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Rihanna - Topic

Loud [Clean] Play

Loud, Rihanna's fifth studio album, is a significant change of pace from 2009’s platinum Rated R. While much of Rated R was cathartic and dark, Loud is relatively lighthearted and geared for dancefloors. It’s led by the sleek, euphoric, and upfront “Only Girl (In the World),” produced by StarGate. Overall, the album efficiently balances Rihanna’s playful and sinister sides. One song that sounds nothing like anything else in her past is “Skin,” a contender for anti-gravity slow jam of the year. The album also features collaborations with Timbaland, Taio Cruz, Alex da Kid, Drake, Sean Garrett, and Ne-Yo. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

A Girl Like Me Play

Versatile urban dance-pop singer Rihanna gracefully avoids the sophomore slump with A Girl Like Me, a less tropical-flavored, more urban effort than her sun-and-fun debut. Then again, it's hard to be an effervescent island goddess 24-7 when your love life has suffered a crushing blow, something inferred by the numerous heartbreaking ballads included, all of them elegant, mature, and displaying artistic growth. Fans of her brilliant single "Pon de Replay" need not worry, though, as the album kicks off with its equal. Bursting out of the speakers, "SOS" is a sexy club tune that bites the bleepy riff from Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" in a very modern, very exciting mash-up fashion. The crunchy reggae of "Kisses Don't Lie" offers a less revolutionary alternative to Damien Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock." Then the album gets bolder and seamlessly bounces from genre to genre. Attempting things that would make lesser artists crumble, Rihanna goes from a film noir song that elegantly uses murder as a metaphor for cheating ("Unfaithful") to an easy-flowing weekend cruiser ("We Ride"). Even more stunning is the jump from the 2006 prom-song candidate "Final Goodbye" to the totally juiced "Break It Off," where she gives guest star and dancehall king Sean Paul some serious competition. The good but not great redo of "If It's Lovin' That You Want" with Corey Gunz is the only track approaching filler, but it's clearly marked "bonus," so it's a wash. Executive produced by Jay-Z, A Girl Like Me is unsurprisingly polished, yet a richer experience than you'd expect from a singer responsible for the summer jam of 2005, arguably 2006. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

Music of the Sun Play

Given the proliferation of young and beautiful urban dance-pop divas dominating the radio and music video airwaves in 2005, it initially was tempting to discount Rihanna as yet another Beyoncé-Ciara-Ashanti cash-in. But like her Def Jam labelmate Teairra Mari -- another young and beautiful urban dance-pop diva who emerged out of nowhere in 2005 -- Rihanna is winsome rather than wannabe, thanks in no small part to her producers. Just as Teairra Mari benefited greatly from irresistibly shrewd beat-making on her debut album, Rihanna benefits from the knowing production work of Syndicated Rhythm Productions, aka Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, who together produced a laundry list of contemporary teen pop sensations during the prior decade. What these guys do that's so irresistibly shrewd is synthesize Caribbean rhythms and beats with standard-issue urban dance-pop: Caribbean-inflected urban, if you will. So while a song like "Pon de Replay" -- to pick the most obvious exhibit -- is driven by booming dancehall-lite beats and a reggae vocal cadence (and title spelling), it's a simple dance-pop song at its core, with standard English-language singing as well as a can't-miss singalong hook (and a glitzy, urban-style MTV video to boot). The best songs on Music of the Sun follow this appealing template, including the similarly catchy few songs that follow the aforementioned album-opening smash hit: "Here I Go Again," "If It's Lovin' That You Want," and "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)." As with most albums of this ilk, Music of the Sun descends into faceless slow jams after a while, overall consistency not being among its attributes, but thankfully it picks up the pace toward the end of its 13-song run and concludes on a fun note, with a remix of "Pon de Replay" featuring Elephant Man. The result is one of the more engaging urban dance-pop albums of the year (and one of the most infectious summer jams, for sure), as well as a nice Caribbean primer for those not ready or willing to jump on the increasingly trendy dancehall and reggaeton bandwagons concurrently sweeping through America's more fashionable cities. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Rated R Play

