3:14 pm - 11/16/2012

Reviews are in: Unapologetic haunted by Chris Brown, but generally okay.

The Guardian
You don't even have to listen to Rihanna's seventh album to set alarm bells ringing. You merely have to look at its track listing. There, sandwiched between a collaboration with singer Mikky Ekko called Stay and the intriguingly titled Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary comes track 10: Nobody's Business (feat. Chris Brown). Uh-oh.

If nothing else, Nobody's Business is – if you'll pardon the phrase – one in the eye for the kind of person who tells you modern pop music has nothing new to offer: it's hard to think of another perky disco-house number featuring a victim of domestic abuse duetting with her abuser about how perfect their relationship is. "Could we become love's persona?" they coo, prompting the answer: no you probably can't, because three years ago, one of you beat the other one up so savagely he left her with major contusions either side of her face, a bloody nose, a split lip and bite marks on her arms and fingers, an incident she told police was symptomatic of an "ongoing and escalating abusive relationship".

You'd listen to Nobody's Business with your jaw on the floor if you weren't well primed for what to expect. Vast swathes of Unapologetic's lyrics appear to be concerned with Rihanna and Brown's relationship. You get a lot of stuff about how exciting dangerous men are, the appeal of affairs that are wrong but feel right, how no one else can match up to him. "I pray that love don't strike twice," offers Love Without Tragedy, again inviting an inevitable response: you want to pray your ghastly on-off boyfriend doesn't, either. You could dismiss all this stuff as merely wildly misguided and naive were it not for the fact that elsewhere, Unapologetic actually appears to play on the incident in question.

"Your love hit me to the core, I was fine til you knocked me to the floor," she sings over a loping, drumless reggae rhythm on No Love Allowed. "Dial 911 it's a critical emergency." Rihanna might argue with some justification that a lot of other people have made money from her relationship with Brown, so why shouldn't she? Furthermore, perhaps, she's only telling the truth about how she feels. But that doesn't make hearing it any more edifying. Still, the whole thing must come as quite the spirit-bucking tonic for any listening domestic abusers.

Leaving all that aside to concentrate on the music is a big ask. But it's worth noting that, sonically, Unapologetic is a far more interesting album than its predecessor. Rihanna is as responsible as any artist for the homogenisation of the Top 40 into the same weary pop-dance template. It gets used over and over again because it's commercially successful, and it's been more commercially successful for Rihanna than anyone, providing the basis for S&M, The Only Girl in the World, We Found Love and Where Have You Been. And yet, it's largely absent here, the David Guetta-produced Right Now notwithstanding. That sounds less like a song than a bid to break the world record for cramming current pop cliches into three minutes. Elsewhere, however, the various producers seem to have been minded to try something different, or at least to rearrange voguish sounds into less familiar shapes. Fresh Off the Runway piles on distorted synthesisers derived from Joey Beltram's 1990 rave classic Mentasm until it sounds weird and disorientating. What Now attempts to weld a walloping brostep drop to a sensitive acoustic guitar and piano ballad with suitably peculiar results: there's a fantastic moment towards the end where producer Ighile throws in a widdly-woo guitar solo, apparently in the mistaken belief that the track wasn't yet preposterous enough.

During its best moments, you're struck by the suspicion that Unapologetic's producers might be trying to undercut the lyrical content. Numb apparently returns to the subject of Rihanna's personal life – "Can't tell me nothin' … I don't care, get closer to me if you dare" – but the music doesn't sound defiant: it lurches and drags along, an oppressive mass of slowed-down voices and grating electronics. Pour It Up's invitation to splash your cash in a strip club is set to a weird, disjointed, gloopy backdrop: it doesn't sound like much fun there, a sensation compounded by a particularly dead-eyed vocal. You get another one of those on Jump, ostensibly an unmissable invitation to frenetic sexual activity in Rihanna's boudoir, rendered intriguingly weird by her delivery. "Ride my pony, my saddle is waiting," she sings, blankly, as if she finds the prospect of frenetic sexual activity only marginally more attractive than having a verruca frozen off.

So there's stuff here that's worth hearing, if you could untangle the music from the artist's personal life. But you can't, and furthermore, you get the feeling that the artist doesn't want you to. Perhaps it's quite a cold and canny move masquerading as an outpouring of unpalatable emotion, playing on the public's prurient interest in her love life. Perhaps that's too cynical. Either way, for all its musical value, listening to Unapologetic is a pretty depressing experience.

