Rihanna is giving Mariah Carey a run for her money with the number of Hot 100 #1s she’s attained in the last five years. Even though Loud only just hit stores in the middle of November, it already boasts two of Rihanna’s nine chart-toppers. (For comparison’s sake, Mariah Carey has earned 18 #1s since 1990).
The second #1, Only Girl (In The World), is a straight-up dance anthem while the first What’s My Name is more attune to Rihanna’s style of R&B-flavoured pop with Drake featured for good measure.
After the overexposed Chris Brown incident and the reflective album that followed in 2009, Rihanna has turned to a more sexual theme in her songs on this record. The first track S&M belts out the line “sticks and stones may break my bones/but whips and chains excite me” and in the entirety of Skin, “don’t hold back/baby I like it rough.”
Being from Barbados, Rihanna hasn’t been in-touch with influences of the island/dancehall much over most of her previous records but it is present on Loud, more noticibly in Cheers (Drink To That) and Raining Men. Cheers (Drink To That) is a mid-tempo bonfire on a beach song that interpolates Avril Lavigne‘s I’m With You, however the loop is too prominent and steals attention from the song itself, leaving distaste. Fading borrows a loop from Enya‘s One By One but does so much more pleasantly resulting in what sounds like a natural fit. On the flipside, borrowed loops aside, Fading isn’t as memorable.
The final track on Loud reprises one of the biggest hits of the year with Eminem but the rolls reversed. Love The Way You Lie (Part II) is a much more stripped down recording from the female perspective with a single rap verse from Eminem. Hearing the hook following the verses in Part II sounds awkward and forced, as if they were written as an afterthought to the chorus which is the centre of attention for this recording.
Two of the album’s most notable tracks come in the middle. California King Bed is a pop/rock song in the vain of Fergie meets Michelle Branch. It’s the only track on Loud that isn’t supported by a heavy beat so its inclusion on the record seems out of place, especially since it would have been a perfect fit on TV and radio in the mid-2000s. Man Down is an island-flavoured recording that depicts an altercation that mistakenly ends in the murder of a man and the realization that now you’re a criminal. The song contains a police siren to accompany the contagious flow of the music and Rihanna’s performance is flawless, perhaps the best song she’s ever recorded.
Rihanna’s vocal abilities continue to get better with each record and Loud is no different. However, the album as a whole isn’t as memorable as some of her previous hits would indicate and while there’s growth (and the song Man Down), it doesn’t make up for the less-than-impressive songs.
2. What’s My Name [featuring Drake]
3. Cheers (Drink To That)
5. Only Girl (In The World)
6. California King Bed
7. Man Down
8. Raining Men [featuring Nicki Minaj]
11. Love The Way You Lie (Part II) [featuring Eminem]