is the fourth album by Rihanna and the follow-up to the international super hit, . , like , rebrands Rihanna. On this album, she expresses herself as a darker, meaner, and generally more angry woman. The album art reflects this. Previous albums show her as coy yet approachable. is the antithesis, almost defying you.
Despite this image of an angry woman scorned, she never really gives reason. Other than the Chris Brown incident, this darker tone, which permeates the entire album, is hardly justified. Why so sad? She seems determined to be upset, and nothing can convince her otherwise.
Throughout the album, her discontent is monotonously restated over and over and over ad nauseam, almost convincing the listener of the opposite. After so much lamentation, whom is she trying to convince?
After so much complaining, it becomes easier to ignore her than listen to what she is saying, like any drama queen, but Rihanna does not emote as much. This is album is song after song of contrived nonsense.
She never really says much. Most of the lyrics have marginal consequence and do not cohere together. None of the songs seem to make any kind of meaning. They are all about nothing, with hardly anything to draw the listener to Rihanna.
The songs seem to be an expansion of a phrase or idea and never seem to tie together as insightful songs of any kind. With as many as seven writers, something good should have been made. For instance, no metaphor is made with “Russian Roulette.” It seems to be Rihanna actually playing Russian roulette. It does not make any kind of sense.
Rihanna has never been much of a talented singer. Thankfully, no songs here try to display any kind of talent in that regard. This album mainly relies on the general sound and feeling of the song to convey any sort of meaning.
Unfortunately, the album relies on the talents of the producers and personnel to convey any feeling. The album is full of post-produced melismatic hooks Rihanna may or may not actually be able to sing. Where the album succeeds, Rihanna cannot take any credit.
The first track, “Mad House,” really exemplifies the album. It has a ridiculous spoken-word introduction and never says why if you “are easily frightened” you should “turn away now.” Only turn back if you think about what you hear.
“Rockstar 101”is depressingly uneducational. The title implies that it teaches how to be a rockstar. That is not the case. It in fact touts Rihanna’s rockstar status. She states numerous times her rank as rockstar. “To be what you is, you got to be what you are, only thing I’m missing is a black guitar.”
Apparently Slash is on the song, but it is impossible to tell that he is a talented guitarist and not a computer because he is filtered and pushed so far into the background.
“Rude Boy” is basically a desperate attempt for sex in graphic terms like, “Come here rude boy, can you get it up? Come here rude boy is you big enough?”. It is hard to believe six well-paid individuals wrote this mess. It is basically a series of nonsensical words, which happen to loosely rhyme.
“Wait Your Turn” features a Rihanna actually from Barbados. It jarringly switches from minor to major keys, which ultimately reinforces her singing style, even though it is distracting.
It is not particularly well written, but the sound design and production redeem it. The main idea of the song is not expressed very clearly, except for the lyric, “it’s best that you just wait your turn.” The song makes the most sense if directed at her fans, but for someone who depends on those people, that’s not a nice thing to say.
“G4L,” meaning “gangster for life,” would really be the only song that could be directed to Chris Brown. It does not say how weak he is, but rather how strong she is. The song does not go much deeper than that, but again, it is the sound design and production that draw the listener in.
The album is mostly dark, thematically and critically. There are really only three songs worth note, “Wait Your Turn,” “Hard” and “G4L.” The rest of the album is just dark for the sake of being dark without lyrical justification. Neither Rihanna, nor any of the multitudes of writers, do not give much cause to this rebel.
To her credit, there is no obviously Chris Brown-inspired song, which would have been expected. However, the songs that are here do not really do anything. The few interesting spots are wholly dragged down by the stupidity of the entire endeavor.