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The Guardian
You don't even have to listen to Rihanna's seventh album to set alarm bells ringing. You merely have to look at its track listing. There, sandwiched between a collaboration with singer Mikky Ekko called Stay and the intriguingly titled Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary comes track 10: Nobody's Business (feat. Chris Brown). Uh-oh.

If nothing else, Nobody's Business is – if you'll pardon the phrase – one in the eye for the kind of person who tells you modern pop music has nothing new to offer: it's hard to think of another perky disco-house number featuring a victim of domestic abuse duetting with her abuser about how perfect their relationship is. "Could we become love's persona?" they coo, prompting the answer: no you probably can't, because three years ago, one of you beat the other one up so savagely he left her with major contusions either side of her face, a bloody nose, a split lip and bite marks on her arms and fingers, an incident she told police was symptomatic of an "ongoing and escalating abusive relationship".

You'd listen to Nobody's Business with your jaw on the floor if you weren't well primed for what to expect. Vast swathes of Unapologetic's lyrics appear to be concerned with Rihanna and Brown's relationship. You get a lot of stuff about how exciting dangerous men are, the appeal of affairs that are wrong but feel right, how no one else can match up to him. "I pray that love don't strike twice," offers Love Without Tragedy, again inviting an inevitable response: you want to pray your ghastly on-off boyfriend doesn't, either. You could dismiss all this stuff as merely wildly misguided and naive were it not for the fact that elsewhere, Unapologetic actually appears to play on the incident in question.

"Your love hit me to the core, I was fine til you knocked me to the floor," she sings over a loping, drumless reggae rhythm on No Love Allowed. "Dial 911 it's a critical emergency." Rihanna might argue with some justification that a lot of other people have made money from her relationship with Brown, so why shouldn't she? Furthermore, perhaps, she's only telling the truth about how she feels. But that doesn't make hearing it any more edifying. Still, the whole thing must come as quite the spirit-bucking tonic for any listening domestic abusers.

Leaving all that aside to concentrate on the music is a big ask. But it's worth noting that, sonically, Unapologetic is a far more interesting album than its predecessor. Rihanna is as responsible as any artist for the homogenisation of the Top 40 into the same weary pop-dance template. It gets used over and over again because it's commercially successful, and it's been more commercially successful for Rihanna than anyone, providing the basis for S&M, The Only Girl in the World, We Found Love and Where Have You Been. And yet, it's largely absent here, the David Guetta-produced Right Now notwithstanding. That sounds less like a song than a bid to break the world record for cramming current pop cliches into three minutes.

Elsewhere, however, the various producers seem to have been minded to try something different, or at least to rearrange voguish sounds into less familiar shapes. Fresh Off the Runway piles on distorted synthesisers derived from Joey Beltram's 1990 rave classic Mentasm until it sounds weird and disorientating. What Now attempts to weld a walloping brostep drop to a sensitive acoustic guitar and piano ballad with suitably peculiar results: there's a fantastic moment towards the end where producer Ighile throws in a widdly-woo guitar solo, apparently in the mistaken belief that the track wasn't yet preposterous enough.

During its best moments, you're struck by the suspicion that Unapologetic's producers might be trying to undercut the lyrical content. Numb apparently returns to the subject of Rihanna's personal life – "Can't tell me nothin' … I don't care, get closer to me if you dare" – but the music doesn't sound defiant: it lurches and drags along, an oppressive mass of slowed-down voices and grating electronics. Pour It Up's invitation to splash your cash in a strip club is set to a weird, disjointed, gloopy backdrop: it doesn't sound like much fun there, a sensation compounded by a particularly dead-eyed vocal. You get another one of those on Jump, ostensibly an unmissable invitation to frenetic sexual activity in Rihanna's boudoir, rendered intriguingly weird by her delivery. "Ride my pony, my saddle is waiting," she sings, blankly, as if she finds the prospect of frenetic sexual activity only marginally more attractive than having a verruca frozen off.

So there's stuff here that's worth hearing, if you could untangle the music from the artist's personal life. But you can't, and furthermore, you get the feeling that the artist doesn't want you to. Perhaps it's quite a cold and canny move masquerading as an outpouring of unpalatable emotion, playing on the public's prurient interest in her love life. Perhaps that's too cynical. Either way, for all its musical value, listening to Unapologetic is a pretty depressing experience. Rating: 3/5 [SOURCE]

Six albums in as many years is impressive by anyone’s standards - but how does Rihanna's seventh effort hold up? - The Mirror

Like Hurricane Sandy and Honey Boo Boo, Brand Rihanna is unstoppable. With daily updates on the state of her hair (do we like the bob?), her deeply troubling relationship with both Chris Brown (why?) and her tattoo artist (why?), we are obsessed. But as our interest in her grows, the quality of her albums has been slowly shrinking.

