Released November 2010 by Def Jam.
After the harrowing, icy artistic statement on Rated R, it was fascinating to ask what direction Rihanna would go next. The answer was perhaps the most predictable. She has headed back to the pop mainstream including a selection of burning dance floor tracks. Song quality here is strong, but the conceptual power of Rated R is gone. Rihanna had proved she could truly put together an album that amounted to an artistic statement, but now the singles artist who strings together unrelated tracks into an album has returned.
Simple Can Be Stellar
The best moments on Loud are among the most simple. The current #1 hit "What's My Name" is absolutely addictive in its romantic simplicity. The gently rocking bar singalong "Cheers (Drink To That)" intriguingly blends Rihanna's occasional robotic style with the voices of the crowd in addictive repetition. Musically it's a simple island tune, but the Rated R style edge to the words of "Man Down" gives the song an unexpected power.
Rihanna Heads In New Directions While Maintaining Her Signature Voice
Loud positively oozes the ultimately unexplainable magnetism of Rihanna as a top level pop star even as she moves from one unconnected song to another. Technically speaking, there is nothing stunning about her voice, but it is arresting and unique in pop history. No one would mistake any of these recordings for anyone else. One key to her success is that you would not mistake these new songs for any of her earlier hits either. Rihanna continues to take us in slightly new directions from the past, and that is what keeps her on top. On "Complicated," Tricky Stewart uses trendy electronic pillows of sound to back up Rihanna's emotional outbursts about a difficult relationship. It is clearly Rihanna, but she is pulled in a new, fruitful sonic direction. She visits the land of Nicki Minaj on "Raining Men" but never gets buried in the new territory.
Top Tracks On 'Loud'
- "What's My Name?"
- "Man Down"
- "Love the Way You Lie (Pt. II)"
Not Really 'Loud'
The title Loud would seem to indicate Rihanna heading in a unified direction of arresting proclamation. The album is clearly not that, but seems more an effort at firm re-establishment of her position in the pop mainstream. It is a solid effort in accomplishing that goal, but something just doesn't quite hang together here. We have "shouty" moments, most noticeably the chorus of the hit single "Only Girl (In the World)," and songs that push in occasionally interesting new directions. However, ultimately it is none of that which turns out to be most memorable here. Instead, it is the simple songs and straightforward performances here that are likely to best remembered. The unique voice of Rihanna and her continued use of the lilting island heritage in songs like "Man Down" and "What's My Name?" ultimately rule the day and make Loud worth hearing even if it does not feel like a coherent artistic statement.