Rating: 3/5

Six albums in as many years is impressive by anyone’s standards - but how does Rihanna's seventh effort hold up? - The Mirror

Like Hurricane Sandy and Honey Boo Boo, Brand Rihanna is unstoppable.

With daily updates on the state of her hair (do we like the bob?), her deeply troubling relationship with both Chris Brown (why?) and her tattoo artist (why?), we are obsessed. But as our interest in her grows, the quality of her albums has been slowly shrinking.

Six albums in as many years is impressive by anyone’s standards, but her last, 2011’s Talk That Talk, was erratic and uneven. Back then, she sounded a bit bored, as if she’d rather be at home curled up on the sofa watching a box set of Downton Abbey and leafing through Chat magazine. So how does album number seven hold up?

Well, in the spirit of 2010’s Loud, she’s gone for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.

Stately mid-tempo single Diamonds aside, the first half of Unapologetic finds Rihanna mining the winning, morning-after-the-night-before formula of her former musical partner Drake.

The ridiculously voweled Loveeeeeee Song even features co-vocalist Future evoking Drizzy’s regretful tone, while the excellent Chase & Status co-production Jump picks up the noirish Dubstep baton of last year’s Red Lipstick.

If this run of tracks has a darkly hued brilliance to it, the second half of the album finds Ri-Ri flipping through more styles than Lady Gaga at a sample sale. There’s Reggaeton (No Love Allowed), 8-bit synth (Get It Over With) and the inevitable David Guetta-assisted banger (Right Now), all executed with varying degrees of success. Tellingly she sounds most alive on the Chris Brown duet Nobody’s Business.

Taken as a whole, Unapologetic is a mixed bag. With a distinct lack of classic songs – there’s no We Found Love, let alone an Umbrella – she’s delivered just enough to keep Brand Rihanna chugging along.

But there’s a growing sense that the golden age of Rihanna The Pop Star has passed.

Rating: 3/5


The Telegraph
The seventh album in seven years from the hardest working (& hardest partying) woman in pop. Rihanna records vocals on the road to backing tracks created by hot songwriter-producers like David Guetta & Stargate. Hardly surprising it’s a mixed bag. For the first half, melodious vocals sweeten pushy dance club tracks full of abrasively ear catching sound effects and often weirdly off centre beats. The second half switches to ballads, disco, reggae and naff rock for a gob-smacking defence of her confused love for R’n’B star Chris Brown, who notoriously beat her up in 2009. Breezily defiant disco duet Nobody’s Business suggest these two ridiculous narcissists deserve each other but tortured ballad suite Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary introduces shades of self-doubt into pop’s least edifying yet most compelling soap opera.

Download this: Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary

(No rating given.)

Bigger Than the Sound takes a closer look at Rihanna's seventh album, on which her personal life becomes incredibly public. - MTV

For better or worse, how you end up feeling about Rihanna's Unapologetic album will probably come down to one question: How do you feel about Rihanna?Are you in awe of her work ethic, which, at this point, is verging on superhuman (seven albums in seven years is certainly nothing to sneeze at), or have you grown tired of her constant presence in the public eye? Do you think she's shocking, or is she rehashing every salacious moment from the past 30 years of pop?

And ultimately, how do you feel about her rekindled relationship with Chris Brown, which may or may not actually be real, but certainly has garnered no shortage of media attention in recent months?

That last question is perhaps the most important, because whether she intended it or not, Rihanna's on-again/off-again romance with Brown seems to be the biggest inspiration behind Unapologetic, coloring each of its 14 tracks in some way — or, in the case of their duet "Nobodies Business," completely — imbuing the ballads (and there are a lot of them) with a sanguine sadness and the booming club tracks with a defiant swagger. It is, without question, Rihanna's most personal album to date, not to mention her most complex, both emotionally and sonically. Though for all the questions it raises, you don't have to look very far to figure out how Rihanna herself feels about all this: It's written right there on the cover.