Six albums in as many years is impressive by anyone’s standards, but her last, 2011’s Talk That Talk, was erratic and uneven. Back then, she sounded a bit bored, as if she’d rather be at home curled up on the sofa watching a box set of Downton Abbey and leafing through Chat magazine. So how does album number seven hold up?

Well, in the spirit of 2010’s Loud, she’s gone for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.

Stately mid-tempo single Diamonds aside, the first half of Unapologetic finds Rihanna mining the winning, morning-after-the-night-before formula of her former musical partner Drake.

The ridiculously voweled Loveeeeeee Song even features co-vocalist Future evoking Drizzy’s regretful tone, while the excellent Chase & Status co-production Jump picks up the noirish Dubstep baton of last year’s Red Lipstick.

If this run of tracks has a darkly hued brilliance to it, the second half of the album finds Ri-Ri flipping through more styles than Lady Gaga at a sample sale. There’s Reggaeton (No Love Allowed), 8-bit synth (Get It Over With) and the inevitable David Guetta-assisted banger (Right Now), all executed with varying degrees of success. Tellingly she sounds most alive on the Chris Brown duet Nobody’s Business.

Taken as a whole, Unapologetic is a mixed bag. With a distinct lack of classic songs – there’s no We Found Love, let alone an Umbrella – she’s delivered just enough to keep Brand Rihanna chugging along.

But there’s a growing sense that the golden age of Rihanna The Pop Star has passed. Rating: 3/5 [SOURCE]

The Telegraph
The seventh album in seven years from the hardest working (& hardest partying) woman in pop. Rihanna records vocals on the road to backing tracks created by hot songwriter-producers like David Guetta & Stargate. Hardly surprising it’s a mixed bag. For the first half, melodious vocals sweeten pushy dance club tracks full of abrasively ear catching sound effects and often weirdly off centre beats. The second half switches to ballads, disco, reggae and naff rock for a gob-smacking defence of her confused love for R’n’B star Chris Brown, who notoriously beat her up in 2009. Breezily defiant disco duet Nobody’s Business suggest these two ridiculous narcissists deserve each other but tortured ballad suite Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary introduces shades of self-doubt into pop’s least edifying yet most compelling soap opera.

Download this: Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary [SOURCE]

Bigger Than the Sound takes a closer look at Rihanna's seventh album, on which her personal life becomes incredibly public. - MTV

For better or worse, how you end up feeling about Rihanna's Unapologetic album will probably come down to one question: How do you feel about Rihanna?Are you in awe of her work ethic, which, at this point, is verging on superhuman (seven albums in seven years is certainly nothing to sneeze at), or have you grown tired of her constant presence in the public eye? Do you think she's shocking, or is she rehashing every salacious moment from the past 30 years of pop?

And ultimately, how do you feel about her rekindled relationship with Chris Brown, which may or may not actually be real, but certainly has garnered no shortage of media attention in recent months?

That last question is perhaps the most important, because whether she intended it or not, Rihanna's on-again/off-again romance with Brown seems to be the biggest inspiration behind Unapologetic, coloring each of its 14 tracks in some way — or, in the case of their duet "Nobodies Business," completely — imbuing the ballads (and there are a lot of them) with a sanguine sadness and the booming club tracks with a defiant swagger. It is, without question, Rihanna's most personal album to date, not to mention her most complex, both emotionally and sonically. Though for all the questions it raises, you don't have to look very far to figure out how Rihanna herself feels about all this: It's written right there on the cover.

Yes, Unapologetic is certainly the most aptly titled album in recent memory. From the rattling electro whomp of tracks like "Fresh Out the Runway" and "Numb" (a stony, snake-charmer jam featuring a killer contribution from Eminem) to the "I choose to be happy" sentiments of first single "Diamonds," Rihanna does things her way, defiantly so. "Jump" and "Right Now" embrace the hard-revving rave-ups and knotty bass lines of dubstep with mixed results (the former, on which she bites lines from Ginuwine's "Pony," is particularly great, while the latter could do with a little less David Guetta); "No Love Allowed" is a lilting, island-tinged tune that recalls Desmond Dekker's "Israelites"; and the handful of ballads — "Stay," "Get It Over With," "Love Without Tragedy," to name a few — pile on the piano with aplomb. Shoot, she even decided to name a track "Loveeeeeee Song," mostly because Jay-Z told her to.

