likely reap satisfaction for the listeners of Rated R