"Russian Roulette," released weeks prior to Rated R, just hinted at Rihanna's sudden desire to provoke. Even with the realization that it is metaphorical, the song startles with its hesitant gasps, spinning cylinders, and verses that are glacially paced, where a cold piano line and the slight inflections in Rihanna's voice are front and center. And then there’s an audible shudder followed by a discharged bullet -- the abrupt end to one of Rated R’s most restrained moments. It’s not the only instance where Rihanna’s rise in fame, combined with being the victim in the decade’s highest-profile felonious assault, added up to a perfect-storm scenario for a creative overhaul. Rated R is more like Good Girl Gone Evil, or Abused Girl Full of Vengeful Rage, not Good Girl Gone Bad, where the only casualties were some dishes. The closest the set gets to upbeat pop is “Rude Boy,” and by any standard it is stern; needless to say, there is quite a difference between “Can you get it up?” and “You can stand under my umbrella.” Much of this daring album is absolutely over the top, bleak and sleek both lyrically and sonically, but it’s compelling, filled with as many memorably belligerent lines -- two of which, “I pitch with a grenade/Swing away if ya feeling brave” and “I’m such a fuckin’ lady,” set the tone early on -- as a rap album made ripe for dissection. “G4L,” over a low-slung and sleek production, is the most fantastical of all, in which Rihanna leads a band of homicidal women, opening with “I lick the gun when I’m done ‘cause I know that revenge is sweet” and “Any mothaf*cka wanna disrespect/Playin’ with fire finna get you wet.” The breakup song, “Fire Bomb,” even though it is also metaphorical, is a close second in terms of lyrical extremity: “I just wanna set you on fire so I won’t have to burn alone.” Some of the breathers -- the songs that are less intense -- hold the album back since Rihanna sounds detached from them. The one exception is the wistful, bittersweet “Photographs,” a rare instance of the singer dropping her guard, but it really sticks out since it is surrounded by material that has her taking the variably authentic roles of abused lover, dominatrix, and murderer. Whether the album seems ridiculous or spectacular (or both), Rihanna's complete immersion in the majority of the songs cannot be disputed. That is the one thing that is not up for debate. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Good Girl Gone Bad Play

When you've released a pair of albums containing a few monster singles and a considerable amount of unsteady, unassured material, why mess around the third time out? From beginning to end, Good Girl Gone Bad is as pop as pop gets in 2007, each one of its 12 songs a potential hit in some territory. Unlike Music of the Sun or A Girl Like Me, neither Caribbean flavorings nor ballad ODs are part of the script, and there isn't an attempt to make something as theatrical as "Unfaithful." There is, however, another '80s hit involved: just as "SOS" appropriated Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love," "Shut Up and Drive" turns New Order's "Blue Monday" into a sleek, forthcoming proposition, one that is as undeniable and rocking as Sugababes' 2002 U.K. smash "Freak Like Me" (a cover of Adina Howard's 1995 hit that swiped from another '80s single, Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?"). "Shut Up and Drive" is part of an all-upbeat opening sequence that carries through five songs. Rihanna knows exactly what she wants and is in total control at all times, even when she's throwing things and proclaiming "I'm a fight a man" amid marching percussion and synthesizers set on "scare" during "Breakin' Dishes." The album's lead song and lead single, "Umbrella," is her best to date, delivering mammoth if spacious drums, a towering backdrop during the chorus, and vocals that are somehow totally convincing without sounding all that impassioned -- an ideal spot between trying too hard and boredom, like she might've been on her 20th take, which only adds to the song's charm. The album's second half is relatively varied and a little heavier on acoustic guitar use, but it's not lacking additional standouts. Three consecutive Timbaland productions, including one suited for a black college marching band and another that effectively pulls the romantically codependent heartstrings, enhance the album rather than make it more scattered. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Talk That Talk Play

