Another year, another album from Rihanna. Unapologetic marks her seventh album in eight years as she has released one every year since her first in 2005 with the exception of 2008, though her record Good Girl Gone Bad got a re-release that year. On this one, Rihanna makes a slight shift away from the expected as is indicated by the album’s first single Diamonds.
Diamonds is co-written by new hitmaking songwriter Sia, marking their first collaboration together that expands on Rihanna’s sound ever-so-slightly into a more soul-based realm that Rihanna hasn’t attempted since Russian Roulette. While it’s not truly indicative of the album’s overall sound, it is an attempt to step away from Rihanna’s usual style of dance pop that encompassed much of her last two albums. Unapologetic is more in the field of upbeat-R&B than her recent records and therefore isn’t full of the obvious hits that those ones have had.
That leads to a thought: because Rihanna’s musical output is so high, she could almost be considered to be a trendsetter for pop music by directing it with her newest material. If it doesn’t work out, she’ll make up for it next Fall with her next album. However, like last year’s Talk That Talk, Rihanna covers all bases with enough variety to suit whatever next year brings. Right Now, a song produced by David Guetta, is a likely candidate to be a single whether immediately after Diamonds or as a backup down the road should something else not perform to Rihanna’s usual hit-standards while album opener Phresh Out The Runway is essentially a continuation of the Talk That Talk album.
Perhaps the most potent track is the duet with Chris Brown, Nobody’s Business, an old-school R&B jam that samples Michael Jackson‘s The Way You Make Me Feel. Rihanna’s exploitation of her tabloid relationship with Chris has left a sour taste for many who aren’t part of her Navy followers. The lyrics “You’ll always be mine, sing it to the world/Always be my boy, I’ll always be your girl/Ain’t nobody’s business” cheapen the whole situation and while the track is among the album’s strongest, the highly publicized history between the two might stand in the way of the song leaving any lasting positive impressions. The disingenuous feeling continues on Jump, which shallowly samples Ginuwine‘s Pony as its chorus.
Eminem also appears on the album in the very underwhelming track Numb, which seems to lack anything solid, even from the rapper himself whose verse is rather choppy. The song feels like an extended intro that doesn’t actually lead into anything before it ends. Rihanna does, however, offer a relatively strong ballad in the song What Now, where she has grown immensely from the vocally cringing 2006 hit Unfaithful and even since her last big ballad Take A Bow.
While Unapologetic shows Rihanna is willing to step in a new direction, it still offers very little in original thought or presentation; rather, it relies on the familiar to carry it without having to actually pose something new. It’s unlikely Rihanna will ever actually be the trendsetter I suggested above and instead is comfortable sitting just slightly behind the creators taking advantage of their new directions. After all, if and when pop music heads in a new direction, her next album will written, recorded and released in time to immediately reflect it.
1. Phresh Off The Runway
3. Numb [featuring Eminem]
4. Pour It Up
5. Loveeeee Song [featuring Future]
7. Right Now [featuring David Guetta]
8. What Now
9. Stay [featuring Mikky Ekko]
10. Nobody’s Business [featuring Chris Brown]
11. Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary
12. Get It Over It
13. No Love Allowed
14. Lost In Paradise