Seven years and seven albums have come and gone, and Rihanna has become a slight version of what Jay-Z likened her to in 2007: Madonna. Since then, Rihanna has visually evolved calculatively. Her hair, make-up, album themes, and her style of fashion have all gone under the proverbial knife. Frankly, the visual morphosis and her ability to crank out radio hits has made the spectator seat so coveted that a plane load of journalists joined in on her 777 Tour.
Rated R was Rihanna’s post-trauma album, but Rated R spent most of the time inferring to her incident with Chris Brown. Unapologetic leaves little to the imagination in regards to visuals. Her inadvertent salute to the Roc, “Diamonds” has become a radio staple, with Rihanna’s triumphant coos that inspire even the hardest of Rap fans, along with Kanye West (who showed up on the remix). The greater whole though is saturated in romance. In “Love Without Tragedy” Ri-Ri sings: “Felt like love struck me in the night. I pray that love don’t strike twice.”
“Loveeeeeee Song,” “Stay,” and “Get Over It” are bright R&B moments for Rihanna, as she figures out how balance her innate ability to sing Pop songs with R&B arrangements. The steadily-gritty “Loveeeeee Song” has the most layered features of any rapper on a record this year with Future’s vocals. R&B radio could have a hit next year. “Mother Mary” further proves how Rihanna’s open book policy in regards to her private life allows premiere songwriters to write biographical songs that engulf the listener in real-life stories with lyrics like: “Who knew the course of this one drive injured us fatally?” The-Dream produces and co-writes the majestic jewel that teeters on EDM with a background that softens to Rihanna’s vocals with lyrics that are a desperate prayer: “Mother Mary, I swear I wanna change. Mister Jesus, I’d love to be a queen.” It stands as the brightest moment on the album.
Her duet with Chris Brown, “Nobody’s Business,” is ironically the most bubble-gum track on the album. A very well thought out move, probably in hopes that it would help soften the impending criticism that Rihanna would receive from singing the Pop version of make-up sex with her abusive ex-boyfriend.
Unapologetic is dark and sad, yet at the same time, it’s dance-oriented and fun. The album itself morphs from Dubstep, to R&B, to ballads, EDM, to Pop-Reggae – and that is its biggest achilles heel. It isn’t something that other jumping-genre albums couldn’t get over if it weren’t for the the fact that it suffers from a serious sequence problem by kicking off the album with a “Phresh Out The Runaway,” “Numb,” and “Pour It Up” – tracks full of abstract beats that aren’t melody driven.
The ever-impressionable PDA generation has an album made for them with Unapologetic. In it they can hear their golden couple make up on their iPod earphones, hear EDM radio hits and melancholy ballads, and imagine their favorite artist unapologetically give everyone the middle finger. That’s right…the name of the album.