Yes, Unapologetic is certainly the most aptly titled album in recent memory. From the rattling electro whomp of tracks like "Fresh Out the Runway" and "Numb" (a stony, snake-charmer jam featuring a killer contribution from Eminem) to the "I choose to be happy" sentiments of first single "Diamonds," Rihanna does things her way, defiantly so. "Jump" and "Right Now" embrace the hard-revving rave-ups and knotty bass lines of dubstep with mixed results (the former, on which she bites lines from Ginuwine's "Pony," is particularly great, while the latter could do with a little less David Guetta); "No Love Allowed" is a lilting, island-tinged tune that recalls Desmond Dekker's "Israelites"; and the handful of ballads — "Stay," "Get It Over With," "Love Without Tragedy," to name a few — pile on the piano with aplomb. Shoot, she even decided to name a track "Loveeeeeee Song," mostly because Jay-Z told her to.

But the most Unapologetic moment is unquestionably "Nobodies Business," her duet with Brown. It will almost certainly be the focal point of every review of the album, and justifiably so. When it was played Friday night at the 40/40 Club, the crowd — made up of assorted media types and a large contingent of Rihanna's Navy — responded with loud approval, clearly showing which side of the debate they're on. And yet, depending on your personal feelings about their unrepentant love, hearing the two coo lines like "You'll always be my boy, I'll always be your girl" and "Your love is infectious, let's make out in this Lexus" is slightly disappointing.

Which is why how you feel about Rihanna herself will probably determine how you feel about Unapologetic. It goes beyond mere music and raises no shortage of questions about the complexities of love (or lust) and life in the public eye. If you support Rihanna and her decisions, then you will no doubt delight in delving into the album's lyrical depths. If you worry about the example she's setting by openly — and defiantly — embracing the man who assaulted her four years ago, then you're going to have a difficult time with most, if not all, of the record. That may not be fair, but it's inevitable.

Then again, one gets the suspicion that Rihanna doesn't care either way. She's making her private life available for public consumption, and doing so proudly. And because of that, she's turned in the most complex album of her (still young) career, one on which she takes risks, pushes boundaries and opens up like never before. Bold? Brazen? Have a listen and call it what you will. Though there's no doubt why she decided to call it Unapologetic.

(No rating given.)

It feels like every 6 months, Barbadian popstar and marijuana field-dweller Rihanna is announcing a new album and the groans and half-hearted cheers are heard throughout the nation. “Unapologetic” is Rihanna’s 7th studio album, an impressive feat for an artist so young or it would be if only half of said albums were actually good.

After one listen of the latest album however, we can firmly put “Unapologetic” in the Pretty Damn Good category. It kicks off with “Fresh Off the Runway,” a sassy number that pulls the best of Rihanna with superb production, which her albums are usually good for. What they’re not good for is the assertion of Rihanna’s personality, which she failed to produce on her last two albums, “Loud” and “Talk That Talk.”

But with this record, Rihanna seems to have found her voice again, the one that was stamped out of her after “Rated R.” Eminem seems to really love the potty-mouthed singer because why else would he allow such a weak feature on “Numb,” a song that doesn’t live up to its star power. “Diamonds” is one of those tracks that grow on you, because on the surface it isn’t the typical in-your-face Rihanna, but easily one of the most mature songs she’s come out with to date.

“Pour It Up” and “Loveeeee Song” featuring Future are regrettable fillers only because they keep the listener from going straight to easily the most fun song on the album: “Jump.” Using samples from ‘90s songs are becoming more and more of a thing and no one seems to mind. When you mash up Ginuwine and EDM with Rihanna’s sultry tones, you get something so dirty and magical. It’s a song that is just itching for the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

David Guetta finally did something right when he decided to produce “Right Now” (IDTS) and more than ever, you can physically see Rihanna blossoming into her own person. The last half of the album is an up and down swing with a surprising unRihanna-like double song “Love Without Tragedy – Mother Mary.” It tells a story so heart-wrenching that you have to listen to it in pieces. Maybe 17 people on the planet actually know who Mikky Ekko is but wherever he is, thank him for the beautiful “Stay.”

Ending the album is “Lost in Paradise,” which again made this reviewer ask a question that was frequent while listening to this new record: Who the hell is this girl? The song is the best possible way to end the album. It’s caught in between a throbbing club banger and a heartfelt ballad. Rihanna comes off so strong on “Unapologetic,” which means she and her team actually worked hard on it. The direction she’s going in now is utter perfection and she deserves high praise for this smooth and memorable effort.


Honesty Hour review removed by request.

What conclusions have you reached, ONTD? IMO the best parts of these reviews is the Guetta-shade, well deserved. ♥
troy_macclure 16th-Nov-2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
troy_macclure 16th-Nov-2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
ignore me
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