Rihanna: Unapologetic (Review)

If you’re not already apart of Rihanna’s “Navy” fan base, then the chances of your mind being changed are pretty low. However after seven albums, millions of Youtube views and several number ones, there must be something to Rih Rih, right? In honesty I have never took the time to listen to a full Rihanna album before this but I was a pretty big fan of her when she released “Unfaithful” when she first signed to Jay-Z’s label. A “Shut Up And Drive”, “Rude Boy” and “Take Care” later, the ‘Bajan Beauty’s’ star persona and musical direction has changed considerably and this is heavily reflected in the album; “Unapologetic.”

Even naming an album “Unapologetic” sets it up to be a pretty controversial album, something which usually wouldn’t be good for arguably the biggest pop star in the world, but by now it’s pretty obvious Rihanna thrives under controversy and attention. Hence her prominent existent in the charts and every mainstream radio station playing her songs every half an hour.

“Phresh Off The Runway” with production from David Guetta is without a doubt the worst album opener I have heard. Not that I expected anything different from a song that spells ‘fresh’ with a ‘ph’ and has anything to do with Guetta. Usually I would appreciate the song writing skills of The Dream but frankly the song was obviously intended for radio but with the continuous, pointless, swear words blurting out of Rihanna’s mouth it’ll be even more watered down than the pop music Rihanna already sings. Atleast the dreadful “Rude Boy” was subtle. 
It’s actually a little frightening that track two, “Diamonds” was an improvement on a previous song as Rihanna completely copies the superior talents of Lana Del Rey to the point the hook might as well sing “Shine Bright Like A Video Game.” I’ll admit its a good song for radio but Rihanna’s true calling is surely club tracks? And “Diamonds” is too slow tempo’d to be classed as a club track. 

Prior to the release of the Eminem featured “Numb” I was actually looking forward to this track, mainly due to being a big fan of Shady but also because Kanye West helped to write the song. You have no idea how disappointed I was with Eminem’s verse for a start, because it was the type of music that wouldn’t have even made the Relapse/Refill album. Even Rihanna has more talent than this. Even though Skylar Grey didn’t write this song, I was hoping the collaboration would be similar to the “Love The Way You Lie” series which was a commercial and critical success. Apparently the combined efforts of Marshall and Kanye, two of my favourite musicians, couldn’t write a decent song. Unfortunately my ears didn’t go numb and I heard it all.

After three diabolical songs, I was ready to give up on this review. After listening to track four, “Pour It Up” I had to keep going just to find something good about the album. The worst thing about this song is that it’s actually really enjoyable..but for a woman to be singing it is just a little weird for me. Had Rock City had have given this song to Chris Brown, Drake or any other RnB/Hip Hop male then this would be a certain number one. Rihanna singing about strippers on a pole in a club is just so awkward that once I heard that line, I wanted to turn it off. 

Is there a reason Rihanna insists on titling tracks with variated or exaggerated spellings? “Loveeeeee Song” featuring a heavily auto-tuned 808’s & Heartbreaks-esque Future actually compliments Rihanna. Although Future sounds awful, I can’t fault Rihanna and it finally looks like this album might be improving, but I wont hold my breath. If you mute the song when Future pops up and only listen to Rihanna’s parts then this is actually a good song. 

Track six, “Jump” is actually quite impressive from Rihanna. A few area’s in which she pointlessly swears could have been taken out though. The beat is very ‘Dance-y’ until Rihanna sings which really confused me but it oddly works quite well. Sampling Ginuwines similar titled 90’s classic with a dub-step twist. It’s effectively an improvement on “Rude Boy” which means even some of the people who don’t like her might appreciate this track.

If one David Guetta appearance on album wasn’t excruciating enough, RiRi gave him two on “Unapologetic.” “Right Now” co-written by Ne-Yo is the typical pop song and so will undoubtedly will be loved by her fans and a chart success. I personally found the dub-step a little annoying but aside from that, I actually enjoyed this song. Although this takes all justification away from why “Phresh Off The Runway” exists.

