Preface: So...where to begin with this review. Let me preface anything I'm going to say by saying that Rihanna used to be my #2 favorite. Rated R was amazingly fierce and completely original. Loud was an amazing follow-up and probably one of her most cohesive albums. Talk That Talk was fantastic musically, but the problems begin here. Her entire Talk That Talk era was a mess. She opens it with the biggest smash of her career, We Found Love. It looks like this could shoot her further to the top of pop. After We Found Love, she released You Da One (a terrible single choice) way too soon after and doomed it. From there, the single releases were all sloppy: Talk That Talk, Birthday Cake, and Cockiness. The only other real hit she pulled out of the era was Where Have You Been. I love the music on that album and it could have been an amazing success if she didn't just fall apart. Her personal life started to overpower her music with stupid, senseless decisions she was making, such as this constant need to cling to the drama surrounding her and Chris Brown. She acts like she needs that attention to continue her career. On top of that, she starts acting like a hot mess on Twitter with a bad attitude and drug paraphernalia pictures. Seriously? Plus the artwork for Talk That Talk was hideous and trashy. I feel like she rushes her albums way too fast. So that's where I stood by the time she wrapped up with that horrible Cockiness performance at the VMAs when she could have promoted Diamonds.
This album is a change of pace for Rihanna and I cannot necessarily say it is a good one. This album proved to me that Loud was probably her vocal peak. She could belt flawlessly on the track Complicated...but on tracks like What Now featured on Unapologetic, she falters on the longer notes. She seems to have a cluster of slow or midtempo songs that feature short, breathy notes which makes some of the songs seem off beat. I'll try not to point out any specifics in this general description and allow that in the track-by-track.
Once again, we find her doing another duet with Chris Brown. Here's that desperate cry for attention. Let it die. Please. This album is full of samples from Michael Jackson's The Way You Feel to Ginuwine's Pony to The Police's Message in a Bottle. Some tracks she delivers an 80s rock vibe to that I really found incredible production wise such as Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary.
On a positive note, it seems that Rihanna is growing up and aiming for a much more mature sound. I'll give credit where it is due. So, props to her for that. She is no longer that immature rebellious young woman who says dirty stuff just to prove she can. I'm thankful for her being able to knock that off. Madonna lived once, find your own path, Rih dear.
1. Phresh Out the Runway - This song gives some serious Talk That Talk vibes and had me concerned off the bat. The track contains a fun and fast pace beat but I felt as if she was trying too hard to be Nicki Minaj and get that urban smash. Her voice seems flat and nasally in it, not an attractive sound for Rih. Overall, it's still one of the better tracks. 6/10
2. Diamonds - I did not like this song right away. It seemed that she was trying to pull the diamond imagery from We Found Love to coin another smash. However, this is a beautiful song and a unique decision for lead. Upon hearing the whole album, I could not pick a more flawless lead single choice. I hope she gets that next #1 single with Diamonds. 10/10
3. Numb (feat. Eminem) - This song is so flat, terribly flat. I don't like her voice as deep as it seems in some of the songs on this album. This seems like she's trying to hard to fit in the urban crowd. Eminem is amazing and should have had a longer feature. His part is good, but I am getting sick of these two collaborating much like her and Chris. Overall, Eminem can't make up for Rihanna's lackluster performance. 4/10
4. Pour It Up - This initially struck me as another flat, deep song that would annoy me when I heard the snippet. Once I had the full thing, I quickly found it one of the catchiest songs on the album. 7/10
5. Loveeeeeee Song (feat. Future) - I knew I would hate this song from the moment I read the obnoxious title and it totally lived up to my expectations. For once, Rihanna doesn't kill the song herself. Her parts are decent, but this Future guy is terrible...and the six extra E's on the title. No, just no. 4/10
6. Jump - This song better be a single at some point. The Ginuwine sample of Pony is simple fantastic. Mixing in some dubstep creates a twenty-first century club banger for the ages. So much fun. She'd be dumb to not release this....but then again her last era of single choices was treacherous. 9/10
7. Right Now (feat. David Guetta) - Add Guetta to Rihanna's lineup of usual suspects. The two pair up again to create what is sure to be a smash, although all too predictable, single choice. The beat goes hard and the song isn't half bad. 7/10
8. What Now - One of the better slow songs. It definitely had potential to be heart-wrenching if she didn't falter on the longer notes. They could have at least touched it up in the studio. The breakdown is what completely sold me to liking this song. 6/10
9. Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko) - I know I was complaining about her re-using features, but who is this guy? I really just can't get into this song. It's flat and boring from both parties. 5/10
10. Nobody's Business (feat. Chris Brown) - This guy again. BIG SIGH. The song's lyrical content is completely pleading for more drama. I have to say the 70s funky vibe to it is awesome, but Rih could use some English lessons. It's "nobody's business" not "nobudy biznih." Get Chris Brown's wand outta your mouth and speak clearly. The song could have been better if it featured someone else. 5/10
11. Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary- I don't get why she tied these two songs together really, but I like the Love Without Tragedy portion more than Mother Mary. Borrowing the track from The Police's Message in a Bottle, it has that 80s rock feel which makes it unique. One of the better tracks for sure. 7/10
12. Get It Over With - This is a decent song, but it seems too long. I read a comment somewhere where someone had said this would have served as a good interlude. Honestly, I feel that way too. It's flat and anti-climatic but has great lyrics. 6/10
13. No Love Allowed - While Man Down seemed like one of the worst tracks on Loud, this song is actually one of the better songs on Unapologetic. I guess it shines in comparison to its competition on this album. The chorus is great, but I never really have enjoyed the Island feel to these songs. 6/10
14. Lost in Paradise - This song is on the better half of the record. I feel that the DJ going "bass slap" in the dubstep breakdown kinda throws off the song, but it's cool at the same time. This has single potential. 7/10
15. Half of Me - A fantastic ballad about the life of the rich and famous. I like it a lot, more than I expected. However, it comes off as a bit anti-climatic in the end. I love the verses. 8/10
Overall, this is potentially Rihanna's weakest album since 2006's Girl Like Me. She is overusing the same collaborators as she has in the past couple of years. The album comes off as very subpar, like a rush job....oh wait, her albums are all rush jobs since Loud. She tries to cram a lot of the tracks into an urban mold. I don't know why she thinks that that's a good idea. I mean look at others who have tried it: Keri Hilson, Ciara, Keyshia Cole....you get the picture? In fact, Rihanna can't even pull it off as well as they did. The flat sound she puts off in those songs is unbecoming. I don't think I will frequent this album anytime soon or in the future in the way I do with Rated R and Loud. Talk That Talk was even more solid and cohesive than this...and that's not saying much. The only cohesion this puts off is that the majority of it is slow and boring. The album artwork is an absolute mess, with random words sloshed all over it, words that have no relation to the music for the most part.
Album average - 6.1/10
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