The Bottom Line
Rihanna has released 2 of the most interesting mainstream pop singles of the year so far. Her current hit "SOS" is built on the solid rock foundation of "Tainted Love" and stomped its way into the top 10. The followup is Rihanna's first ballad single and wraps female indiscretion in piano, strings, and words like "gun" and "murderer."
Listen to "Unfaithful."
- Gorgeous Stargate keyboards and strings backing
- The pain in Rihanna's young voice
- Are Ne-Yo's lyrics overwrought?
- Beautiful piano and delicate string backing
- Lyrics detail emotional pain and regret
- Words of emotional death and murder grab attention
Guide Review - Rihanna - Unfaithful
Wisely, DefJam Records chose to combine the talents of their two rising stars Rihanna and Ne-Yo for the single that heralds the arrival of Rihanna's second album in less than a year. Rihanna's first album Music of the Sun included the club stomper "Pon De Replay," but a second single faltered. Responding quickly, DefJam rushed out the "Tainted Love"-fueled "SOS" and got to work on material for a full new album, titled A Girl Like Me, including this collaboration with similarly hot new artist Ne-Yo.
It would have been easy to make this single a run-of-the-mill snoozy r&b ballad, but it is significantly more interesting than that. Norwegian producers Stargate weave another gorgeous web of piano and strings and the song itself, with lyrics from Ne-Yo, turns the familiar pop song tale of unfaithfulness on its head with the tale told from the point of view of a cheating young woman. Then, with an air of gothic dread, Rihanna equates the pain caused in the hapless man with being a murderer.
Rihanna's voice is not particularly strong. There are points here at which it sounds thin and reedy. However, her songs are all about projecting personality and reflecting the lives of young women and men in their late teens like herself. To adult ears, "Unfaithful" may seem all rather overwrought. However, to a teenager these matters of the heart feel like life and death, and Rihanna, with the help of Ne-Yo, has captured those emotions on "Unfaithful."