Rihanna | Rated R

Def Jam (2009)
By MIKAEL WOOD  |  December 2, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars

0912_riri_main

Look, it’s not as if there were a song where she says, “Chris Brown, you chicken-shit motherfucker, your ass is gonna pay.” But you don’t have to listen to Rated R with a decoder ring to hear the after-effects of Brown’s heinous assault on Rihanna during a Grammy-night altercation earlier this year. “What you did to me was a crime,” sings the 21-year-old Barbados native in “Cold Case Love,” a gorgeously spacy future-soul ballad co-written by Justin Timberlake. In “G4L,” over a minor-key, goth-punk synth lick, she seethes, “I lick the gun when I’m done, ’cause I know that revenge is sweet.” Throughout this emotional maelstrom of an R&B album, Rihanna keeps finding gripping new ways to transform regret into a kind of threat.

No one who’s taken her seriously since she emerged in 2005 with the appealingly unserious “Pon de Replay” should be surprised by her turn toward stark industrial textures. From the beginning, she’s proved herself wary of defining her style too narrowly.

What does surprise about Rated R is the degree to which she takes the dark, often jagged arrangements (by Ne-Yo, Stargate, and The-Dream & Tricky Stewart, among others) as a license to sully the good-girl image she only played at sullying on 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad. “Got my middle finger up, I don’t really give a fuck,” she sings in “Rockstar 101,” a grinding, grunge-crunk collaboration with Slash. After the year she’s had, why should she?

  Topics: CD Reviews , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Entertainment,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MIKAEL WOOD
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS | FURTHER  |  July 07, 2010
    Astralwerks (2010)
  •   DEVO | SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY  |  July 01, 2010
    Given the theory of de-evolution these Ohio brainiacs began expounding more than 30 years ago, it makes a sad kind of sense that Devo's first album since 1990's Smooth Noodle Maps offers such a charmless, base-level version of the band's synth-addled new wave.
  •   TAIO CRUZ | ROKSTARR  |  June 24, 2010
    When Taio Cruz sings, "I can't live without you," in "Take Me Back," pop-song conventions tell us he's referring to a lover.
  •   THE FUTUREHEADS | THE CHAOS  |  June 16, 2010
    "I wish that I could stop the noise," sings Barry Hyde not long into The Chaos . It sure doesn't seem that way.
  •   BETTYE LAVETTE | INTERPRETATIONS: THE BRITISH ROCK SONGBOOK  |  June 01, 2010
    Bettye LaVette’s previous two albums had titles that required a little digging to unpack.

 See all articles by: MIKAEL WOOD