Rated R



by NewYorkZoo USER (15 Reviews)
November 30th, 2009 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: At times, the toughness is too juvenile, the ballads too immature- but at others, it's a great representation of a tormented artist.

The "I've-had-a-bad-day" album isn't unheard of. Every now and then, a pop sensation goes through some emotional turmoil, be it the loss of loved ones (Kanye West) or the loss of your mind (Britney Spears). It's risky, to say the least; that internal suffering can either lead to an artist producing some of their best work, or to... well, more suffering. Rihanna, international superstar since 2005’s “Music Of The Sun” is still healing from wounds inflicted by fellow superstar ex-boyfriend Chris Brown stemming from the now infamous February 2009 pre-Grammy domestic violence case between the two. While Brown takes the "i'm really sorry- but watch me dance!" route with his upcoming effort "Graffiti", Rihanna is making the more aggressive attempt, going from third record “Good Girl” to fourth album, the seemingly more rebellious Rated R, throwing out the radio formula in exchange for rougher times – quite the jump for a girl whose most popular song is about an umbrella.

And on Rated R, while Rihanna doesn’t acknowledge Brown directly, it’s still the focal point on a record that explores all the feelings and phases of a broken songbird- from self-assured denial to angered frustration to delicate desperation. But Rihanna's attempt to seem edgy and super bad is somewhat laughable; her tough girl facade can be frustratingly immature on songs like "Rockstar 101”, where her self-indulgence over gritty electric guitar is incredibly juvenile. "Wait Your Turn", featuring a Jamaican-accented, grenade-tossing Rihanna over a sluggish thump is passable, but “Hard” manages to be the best yet least convincing of the bunch- there’s great production involved, but when you’re trying to seem like a badass, choosing to sing the phrase “Yeah, yeah, yeah, i’m so hard!” should be seen as a terrible idea.

But her tougher tracks are often thrown off by her softer ballads, on which Rihanna sounds even more childish: “Photographs”, produced by and featuring Will.I.Am, can’t decide if it wants to be a sad song or a Black Eyed Peas song, and isn’t successful at either. “Stupid In Love” is so lyrically terrible that it’s hard to swallow: “This is stupid, I’m not stupid, Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid! I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid!” the chorus claims.

But through all the inconsistent emotions that fuel Rated R, there are still the parts of the album that just shine- “Russian Roulette”, the controversial lead single where Rihanna contemplates her own life over a thumping heartbeat is perfectly haunting from start to finish if you can sit through the awkward premise: the gun even goes off in the end. Justin Timberlake co-writes and co-produces “Cold Case Love”, which as a legal themed breakup (“Your love was breaking the law / But I needed a witness”) comes off brilliant; and somehow when Rihanna darkly sings “I lick the gun when I’m done / Because I know that revenge is sweet,” over the threatening “G4L” (Gangsta For Life), you almost believe it.

And “Fire Bomb” seems to be the mid-tempo tune where it all comes together. It’s a standout ballad where Rihanna is both pretty and desperate over both a unique combination of electric guitar and piano. “I just wanna set you on fire so I don’t have to burn alone,” she delicately sings. It’s the target Rated R seems to be aiming for- an angered, sad, and hurt victim trying to heal, and wanting the world to feel her pain. Rated R doesn’t have any hit single potential, but it does an acceptable job at capturing a tormented artist- and more notably, a vulnerable woman.

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user ratings (236)
other reviews of this album
taylormemer (4)
Her most diverse and emotionally profound effort, but also quite possibly her most interconnected an...

Beauville88 (1.5)
What the hell happened to Rihanna? In the short two years since her monstrous breakthrough "Good Gir...

Justus0 (3.5)
An album deep with solid tracks, Rated R finds Rihanna exploring post-relationship emotions in a mat...

Comments:Add a Comment 
November 30th 2009


Good review. Won't check this out, but if I ever hear it on the radio I'll know what to expect.

November 30th 2009


Album Rating: 1.5

Really good! I like your writing style...it keeps me interested from start to finish.

Album still blows, though.

November 30th 2009


You write very well. I will vote.

Digging: Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

December 1st 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

I can transform ya

December 5th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

A nice review indeed! Just two facts you have wrong:

1) Music Of The Sun was released in 2005.

2) The Chris Brown beating occurred in February.

But you have a very nice writing style my friend!

December 6th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

wowzers was i off. thank you!

February 7th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Great review! This was the album that made me look at Rihanna as a pop artist, not only a pop star. The three songs you picked as the hihglights of the album would be my choices too. Especially "G4L", I think it's that song in which Rihanna gets to the place she tries to reach throug all the album. Is a fantasy-vendetta song, and a hell of a good one!

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