The Rihanna of old was a perfectly nice girl with long flowing locks and a liking for harmless, middle of the road R&B such as If It’s Loving That You Want. Then of course, she upped her game and became a spearhead for exciting, rain-based pop that left everybody wondering what she would do next.
Her last album Rated R was Rihanna letting us all know, after the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex Chris Brown, that she was by no means a victim. It was littered with swear words and assertions about how she is ‘tougher than a lion’ and though it spawned some brilliant pop moments (Fire Bomb, anyone?) the act wore thin after a while.
So when Rihanna cut her hair and dyed it a shocking shade of red earlier this year, we knew that she was back and ready to fight for that Queen of Pop title once more. Loud is the bombastic, Technicolor Rihanna, taking the gritty grime stylings of Rating R and combining them with the widely successful pop feel of Good Girl Gone Bad, her biggest album to date and the album that spawned hit after hit of irresistible pop goodness – including Umbrella, Please Don’t Stop The Music and Shut Up And Drive.
The result is an album full of exciting R&B that lies confidently on a bed of luscious pop music, such as the recent #1 Only Girl (In The World) that really does mark a return to form. The album is more of the same, proving why Rihanna currently sits on the top of the pop heap.
Highlights include the swaggering Man Down, in which Rihanna laments her killing of a man that she didn’t mean to kill in her distinctive Barbadian voice, and What’s My Name, which recalls Te Amo from her last album, and is a sweet sounding song taken to an acceptable Rihanna style-level with dirty lyrics and Drake rapping on about how he wants her to wear his name out (ooh err!).
Some songs let Rihanna down, however, with Cheers (Drink to That) ruined by an irritating Avril Lavigne sample on what is otherwise quite a good song. Likewise, the addition of girl-of-the-moment Nicki Minaj somewhat spoils Raining Men, making it sound try-hard and desperate instead of fierce like Rihanna no doubt originally intended.
Rihanna, then, really shines when she is left to showcase that impressive voice and personality (see S&M, California King Bed and Complicated), with the exception of the closing track, Love The Way You Lie Part II, in which Rihanna gives her version of the massive hit she sang on earlier this year with Eminem, who pops up here giving his own emotionally-fraught verse in that genius way only Eminem can.
Rihanna is like an entirely new person, totally different from her Rated R incarnation, and all the better for it. Loud is a great step towards the feisty, euphoric popstar it seems Rihanna was always meant to be.
Download: Only Girl (In The World), Man Down, Love The Way You Lie Part II