Posted: Wednesday – November 25, 2009

[rating=5]

Regardless of not putting out a new feature length album in more than two years, Rihanna has managed to steal headlines on a regular basis. After much anticipation, she’s back with her third album, Rated R. Coming off the success of her sophomore album, Good Girl Gone Bad, which featured five top 10 records, including three number 1 songs in the United States, much has been made of the type of sound Rihanna would go with for this album. This question comes amid Rihanna’s noticeable change in attitude from pop princess to edgier sex symbol. The answer is a sound that is definitely nothing she’s done before, whether that be good or bad.

The album starts off with the record Mad House, a short introduction produced by Chase & Status, who also were in charge of the production of two other records on the album, G4L as well as the song that became the theme of the viral promotion for Rated R, Wait Your Turn. These songs all have an electronica feel that we’ve never heard from Rihanna. These songs, in addition to the Young Jeezy-assisted Hard and Rockstar 101, which was co-written by The-Dream and featuring Slash of Guns-N-Roses fame playing the guitar, have a distinct sound that can make for hit records but aren’t necessarily what fans of Rihanna listen to her for.

Rihanna doesn’t stray from the formula the entire album however. Recruiting writing help from the likes of multi-Grammy Award winning artists Ne-Yo and Justin Timberlake, Rihanna earns her stripes with songs like Stupid In Love, Cold Case Love, as well as the lead single Russian Roulette. These songs are reminiscent of Unfaithful from her debut album or Cry from Good Girl Gone Bad, which emotionally reach out to her fans while still retaining their replay value. Russian Roulette, co-produced by Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony, is actually one of Rihanna’s best songs ever and is great at not being a dark song for the sake of being dark, and making a brilliant picture of the love story within the song.

This album, however, isn’t without its major missteps however. The way the tracklisting is set up, it seems that all of the worst cuts are located on the second half of the album. Rude Boy, while having club appeal, seems like a song that is out of place, in addition to being one of the weakest songs on the album lyrically. G4L, Fire Bomb and The Last Song are all easily forgettable songs in the mist of the album. The will.i.am written, produced and featured song Photographs however, is by far the worst track on the album. Essentially a carbon-copy of the majority of the tracks on The Black Eyed Peas’s most recent album, this track seems terribly forced, not to mention will.i.am’s singing, taking away from Rihanna’s actual performance on the song.

While Rated R doesn’t necessarily have the same sound we are used to from Rihanna, she doesn’t do a bad job at making the sound her own. Aside from a few mediocre songs that are littered in the project, it definitely does strike gold with a few of the records where she finds a niche and runs with it. Hopefully, as Rihanna continues to grow as an artist, she can weed out more of the filler tracks and make the epic songs that we’ll remember her for.

- By Ivan Lora