At this point, Rihanna’s personal life has become the open book that no one actually asked to read, but is too baffling of a curiosity to ignore. I was thinking about her tattoos and her poorly developed relationships one day, when I remembered that she actually did music too.
Imagine my shock when I discovered that she had an album coming out, “Unapologetic”, and everyone was so fixated on her questionable choices that no one really cared about her occupation. But, I mean, who would?
When you reach a certain rung of the entertainment industry ladder, the thing that made you famous sort of becomes null, and the way you wear a shirt becomes ten times more fascinating to the public.
That’s not what makes her new album “Unapologetic” so forgettable, though. At first I was uninterested because I saw that her recent remix with Chris Brown, “Birthday Cake”, wasn’t on it. I know this song was originally featured as an interlude on her sixth album, “Talk That Talk,” but the additions to it make it a completely new entity. Now, if you’re unaware, “Birthday Cake” is a bizarre tune that is sort of about birthday cakes, but mostly about semen.
It’s this weird beast of innuendo that, when combined with the mental image of a large, frosting slathered, candle covered pastry, is turned into this gross, intriguing mess. Add this to the fact that she did it with singer Brown, who hasn’t seen a birthday cake since the time he blew out the candles and then tore the cake apart for checking his text messages, and you get a perfect storm of weird.
As bad as the remix was, I kind of wish that the album was full of more things like that. With “Birthday Cake,” you had a song that you could actually produced an emotive response, most of them emotions dealing with how much you never wanted to have sex ever again after listening to it. Instead, Rihanna’s new album, features artists like Eminem, Future, Chris Brown, and, most prominently, bored lyrics and the same uninspired content, is plagued with the same problems that have constantly marred Rihanna’s output as of late.
The hit single from it, “Diamonds”, feels like every new song we’ve heard from her already. The opening track “Phresh Out The Runway” is spelled in that cool fashion to let you know you’re going to hate listening to it, and her vocals on it are so drowned out by the beat that you’ll wonder why someone didn’t shake the microphone and mixer to wake them up.
An earlier collaboration with Eminem, the infinitely replayed, though not by any choice of the radio audience, “Love The Way You Lie”, was fun in the cartoonish nature of its lyrics and the absurdly dumb subject matter. Her new song “Numb,” is a trudging, sluggish thing, in which Eminem makes jokes about butts and his voice is so tampered with that you wonder what Eminem did to make the production team hate him so much. Also the track features Eminem repeating lines from “Love The Way You Lie,” which is the most angry action committed against earth people that isn’t an Old Testament flood.
“Pour It Up” continues the trek into this wasteland of inefficient rhythms and verses, and it ends just as it’s about to get unbearable in its seemingly lazy execution. The next track “Love Song”, is actually pretty good, and would be a standout on the album if they could take out all the yodeling that Future seems to be doing in the background. Listen to the way his bellows are echoed and try to enjoy them, against all odds. Then, the next time someone asks you to defend pop music and your music spending habits, you’ll be shamefully embarrassed.
“Jump” has a few softcore dubstep bridges and “Right Now” is saved because whenever David Guetta sneezes, an awesome beat clings to the tissue. “What Now” is a serviceable emotional number, featuring garbled, vague lyrics that every song about relationships seems to attract recently. “Stay” is sort of strong and “Nobody’s Business”, featuring Chris Brown, seems to be a defiant outcry against people with cameras, questions and little concern for defiant outcries.
“Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary” is seven minutes long, so, even if you didn’t buy the album, you’ve probably skipped past this track anyway. “Get It Over With” has a title that seems to speak to the repetitive nature of the album itself. “No Love Allowed” might be my favorite song out of this entire affair, simply because of how much it doesn’t sound like the other songs, and because it’s actually pretty fun to listen to.
The final track “Lost In Paradise” is weaponized dullness. With lyrics like “It may be wrong but it feels right, to be lost in paradise, “ it’s as if the writers of it had a “Big Book of Emotional Cliches” lying around and whenever writer’s block struck them, they’d go directly to Page Something which reads the same thing as all the other pages.
However, the biggest problem, overall, with the album, is that Rihanna has always had a grandiose manner when performing her music. She does everything in a big way, whether it be her words or the music behind them. However, since most of the songs on this album are a huge statement about love, and since we’ve come to learn that Rihanna doesn’t seem to always choose the most favorable path concerning that subject, her music is inextricably linked to what’s happening in the real world. She’s so exposed that no matter what she does, she can’t escape the fact that, regardless of the things she’s declaring, the dirty splotch that is her personal problems is going to bleed through.
Everything she puts out is going to seem like a fake attempt to put lipstick on a pig, and cover up things just enough so that the listener can enjoy the album. Rihanna isn’t a terrible singer. However, because of her appearance in the public’s eye, she’ll never be able to release another song without people looking for insight as to what it means regarding her mental state and its relation to the people she keeps close.