“What Now” at track eight is a stark contrast from “Right Now” as a completely unexpected and oddly placed ballad, the verses sounding very, very similar to Vannessa Carltons “A Thousand Miles.” Although this isn’t quite “Unfaithful” or “Russian Roulette” it is definitely the best song on a lyrical level since.   

Track Nine “Stay” sounds like one of those rare pop gems which isn’t a club track but not quite a ballad. Just a nice balance between the two. I didn’t personally love it as it didn’t have enough pop bounce to it for my own personal taste but I am sure there will be many people who will love it. Although Micky Ekko does compliment RiRi’s vocals very much. 

“Ain’t Nobody’s Business” is a song that people will either love or hate because of the politics behind the Chris Brown collaboration/rekindling of relationship. However it really is a good pop song by today’s industry’s standards if you can get over the awful pronunciation of “Bidnez”. It doesn’t even matter how awful the lyrics are because the instrumental and Breezy’s powerful vocals (which completely overshadows Rihanna’s) are good enough to make this a semi-enjoyable song. However whoever decided Lexus and Like This rhyme, deserves shot. 

Why Rihanna put “Love Without Tragedy” and “Mother Mary” as the same track I will never know, but that doesn’t matter, just know that my respect for The Dreams songwriting capabilities have remained intact after the ridiculously good “Love Without Tragedy”. Kind of feels like a Katy Perry song to me, a mixture of “Teenage Dream” and “Last Friday Night”. As for “Mother Mary” its quite personal for Rihanna and once you get past the annoying repetitive instrumental, it is also a good song, where Rihanna seems pretty apologetic and remorseful to me. 

Track twelve, “Get It Over With”, is yet another slow tempo song, and at this point I am actually wishing for a dance track that Rihanna is known for. In honesty, I respect Rihanna trying a more mature tracklist, but atleast her dance music has something to it and will make her plenty money. “Get It Over With” has nothing to it, no racey beat or emotionally resonating lyrics. Disappointing after such a run of average-to-good songs.

Penultimate track thirteen, “No Love Allowed” is Rihanna’s attempt at a reggae track, and although she has a better accent for it than Bruno Mars, the song isn’t quite on the level of Bruno’s. Rihanna’s use of the word nigga is really quite awkward, why is she trying to sound like a Hip Hop male? I’d understand Nicki Minaj or Azealia Banks doing it, but a pop star shouldn’t be using that sort of profanity. I guess a sparse F-bomb here and there, once in a while for effect is alright but throughout this album Rihanna’s swearing is completely pointless.

Final track, “Lost In Paradise” has a really good beat to it, and the hook is one of Rihanna’s best vocal performances in a long time, maybe even since “Umbrella.” The mix of very talented production from Stargate which even the dub-step sounds quite good and emotional resonating lyricism from Ester Dean, all Rihanna had to do was sing without an annoying accent and she actually manages to do it. A very good end to the album. Much better than the opening. 

Bonus track “Half Of Me” is co-written by Emeli Sande and Adele and actually uses “fuck” in a way that works. Believe it or not. I do feel as though the part in which Rihanna belts out a bridge didn’t happen soon enough in my opinion and when she did, she sounds very much like P!NK. Although I felt there were a few issues, the track isn’t a bad way to actually end the album, although “Lost In Paradise” would have been better. 

Like I said at the start, if you’re not a fan of Rihanna by now, this review isn’t going to change your mind. However I must admit “Unapologetic” has surprised me with the amount of ballads rather than dance tracks and the second half of the album was actually pretty good. The problem is that I wouldn’t blame the average listener for turning the album off, smashing it in to tiny pieces and burning it in the woods after the first three songs. If you’re a Rihanna fan then you’ll probably buy it and then decide that you’re going to force yourself to love her new more mature material. If you’re not then you might listen to a few songs, but probably not falls head over heels with them. 

Stand Out Song(s) – “Right Now”, “Love Without Tragedy” and “Lost In Paradise”.
Album Rating – 2.5/5

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