Rihanna: Loud

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Posted February 4, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Ri’s naughty-and-nice regimen ensues on fifth record

Five albums into her career and Rihanna manages to remain strongly relevant. Even at the tender young age of 22, she’s proven to be a trooper; getting more done in her short tenure than most pop divas do in a lifetime. And although her vocal skills – a blend of Caribbean swagger and saucy R&B – aren’t up to code with most soul songstresses, she manages to find the right production – oozing with killer club-driven beats – keeping her profile looking ever so radiant. 2009’s Rated R, Ri’s fourth record, was a creative piece of work and it remains her most ambitious LP to date. Although dark and eerily brooding, she managed to challenge her artistry with songs loaded with escapism and mystery. It made her a bit more interesting, even if “Rude Boy,” the album’s naughty-nice radio-ready single, was enough evidence to proof once and for all that Rihanna’s only great when the producer is greater. Loud doesn’t quite respond like the follow-up it should be, but its return to her dancehall ethic and its uptempos are a decent, although highly predictable transition for her. She’s over her singing ex, and she’s back to pumping out infectious StarGate dance-pop.

“S&M” uses a cherry-like rouge on an aggressively sexed-up girl anthem, much like “Rude Boy. The sweetened cosmetics of the “na-na-na-c’mon” tag, a whizzy ’80’s disco strut and playful lyrics (“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me”) get the party started. “Only Girl (In the World),” with its four-on-the-floor Eurodance beats and laser synths, keeps those energetic rhythms going. A vocal reprise of “Love the Way You Lie” and the Drake-guested “What’s My Name” are deliciously planted into the set, while the reggae-infused “Man Down”  and the spirited Nicki Minaj cameo on “Raining Men” possesses a surprising share of good moments.

When she decides to breeze things up, she copes with decent pop ballads like the Enya-sampled “Fading” and the Taylor Swift-esque “California King (Bed).” In the end, Rihanna is comforted with pleasing sounds laden with synthy bravado and inescapable hooks. It’s a good look on her, especially in the realm of pop radio. She carries most of that charm over to the album, even if it feels more like a temptational sampler of half-baked Rihanna at times. Despite sounding too safe in her environment and trying out even newer styles and genres, the bulk of the cameos take away from Ri’s starlight and the album needs more of what “Rude Boy” started. Even with the few gripes in place, Loud is still a positive footnote in Rihanna’s catalog. She wants to grow as an artist and she’s doing it unashamedly and loudly in front of her fans.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 12 November 2010
  • Label: Def Jam
  • Producers: StarGate, Cal Sturken, Alex da Kid, Polow da Don, the Runners, Tricky Stewart, Sandy Vee, Sham, Mel & Mus, Soundz
  • Spin This: “Only Girl (In the World),” “What’s My Name?,” ”S&M,” “California King Bed”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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