The first listen of Rihanna’s seventh album Unapologetic is a disappointing one. With the exception of single ‘Diamonds’, the first few tracks on the album are a messy cocktail of irritating, synthy dance beats and lazy, repetitive vocals, kicking off with the particularly weak ‘Phresh Out The Runway’ (yeah, that’s how we’re spelling fresh nowadays, squares). It’s a far cry from hit-packed, poptastic Loud and fails even to match up to last album Talk That Talk, which seemed to infuse R&B and dance far more effortlessly.
Not even loveable party prince David Guetta can save the day with seventh track ‘Right Now’, in fact it sounds as if nor he and Rihanna can be bothered, the inevitable pro-longed ‘make the club jump’ beat he lays down is so generic it’s almost jarring. Other big name collaborations on the album include Eminem, with the forgettable ‘Numb’ and of course, the highly anticipated duet with on-off boyfriend/lover/one time abuser Chris Brown. Given the widely reported and controversial nature of their relationship, ‘Nobody’s Business’ feels like it should be a big deal, but…kind of just isn’t. The track itself is vaguely catchy, infused with disco beats and with an unmistakable Michael Jackson influence. The lyrics are obvious and emotionless, implying, unsurprisingly, that their relationship is nobody’s business but theirs. The track feels especially flat as it follows ‘Stay’ a duet with Mikky Ekko which is actually one of the strongest on the album, a simple but pretty ballad in which Rihanna manages to muster up some soul and inject emotion into her vocal.
Aside from Stay, there are other gems to be found on Unapologetic, you just have to want to find them, and if you got some love for RiRi, as I have, you’ll want to try. Number one single Diamonds is real grower and catchy sixth track ‘Jump’ is definitely the strongest dance track. Unusually, the album seems to pick up towards the very end, a place usually reserved for duds or bonus tracks. Catchy reggae tune ‘No Love Allowed’ and smooth but epic sounding dance track ‘Lost In Paradise’ round off the record nicely, however, I get the feeling that had they been featured any of her previous albums they would have been nothing more than filler.
While Unapologetic is certainly not a triumph, there is a certain intrigue to the album. It is curiously free of radio ready singles and invites multiple listens. Rihanna has always seemed uncomfortable with the ‘pop princess’ crown – clear to see in her ‘unapologetic’ endorsement of heavy drinking, casual drug use and destructive relationships, so it is understandable that she may have set out to create something more interesting and experimental than the usual hit machine, but it feels messy, lazy and undefined. In this way, Unapoloegtic may be a wrong step in the right direction for Rihanna.