Rihanna : Unapologetic

(Def Jam Records)

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Rihanna is performer second at this point. Her attention-getting performance is the problematic relationship with Chris Brown and her desire to fulfill stereotypes. Even her music draws attention to the relationship; her previous single was “We Found Love,” a cathartic jaunt about broken and drug-fueled love. The name of this album is Unapologetic (while her counterpart is releasing an album called Don’t Judge Me). The album includes a single called “Nobody’s Business” on which RiRi and Brown talk about their special and unique abusive relationship which can’t be classified by normal societal standards. It is special.

All this, plus the gross, scantily clad pictures that make their way around the internet obscure the fact that RiRi’s latest release is a good pop album. “Diamonds,” the lead single, shows off the artist’s vocal range while playing with a socially relevant topic (though to be fair, Rihanna seems like the least self-aware pop artist, who employs stereotypes and imagery that are appropriate, but then also very confusing given her context.) The best part is the underlying vocal contrasted with the deeper hook. “Diamonds” is reason enough to listen to the whole album.

The overal tone of the album is a commentary on what pop has become. There are sampled reggae or tropical moments which speak to Rihanna’s country of origin, and for which she is a cultural ambassador. There are R&B moments of growing vocals and dance beats that are just slow enough, EDM elements that verge on dubstep, and serene pop and piano pieces.

It’s hard to disentangle the social context from this album. “Nobodys Business” is a disgusting piece to consider. “Your love is perfection… your touch is infectious,” really where is the self awareness. And then having Brown come on and sing “It ain’t nobody’s business,” doesn’t help the cause. Rihanna needs to tread carefully to avoid becoming a stereotype, and a poor feminist example.

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