It is now four consecutive years in which Rihanna has released a new album in November. No other major pop artist today can match her productivity. Even more phenomenal is that musical quality has not suffered. In fact, Rihanna continues to improve. On last year's Talk That Talk she consolidated her sound to something breezy and distinctly her own. Now, as would be expected, she keeps one foot in the signature sound while stretching in new directions. This is another solid effort that just may be her first #1 chart album.
Musical Depth With a Lean To R&B
Unlike many pop artists who seem to burn out and drown in so much repetition of their signature sound that it begins to sound like self parody, Rihanna exhibits growth and change with each of her albums. On Unapologetic the overall production and sound is richer and deeper than on Talk That Talk. She digs further into R&B resulting in the instantly controversial Chris Brown duet "Nobody's Business." The song borrows the "Ain't nobody's business but mine and my baby" line from Michael Jackson's classic "The Way You Make Me Feel" and a glossy late 70s R&B production more familiar to fans of Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. "Loveeeeeee Song" featuring Haitian-American artist Future also mines a deep soul groove. Arguably the album's musical centerpiece is "Jump" which slams Ginuwine's R&B classic "Pony" into contemporary dub step mixing.
Separating Rihanna the Artist From Rihanna the Celebrity
Perhaps the most difficult element of Unapologetic for many listeners will be setting aside opinions about the personal life of Rihanna the artist from the music here on the album. The album's title addresses that point. She is clearly unapologetic for what many consider missteps and poor judgment. There are those who even believe her hectic release schedule is a misstep. However, a fair listen to the music here dismisses that argument. Listen to the bracing David Guetta collaboration "Right Now" and try to make a coherent argument that this song should not be released...um...right now. Rihanna's most clear statement on this subject resides in "Half Of Me," a song only included in the deluxe version and co-written by Adele. "Oh you know me everybody knows that I’m crazy, Sticks and stones they never break me, And I’m the type that don’t give a f**k."
Top Tracks On 'Unapologetic'
- "Right Now" featuring David Guetta
- "Nobody's Business" featuring Chris Brown
- "No Love Allowed"
Rihanna Rolls Along With One Of the Most Successful Pop Careers Ever
Rihanna is undisputably one of the most commercially successful pop music artists the world has ever seen. The primary key to that success is her willingness to grow and change with every release. There are songs here that sound like extras or experiments that didn't completely pan out like the opening blast of "Phresh Out the Runway" that quickly annoys, or the closing "Lost In Paradise" that sounds rather dull after all that came before and illustrates how Rihanna still has weaknesses if she tries to tackle big gospel-tinged ballads. However, in between, there is a lot of music that is as good or better than the majority of what is heard on the radio today. Musically, Rihanna has no reason here to be apologetic.