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September 16, 2011 at 03:30 PM EDT

Do you realize that Rihanna is only 23 years old, and has been teasing that her sixth album is going to hit store shelves before the calendar flips to 2012?

To bring up a totally reasonable analogue, John Lennon had only released his first album at 23. At this rate, she’s just about due for a Britney Spears-esque career retrospective at next year’s VMAs and will be passing Neil Young’s album output before a reasonable mid-life crisis can even set in.

In any event, RiRi has been letting her over seven million followers on Twitter that she has been in the studio working on the follow-up to 2010’s Loud, a fact originally reported on in Entertainment Weekly’s Fall Music Preview.

She promises that the new tracks, which fill her with excitement, will be out this fall, which essentially puts Loud to bed and will create a seamless transition from that album’s most recent single (the just-released “Cheers (Drink to That)”) and whatever new jam she’ll be dropping from the new one.

With that in mind, let’s unpack Loud, an album that left the post-Chris Brown survivalist instincts of Rated R in the dust in favor of a more traditional pop collection. There were seven official singles from Loud, which is pretty jaw-dropping considering there are only 11 total tracks on the whole thing.

Of those singles, four of them (“Only Girl (In the World),” “What’s My Name?,” “S&M” and “Cheers (Drink to That)”) were big successes (the first three topped the Billboard Hot 100, while the latter currently sits at number 10). The other three (“Man Down,” “California King Bed” and the Nicki Minaj collaboration “Raining Men”) were pretty much DOA (despite the chart dominance of both of the women involved, “Raining Men” didn’t even chart on the Hot 100, which is a remarkable considering that even the minor songs from any random episode of Glee end up charting somewhere).

But on the whole, Loud should be considered a commercial success, especially considering the album as a whole moved a million and a half copies over the course of a year.

Aesthetically, Loud felt like a step back from the darkness of Rated R, but found Rihanna exploring more of the outer limits of her pop personality. Some of those experiments didn’t quite work (she doesn’t have the chops to be a balladeer, which made the torch-song quality of “California King Bed” land with a thud), but most of the grooves really work.

She was able to integrate more of her island upbringing into “Man Down” (a criminally underrated track with a pretty mind-blowing video), and the breezy groove on “What’s My Name?” made her a perfect tag-team partner for lounge-hopper Drake. And even though it’s sort of ridiculous, there’s something undeniably infectious about “S&M.”

So where does Rihanna go from here? Will her forthcoming album pick an avenue of concentration, or will it be another a-little-of-everything affair? (The latter seems more likely, doesn’t it?)

Leave your predictions in the comments below, and also let us know what you thought of Loud.

Read more on EW.com:

What’s your song of summer 2011? Tell us here

Nicki Minaj and Rihanna are the last queens standing in ‘Fly’ video: Watch it here

Rihanna drinks to the freakin’ weekend in ‘Cheers’ video: Watch it here

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