It’s amazing that Rihanna has released four consecutive albums since 2009. Each album has expressed the diverse and distinctive sides of Rihanna, varying from dark aggressiveness (2009’s Rated R), light-hearted club pop (2010’s Loud), and hip-hop influenced electro-dance (2011’s Talk that Talk). With each album containing at least a few exemplary songs that have become popular sensations on the music charts (2009’s “Rude Boy“, 2010’s “Only Girl in the World” and “What’s My Name?”, and 2011’s “We Found Love“), Rihanna has evolved into a more sophisticated and focused artist. But the problem is, Rihanna’s consistent songwriting, music production, and touring can all be wasted on one thing — a time to diversify. By that, I mean Rihanna has not had much a chance to expand on her music, which has resulted in her new, disappointing record Unapologetic. Unfortunately, despite that the album is thematically unapologetic and the cover suggests a more raw and vulnerable Rihanna, the 24-year-old Barbadian star struggles to conceive any new material that can put up to the standard of her other popular songs. With no intriguing hooks, a hapless and slightly morose mood, and a somewhat robotic voice from Rihanna, Unapologetic ultimately fails to become another stand-out Rihanna record. One thing, though, that is ironic and slightly riveting about Unapologetic is that Chris Brown, who, as we all know has had a pretty rough history with Rihanna (their 2007/2008 scandal, domestic abuse, and restraining order that broke the power couple off), guest stars on Rihanna’s track “Nobody’s Business;” the irony is that it is probably the best one out of the entire album, being that its jazzy feel and the chemistry between Rihanna and Chris Brown’s voices is undeniably compatible. However, that does not apply to the other guest spots on Unapologetic, which include Eminem, Future, Nikky Ekko, David Guetta, and Kanye West (on a remix of her most popular song currently, “Diamonds”). The 3rd track, “Numb,” has an uneven beat, between trap music and a Jamaican-influenced rhythm, a surprisingly tiresome Rihanna, and an unfortunate appearance by Eminem. This has been Eminem’s third collaboration with Rihanna, the first being Eminem’s excellent 2010 tune “Love the Way You Lie” from Recovery and Rihanna’s own version with Eminem as a guest on Loud. But sadly, this time, Eminem’s volatile raps are not used enough and it almost seems if his voice has been manipulated by Auto-Tune. The same goes for “Loveeeeeee Song,” which features newcomer rapper Future, who is also not been given a chance or an opportunity to express his awesome vocals. The song comes off as a boring, unsatisfactory love ballad, making it one of the weakest off Unapologetic. The dance-induced “Right Now” and “Fresh off the Runway,” both produced by Swedish DJ David Guetta, have no originality or mirth that make up a great, energy-filled dance song. Finally, we get to Rihanna’s most prominent track, “Diamonds.” Though it currently hold #1 on iTunes, it possesses a few conflicting qualities: Rihanna’s voice can be drony at moments and powerful in the chorus; the slow-tempoed, electronic beat can be both absorbing and tasteless. I’d prefer listening to the remix by Kanye West, which features some great verses rapped by West and only more so of a snippet of Rihanna, which probably explains why the brief guest appearances on Unapologetic are weak and tacky.
Rihanna has made herself out to be a lot of things: Rihanna the Pop Star and Rihanna the Attention-Deprived Victim of a Crime that Happened Four Years Ago. She was able to overcome most of it in 2010’s fantastic Loud and 2011’s slightly-less-exciting-but-still-intriguing Talk that Talk, but in this year’s Unapologetic, it’s all coming back. Its surprisingly disappointing and hook-less tracks struggle to keep up with Rihanna at her current stardom, which may lead to her downfall. But hopefully that won’t be the case, for Rihanna’s ego and prominence is far too great to even become ruined just yet.
Suggested Tracks: “Diamonds,” “Nobody’s Business“