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Rihanna, ‘Unapologetic’ – Album Review

Rihanna
Island Def Jam Records

Does Rihanna ever sleep? She’s released an album a year since 2009, plus she’s appeared on various remixes and other artists’ cuts as a featured singer since her 2005 debut. Where does she find the time?

After glancing at the list of songwriters, producers, studio magicians and guests who make up her seventh album, ‘Unapologetic,’ you can assume she catches a few Z’s while everyone else is putting together her records.

That isn’t to say Rihanna isn’t a presence on the album. She is. After all, it’s her name and voice that fuel each track. But Rihanna’s career has been built on collaboration – whether it’s Jay-Z helping out on her monster hit ‘Umbrella’ or David Guetta, who produced a pair of songs on ‘Unapologetic.’

Here’s our track-by-track breakdown of ‘Unapologetic,’ which you can download by clicking here. Leave us a comment below to let us know what you thought of the record.

1. ‘Phresh Out the Runway’
Guetta’s stamp (and stomp) is all over the opening cut, a bass-heavy jam that comes on like a dozen blaring sirens accompanying the star to her rightful place: center stage.

2. ‘Diamonds’
The lead single from ‘Unapologetic’ is a typical Rihanna ballad, underscoring her soulful vocal with electronic pulses. It doesn’t pack the punch of Ri’s other hit singles, but the orchestral swells that build with her performance are a nice touch. [Listen Here]

3. ‘Numb’
One of the album’s only hip-hop-influenced cuts features a goofy verse by Eminem, who employed Rihanna for his hit 2010 single ‘Love the Way You Lie.’ This collaboration is nowhere near as great, mostly because someone forgot to write a hook for it. [Listen Here]

4. ‘Pour It Up’
There’s not much of a hook to ‘Pour It Up’ either, but the cool skittering beat falls somewhere between a dream and a hazy late-night buzz. And Rihanna sounds more committed here – probably because she calls out the haters who’ve scrutinized her every move over the past few years.

5. ‘Loveeeee Song’
Rapper Future ushers in this ballad with tons of Auto-tune, which seems a little out of place, considering Rihanna’s straightforward performance of the love song. Without him, it would be the best slow jam on ‘Unapologetic.’

6. ‘Jump’
It’s an unofficial rule in pop music that any song titled ‘Jump’ is going to be great (see Pointer Sisters, Van Halen, Kriss Kross, etc.). Rihanna’s is no exception. Electronic knives stab at both the singer and the beat. This is one of the album’s best songs.

7. ‘Right Now’
Guetta returns for another track, and it’s no more reserved than ‘Phresh Out the Runway.’ Burping beats collide with flashes of tripping rhythm as Rihanna soars above the whole thing like she’s never coming down.

8. ‘What Now’
There’s not much to this ballad, which flips from verses to choruses like they’re from two different planets. Rihanna oversings, but the sonic bombs that drop during the choruses are kinda cool.

9. ‘Stay’
Another ballad, but this one doesn’t use any studio tricks – it’s mostly piano and Rihanna’s vocals mixed with Mikky Ekko’s. She sounds great, but ‘Stay’ is one of the album’s most boring songs.

10. ‘Nobody’s Business’
This is the album’s most complex cut. It’s a duet with her abusive ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, so we really, really want to hate it. But it was written and produced by The-Dream (who was responsible for ‘Umbrella’), and it’s really good. There’s a great hook guiding the song too. As much as it hurts to say it, ‘Nobody’s Business’ is an album highlight. [Listen Here]

11. ‘Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary’
Another track by The-Dream, this seven-minute medley of two songs takes a while to go anywhere, but once it starts moving, it turns out to be one of the best cuts on ‘Unapologetic.’ But the whole Marilyn Monroe/James Dean theme during the first part seems a bit trite.

12. ‘Get It Over With’
This blah ballad sounds like filler. There’s no beat, no hook and Rihanna sounds bored, which probably explains why she drops the F-word for, like, the 10th time.

13. ‘No Love Allowed’
‘No Love Allowed’ pays tribute to Rihanna’s Barbados roots with a breezy island rhythm. It sounds totally out of place on the album. More filler.

14. ‘Lost in Paradise’
The closing song off of the regular edition of ‘Unapologetic’ is basically a pep talk that gets lost not in paradise, but in the busy production that overwhelms it. At least it diverts attention from the fact that there isn’t much going on otherwise.

15. ‘Half of Me’
This bonus track, like ‘Pour It Up,’ is another one for the haters. Rihanna sells it because she has an agenda here, but ultimately it’s more of a personal essay than a song. And yes, there’s another F-bomb.

Watch the Rihanna ‘Diamonds’ Video

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