Rihanna 'Unapologetic' Album Review
Pop (Island Def Jam)
Just how controversial is Rihanna's new album? That depends on how worked up you get about rhyme schemes like this: "Your love is infectious / Let's make out in this Lexus." She might've stirred up headlines by inviting her ex Chris Brown—the same guy who, you might remember, physically assaulted her three years ago—to sing that pick-up line on "Nobody's Business," which borrows its title (and its '80s R&B sound) from Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." But it doesn't sound like she has forgiven him just yet. "Your love hit me to the core," she moans on the woozy reggae track "No Love Allowed." "I was fine until you knocked me to the floor."
Clearly, Rihanna's in a more somber mood on Unapologetic. Even the dance songs feel dark: she has traded the upbeat Eurodisco romps of last year's Talk That Talk for screwed vocals ("Phresh Out the Runway") and dubstep-warped bangers ("Jump," which nods to Ginuwine's equestrian-love classic "Pony"). And she's experimenting with more ballads, tapping into her Thom Yorke side by the piano (the SNL-approved ballad "Stay," which features Mikky Ekko) and working through some tortured, ripped-from-my-diary confessions ("Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary"). "You took the best years of my life," she sings on the latter song, "But what's love without tragedy?"
Is she talking about Brown? Maybe. But it doesn't really matter. The most shocking thing here is how vulnerable she sounds. B+
BEST TRACKS: Diamonds * Jump