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Rihanna's latest is catchy, expressive and 'Unapologetic'

Def Jam

By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 20, 2012

And so begins the dispute over Rihanna’s non-stop stream of album releases. If only Rihanna were willing to move on from Chris Brown as fast as she was willing to from Talk That Talk. But why slow down? Rihanna doesn’t need an extra year to ponder what music she’ll be writing for her next record, and every reputable songwriter and producer is dying to have their work heard on the Barbadian pop star’s album. The life of an artist is too short to release new work every three years, only to discover it’s a flop.

Unapologetic is no such thing, however, and the worldwide sensation of its lead single “Diamonds” bodes well for the success of Rihanna’s seventh studio album. This ballad track might be an atypical style for Rihanna, but Stargate is most certainly not an atypical production team — the team is responsible for many of the Barbadian’s 11 number-one hits.

“Diamonds” sets out to prove that basic dance tracks aren’t the only way for a pop artist to leap into the Top 10 in nearly every country in the world. With the release of the official remix featuring Kanye West, Rihanna channels Katy Perry’s numerous attempts to bump a single into the number-one spot.

Elements identical to Usher’s smooth, R&B sound make their way into “Numb,” “Pour It Up” and “Loveeeeeee Song,” all of which are conveniently grouped together on the tracklist. This slow-paced, club-suited style is the lure that brings in Rihanna’s fanbase, who are always waiting to hear the latest sound experimentation from the artist.

“Numb” is particularly captivating, with its seductive R&B essence mixed with hints of a Middle Eastern style. Eminem also flaunts the contrast from their “Love the Way You Lie” collaboration by bringing more Slim Shady to the track.

“Jump” brings an end to the pure R&B section of the record and introduces a dubstep style. The Skrillex-sounding makeover of samples from Ginuwine’s “Pony” might be too intense, even for the listeners who seek Rihanna’s musical ferocity.

More pop-friendly dubstep finds its way into “Right Now” — brought to life by none other than David Guetta himself. Evidently, Rihanna’s attention span for Calvin Harris has worn off. Melodically and lyrically, the track is dull, but the hammering kick and dirty synths are sure to draw in the “Where Have You Been” crowd.

If there’s one attribute of the album Rihanna were to be Unapologetic about, it would be her collaboration with Chris Brown. It might be “Nobody’s Business,” but it’s guaranteed to reel in the attention of anyone who glances at the tracklist. This ’90s-esque dance tune is the catchiest song on the record, despite poor mixing decisions, such as Brown’s inaudible intro vocals and tacky, high-pitched inserts of “I wanna be your baby.” The track samples lyrics from Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” but Brown is trying much too hard to achieve the classically jagged tone of Jackson’s voice.

With the initial release of “Diamonds” and the continued expression from tracks like “Stay,” “Love Without Tragedy” and “Get It Over With,” listeners will hear the impassioned side of the pop star’s music in a way that has remained dormant since Rihanna’s Rated R days. Don’t fear this bit of familiarity, though. The Rihanna Navy will still get its fair share of dynamic styling that it’s come to expect.


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