[POP/R&B] Rihanna – ‘Unapologetic’ Album Review
We don’t usually review something as mainstream or “pop” as a Rihanna album but given that after six full-length studio releases this is her first number one we thought we’d give it a try. All album cover Illuminati references aside, this may be the pop superstar’s most cohesive and personal album to date. Released just a year and a day after her previous release Talk That Talk which spawned the Calvin Harris-produced global smash “We Found Love” and the equally enchanting “Where Have You Been,” at a first glance the album feels like a pastiche of filler tracks slapped together in order to ensure the star stays relevant, but when taking a closer look the picture is much more different than what it initially may seem.
Although, Calvin Harris is nowhere in sight here, he is easily replaced by EDM kitsch king David Guetta who co-produced the album opener “Phresh Out the Runway” (which sounds like “Cake” part 2) and the radio-ready “Right Now” with some predictable yet pleasant results. Also incoming are Sia who brings her songwriting magic to the #1 single “Diamonds,” fresh-off-the-oven production courtesy of Chicago’s very own No ID (“No Love Allowed“) and returning UK drum and bass maestros Chase & Status (“Jump“).
Just like the singer herself, the record is full of contradictions as themes of love, tragedy, heartbreak, hedonism and redemption all echo throughout. On “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary” she sings “Mother Mary, I swear I wanna change Mister Jesus, I’d love to be a queen” like she knows she’s truly ready to repent for her sins, but is hopelessly lost without a way back. “No Love Allowed” seems to be a jab at the highly publicized on-and-off boyfriend Chris Brown‘s violent 2009 assault on her where she sings “Like a bullet your love me hit me to core I was flying ’til you knocked me to the floor,” but any sign of remorse is quickly replaced by the shameless Chris Brown Michael Jackson-sampling duet “Nobody’s Business” which, if you haven’t noticed, is a more than clear indication about how the pair truly feels about the public’s ongoing criticism of their controversial relationship. Dubstep-heavy “What Now” has got the twenty four year-old Barbadian beauty lamenting about confusion and frustration associated with her love life while “Jump,” another dubstep-laced track, has got her singing “If you want it let’s do it ride it, my pony” to the tune of Ginuwine‘s 1996 smash “Pony” (you get the idea).
One of the album’s standout gems comes in the form of a soft piano ballad featuring new singer Mikky Ekko called “Stay” where she sings “Not really sure how to feel about it something in the way you move makes me feel like I can’t live without you…” like the confused damsel in distress that she really is. Despite the enormous celebrity status, numerous magazine covers, endless list of number one singles and ongoing tabloid drama, as much as ‘unapologetic’ about her choices she may claim to be, inside she is obviously a young woman desperately struggling to figure out who she truly is while seeking the protection of a real and everlasting ‘umbrella.’