Monday, December 7, 2009

Rihnna "Rated R" album review

When Rihanna had a hugely successful third album in "Good Girl Gone Bad" and a string of hits including the monster hit "Umbrella" there no doubt some label bosses who struggled to think how they would top its success. And when at the start of the year Rihanna was assaulted by her then boyfriend Chris Brown it sent everything into a spiral. Many assumed Rihanna would lay low and not release any music for awhile but reports emerged that she was working on a harder, edgier sound for a new album due this year.

And with that we have "Rated R", an aggressive, powerful pop album layered with emotion and stunning songs. You’ll already know the moody and show stopping Russian Roulette, an unusual choice for a lead single but a suitable one that sets out what this album is about. The album itself follows a similarly chilly mood. There’s hip hop swagger in “Hard” (the next single) and “Rude Boy” a cheeky, flirty song with real punch that should really be a club friendly single at some point.

But unlike most pop albums this album really shines in the mid-tempo numbers. “Fire Bomb” sounds like the theme song to the best road movie ever and would sound great coming out of a radio near you this summer. “Photographs” is one of the best productions Will.I.Am has lent his name to all year. A simple, delicate number on lost love Rihanna puts that new found vocal depth to good use and sells this one to the utmost degree.

The real highpoint though is “Cold Case Love”, a sweeping and epic track that explodes into a bit of Timbaland style beatboxing near the close. Taking a rather literal crime scene metaphor to a rocky relationship it’s a reminder that while this album does not have an “Umbrella”, “Don’t Stop The Music” or “Disturbia” it does have moments like these.

"Rated R" works because it marries top producers doing strong songs with a keen sense of something different. From the sleeve decked out in saucy photos to the blunt but effective lyrics it’s a reminder that pop music can have a bit of grit and still aim squarely at the top of the charts. A triumph and a contender for best pop album of the year.

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