New Album Review: Rihanna – Unapologetic
Freddie Matthews writes from London: Rihanna certainly isn’t the new kid on the block that she was when she first auditioned for Jay-Z and Def Jam recordings at the age of 16. Unapologetic is Rihanna’s seventh album release in as many years and with sales of over 25 million albums and 60 million downloaded singles she is quite possibly the hardest working woman in pop music.
On first listen to track 1, I’m literally shocked how many expletives Rihanna manages to get into the first 45 seconds of Phresh Out The Runway. Maybe we’re more used to Rihanna’s radio edits but starting with a bang really kicks this album off with intent.
Rihanna’s most successful album to date was her 2007 third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, with over 12 million sales. Surprisingly in the last 5 years she’s yet to emulate that success but that doesn’t stop every release still achieving sales into the multi millions. Of course success isn’t just about record sales. There’s her brand, endorsements, advertising, TV, touring, merchandise etc. etc.
Unapologetic is an album with many musical styles that can only help appeal to a wider audience. However I struggle to establish the musical direction. It’s more like a mish-mash that can only mean she’s more interested in her singles than albums sales. There is a guaranteed number of radio and TV hits on Unapologetic. In fact the song Diamonds has already achieved UK No.1 single status, as well as No.1 in 13 other countries and Top 10 in 20 more.
How does Rihanna remain so prolific? Well she records the vocals while on the road and the writing and production is done back in the studio by the whole host of big name producers she has access to at the click of a finger. Producers like Stargate and David Guetta are already in her back pocket, just waiting and desperate to be involved with the biggest name in pop right now.
The problem is that with so many different personalities involved in one album there is a confusing mixed bag of styles. The first half of the album is the Rihanna you’re used to. There’s melody with club and dance themes and very catchy music and vocal hooks. Songs like: Numb featuring Eminem is from the cool set and after such a successful collaboration on 2011’s Love The Way You Lie there’s absolutely no surprise Eminem is featured here; Loveeeeeee Song featuring Future is a future R&B classic; Jump samples Ginuwine’s Pony and is another sure fire hit; as is Right Now featuring David Guetta, the European dance music guru. This song has some uber-cool samples and effects perfect to burn up any dance floor.
The second half of Unapologetic however is edgy and not what we’re used to from Rihanna, but why shouldn’t she try something new? Here we have ballads, disco, reggae and even a defence of her former boyfriend Chris Brown who notoriously beat her up in 2009: Nobody’s Business features:, yes the man himself, Chris Brown. I’m not a fan of Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary it’s too much like the days when Madonna was exploring every possibility. Rihanna shouldn’t be singing 7 minute tracks, in my opinion. I know her roots lie in reggae but No Love Allowed is almost reggae for the sake of being reggae: there’s no edge or invitation to something credible and different.
Unapologetic is another sure fire Rihanna hit but will she ever again emulate the success of her former glory? Her fans will be satisfied and happy with her 7th album but I can’t imagine there will be huge appeal to anyone new.
Unapologetic does have one of the coolest and most original album covers of 2012.