Despite sounding rushed to capitalize on fourth quarter sales, 2010’s Loud proved that Rihanna’s reign indeed would not let up. The album’s first three singles topped the Hot 100. A fourth one merely went Top Ten. Just as Loud was losing its grip, during the fourth quarter of 2011, Rihanna fired again with another number one single, “We Found Love” -- its success more likely due to the singer’s ecstatic vocal than Calvin Harris' shrill, plinky production. While Talk That Talk is built like another singles-chart-devouring machine, it’s both more rounded and less random than Loud. “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” -- the latter with a quote from Geoff Mack's “I’ve Been Everywhere” and echoes of the chorus from Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” -- function as place-holding dance tracks, and there are a couple empty anthems and ballads in the drippy “We All Want Love” and the bombastic “Farewell.” It’s the darker and dirty-minded material that tends to be most effective -- where Rihanna is more alive and believable, where her collaborators provide the most adventurous productions. In the Bangladesh-produced “Cockiness (Love It),” one of the most hypnotic and wicked beats of the last decade, Rihanna absolutely relishes the chance to sing-taunt “Suck my cockiness, swallow my persuasion.” Two of Stargate and Esther Dean's three contributions -- the desperate, xx-sampling “Drunk on Love“ (“Nothing can sober me up”) and the prowling “Roc Me Out” -- pack more sleek menace than Rated R's “G4L” and Loud’s “S&M.” The album’s best track, however, is the wholly sweet and flirtatious “Watch n’ Learn,” featuring a dizzying Hit-Boy beat -- rat-a-tat snares, swirling/swelling synthesizers, irresistible plucked melodies -- that is even more unique in the context of 2011 pop radio than his work on Kanye West and Jay-Z's “Ni**as in Paris.” Behind Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R, this is Rihanna's third best album to date. Minus the fluff, it's close to the latter's equal. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Unapologetic Play

In 2012, right on schedule, Rihanna delivered her fourth annual November album. The singer took a different route with the lead single. She didn't go with a dramatic ballad like "Russian Roulette" or a big dance number like "Only Girl (In the World)" and "We Found Love." Instead, the nod went to a midtempo pop ballad, "Diamonds" -- as in "We're like diamonds in the sky" (rather than stars in a mine), a simple and effective, light in meaning yet massive in sonics, quasi-processional. Even with that change of pace, the possibility of it signaling an overall change in direction was slight. Not only is Unapologetic just as varied as Rihanna's past albums -- it's another timely refresh of contemporary pop music -- but it's a little more exploratory and a whole lot deeper, too. Continuing the trend that began on Rated R, Rihanna's at her best when she's flaunting. This goes for "Pour It Up," a characteristically chilly and booming Mike Will collaboration that might as well be a sequel to "Bandz a Make Her Dance," the producer's hit with Juicy J. Wrapped in a serene sneer, Rihanna's trash talk is something else. Moments such as that one are so convincing that the few everywoman heart-on-sleeve songs -- with the exception of the massive, slamming, wailing power ballad that is "What Now" -- don't sound all that natural. Two of the album's most intriguing, contrasting, and not-so-everywoman tracks appear consecutively during the latter half. Both of them were written and produced by Terius "The-Dream" Nash and Carlos "Los" McKinney. "Nobody's Business," flecked with elements from Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel," is a beaming if somewhat belligerent disco-house duet with Chris Brown. Rihanna's partner proposes to make out in a Lexus prior to proclaiming that the relationship "ain't nobody's business." The celebration is followed by "Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary," conjoined songs with a wide theatrical scope akin to that of the-Dream's own "Nikki, Pt. 2/Abyss." Over a swelling and receding production with echoes of Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis' Eyes," Rihanna mourns ("Felt like love struck me in the night/I pray that love don't strike twice"), then confesses ("Mother Mary, I swear I wanna change"), then surrenders ("I'm prepared to die in the moment"). Perhaps no one should read anything into it. The same could be said of "No Love Allowed," which comes along a little later. Even with a captivating, drum-less reggae groove, it's hard to hear lines like "Your love hit me to the core" and "It's so foolish how you keep me wanting more" and think that she's fine and could be singing about anyone. While this is a fine, if uneven album, the only way to enjoy a significant portion of it is by taking it as pure entertainment. Good luck. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Ses 4 Premiers Albums Play

Charting her transition from teen R&B princess to one of the world's biggest pop stars, this value-for-money box set contains Rihanna's first four studio albums. Alongside 2005 debut Music of the Sun, home to dancehall anthem "Pon de Replay," and 2006 follow-up A Girl Like Me, which spawned two massive worldwide hits ("S.O.S.," "Unfaithful"), it also includes the Reloaded edition of 2007's career-defining Good Girl Gone Bad, which produced an incredible seven Top 20 singles in both the U.K. and U.S. (including transatlantic number ones "Umbrella" and "Take a Bow"), and 2009's darker and more personal Rated R, which features collaborations with Slash and will.i.am. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi
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