Album review: Unapologetic by Rihanna

Posted by: on Nov 24, 2012 | 2 Comments

Back from a short-lived hiatus (Rihanna, how do you do it?!) over the summer, Rihanna is back from the wake of her epic 777 tour that saw her cart hundreds of awe-inspired journalists and special guests in a Boeing 777  around 7 exclusive gigs in major cities across the world to release her seventh studio album, at the rejoice of her ‘Navy’ of fans.

The Rudeboy’s star’s suggestively titled album Unapologetic seems to signposts a self-reflective moment in the singer’s life with a hefty selection of ballads almost unseen in her preceding album Talk That Talk. Yet, Ri injects the same tounge-in-cheek sauce that she is known for with catchy sound effects, synths and breathy repetition that will in no doubt make this as popular as Rihanna’s recent pop releases.

Here’s a track-by-track lowdown of Unapologetic:

Phresh Out The Runway

Sung at this year’s Victoria Secret Fashion Show, Rihanna’s opening track is full of blistering beats and lyrics delivered with attitude and laced with explicits. The hook of the chorus is bound to revolve in your head for hours, and similar to the previous album’s title track, you will find yourself rap-singing along with Ri to this empowering, bragging track.

Diamonds

Leading on to a slower pop ballad, this track released ahead of the album is another that gets inside your head. Her suggestive lyrics, “I chose to be happy”, are the first to set the tone for the love songs on the record, with some critics even assigning this album of Rih’s as a love letter to her old flame and rumoured recent fling, Chris Brown. The imposing piano makes this a contemporary karaoke track for me!

Numb feat. Eminem

The hypnotic echoing synths and effect on her elongated lyrics makes this track a striking change to the first two songs on the record. Full of repetition, elongated words and deep-bass effected lyrics, I’m sure that Numb will be a remix favourite for DJs looking to rework inclusions of sound effects within a slow jam-type of track. For those looking for a Love The Way You Lie Pt.III, you’ll be disappointed to hear a very short verse from Eminem towards the middle ‘8’ of the track, but the stark, cheeky lyrics of M’s verse and the Rihanna’s breathy lyrics make it a contender for a single release for me.

Pour It Up

The deep-bass sound-effected voice makes an appearance in the intro here, reminding me a bit of the intro to Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools (Drank). This isn’t my favourite of her record because the succession of another repetition-led song after Numb is a little jarring to the progression of the album. The same bragging rights from Phresh Out The Runway

Loveeeee Song feat. Future

This song is so different from Rihanna, it’s one of my favourites on her album. We see a snippet of the old Rihanna with this R’n’B ballad with a fusion of the sexual suggestions and breathy lyrics seen in her recent music. Future’s auto-tuned vocals suit the hypnotic, hazy tone of the song perfectly, and the techy rise-and-fall backing makes this a solid album fave for fans. A tinge of the ’80s comes in with this track due to the heavy bass in the backing– which features heavily in some of the other tracks on Unapologetic.

Jump

Rihanna takes on the genre on the rise, dubstep, with this dance track. The etchy, echoing vocals behind Rihanna’s provocative vocals build up alongside the progressive beats of the song, and the song almost seems like a bonus taken away from her Talk That Talk album with its edginess.

Right Now feat. David Guetta

With powerful echoing lyrics, a lot of ‘oh-ohh’s and dancefloor-filling beats, Rihanna has teamed up with Guetta yet again to produce an obvious hit on this album. Though it doesn’t stand out much lyrically, this is a guaranteed floorfiller because of Guetta’s presence, and the catchiness of the lyrics makes it a no-brainer as an easy single release for the starlet.

What Now

This ballad from Rihanna is a fresh change from the pop-y, sex-driven songs on her album, and sees her record turn to a more suggestive, heart-pouring style of track listing. Her lyrics go from soft to soaring with this melodic hook, which makes this difficult to not sing along to: “What now? I just can’t figure it out/ What now? I guess I’ll just wait it out.” The ballad is taken to the next level with some cheesy, yet apt riffs from an electric guitar to accompany her vocal flourishes.

Stay feat. Mikky Ekko

A slower, more stripped down ballad next to abruptly end the Beyoncé-like show-off track beforehand. Rihanna’s honest lyrics makes for a simple love song accompanied only by a piano, and with Ekko’s soft response, Stay is great for fans of an acoustic versions of Hate That I Love You or Unfaithful. Of course it isn’t as exciting as the rest of the tracks because of the lack of technological flair, but you get to actually appreciate her raw vocals and the harmonies of the duet in Stay.

Nobody’s Business feat. Chris Brown

Reviving the tone with an ’80s throwback piano jaunt, and tounge-in-cheek lyrics, Rihanna and Chris Brown’s song has definitely added fuelled to the fire of the rumours of their reconciliation. Both voices allude to the late Michael Jackson, with a few ‘OOHs’ to mystify us as whether the King of Pop was even present during recording! The tantalising lyrics, “I wanna be your baby, I’ll always be your baby,” and the god-damn catchyness of the song (hello repetition!) makes this a MUST to release from Rih. If you’re like me, the song will have you pressing ‘repeat’ just to hear the classic rhyming of the line “Let’s make out in this Lexus” one more time….

Love Without Tragedy/ Mother Mary

’80s beats are brought in again for the first section of this track, with a definite rock-ballad feel to Rihanna’s song on dramatic, tragic love. Critics have heavily read into this section of the song as an indirect reference to her tumultuous relationship with Brown, but as you reserve judgement on hearing this bit, you’ll see how Rihanna has achieved ballads, rap, slow jams, ’80s throwbacks and soft rock up until this track. Whoa. The song’s backing keyboard synths then go up an octave to accompany Rihanna’s lyrics “Mother Mary, I swear I want to change.” The definitive address to holy figures in this piece, and the haunting echo of some of the lines at the beginning make you sit back and take in how this would be live — jaw-dropping. Fading out into the next, you’re left dwelling on this song the most out of the whole album.

Get It Over With

Serene strings open this self-reflective ballad, and Rihanna’s whirling vocals will have you singing along once the words have penetrated your skull! You get sense of the ominous, looming bad times in a relationship that the singer muses over in this song with the relaxed, cyclical verses and chorus and the fading backing track, with the hopeful harmonies of the backing vocals pushing the song forward.

No Love Allowed

Rihanna reverts back to her Bajan roots and popular Talk That Tak vibe with a reggae influence on this track. The slowed-down dancehall track injects another striking change to the tone of the album. With some haunting harmonies (very similar to some early Sugababe stuff!), it follows nicely on to the final blast of pop to close her album.

Lost In Paradise

Another of my favourite tracks from the album. The collaboration of sound effects, ballad-esqué lyrics– “What am I supposed to do with this heart?”– and catchy R’n’B drumbeat, this will be a firm favourite of mine to belt out whilst driving on a long journey! BASS-SLAP! (When you listen, you’ll get it.)

 Bonus Track: Half of Me

By far the most personal track on her album, Rihanna reminds us in this heartfelt, closing ballad that what we see and read of her is not the whole truth. A great contender for a controversial single that will no doubt be buzzed about my critics and fans alike, Half Of Me reminds us in the last few minutes of her amazing vocals and her incredible repertoire of catchy, hit songs.

 

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