But the most Unapologetic moment is unquestionably "Nobodies Business," her duet with Brown. It will almost certainly be the focal point of every review of the album, and justifiably so. When it was played Friday night at the 40/40 Club, the crowd — made up of assorted media types and a large contingent of Rihanna's Navy — responded with loud approval, clearly showing which side of the debate they're on. And yet, depending on your personal feelings about their unrepentant love, hearing the two coo lines like "You'll always be my boy, I'll always be your girl" and "Your love is infectious, let's make out in this Lexus" is slightly disappointing.

Which is why how you feel about Rihanna herself will probably determine how you feel about Unapologetic. It goes beyond mere music and raises no shortage of questions about the complexities of love (or lust) and life in the public eye. If you support Rihanna and her decisions, then you will no doubt delight in delving into the album's lyrical depths. If you worry about the example she's setting by openly — and defiantly — embracing the man who assaulted her four years ago, then you're going to have a difficult time with most, if not all, of the record. That may not be fair, but it's inevitable.

Then again, one gets the suspicion that Rihanna doesn't care either way. She's making her private life available for public consumption, and doing so proudly. And because of that, she's turned in the most complex album of her (still young) career, one on which she takes risks, pushes boundaries and opens up like never before. Bold? Brazen? Have a listen and call it what you will. Though there's no doubt why she decided to call it Unapologetic. [SOURCE]

EXAMINER: Rihanna found her voice again on latest studio album

It feels like every 6 months, Barbadian popstar and marijuana field-dweller Rihanna is announcing a new album and the groans and half-hearted cheers are heard throughout the nation. “Unapologetic” is Rihanna’s 7th studio album, an impressive feat for an artist so young or it would be if only half of said albums were actually good.

After one listen of the latest album however, we can firmly put “Unapologetic” in the Pretty Damn Good category. It kicks off with “Fresh Off the Runway,” a sassy number that pulls the best of Rihanna with superb production, which her albums are usually good for. What they’re not good for is the assertion of Rihanna’s personality, which she failed to produce on her last two albums, “Loud” and “Talk That Talk.”

But with this record, Rihanna seems to have found her voice again, the one that was stamped out of her after “Rated R.” Eminem seems to really love the potty-mouthed singer because why else would he allow such a weak feature on “Numb,” a song that doesn’t live up to its star power. “Diamonds” is one of those tracks that grow on you, because on the surface it isn’t the typical in-your-face Rihanna, but easily one of the most mature songs she’s come out with to date.

“Pour It Up” and “Loveeeee Song” featuring Future are regrettable fillers only because they keep the listener from going straight to easily the most fun song on the album: “Jump.” Using samples from ‘90s songs are becoming more and more of a thing and no one seems to mind. When you mash up Ginuwine and EDM with Rihanna’s sultry tones, you get something so dirty and magical. It’s a song that is just itching for the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

David Guetta finally did something right when he decided to produce “Right Now” (IDTS) and more than ever, you can physically see Rihanna blossoming into her own person. The last half of the album is an up and down swing with a surprising unRihanna-like double song “Love Without Tragedy – Mother Mary.” It tells a story so heart-wrenching that you have to listen to it in pieces. Maybe 17 people on the planet actually know who Mikky Ekko is but wherever he is, thank him for the beautiful “Stay.”

Ending the album is “Lost in Paradise,” which again made this reviewer ask a question that was frequent while listening to this new record: Who the hell is this girl? The song is the best possible way to end the album. It’s caught in between a throbbing club banger and a heartfelt ballad. Rihanna comes off so strong on “Unapologetic,” which means she and her team actually worked hard on it. The direction she’s going in now is utter perfection and she deserves high praise for this smooth and memorable effort. 8.7/10 [SOURCE]

Rihanna – ‘Unapologetic’ Track-by-Track Album Review

With 11 number one singles under her belt, Rihanna readies the release of her seventh studio album ‘Unapologetic’ for Monday, November 19th. While I could not bring my heart to love her last effort ‘Talk That Talk’, maybe the new LP can recapture my faith.

Rihanna pulled some huge names for the production of ‘Unapologetic’, including the likes of David Guetta, No I.D., Ne-Yo, The-Dream, Sia, and a plethora of other artists.

How did all of their efforts fare? Let’s dive into The Honesty Hour’s track-by-track review of Rihanna’s new album, beginning with “Phresh Out the Runway”.

Phresh Out the Runway
‘Unapologetic’ opens with this cocky, urban-flavored track. Rihanna sets the mood of the album with energy and confidence, boasting, “How could you be so hood/ But you so f–king pop?/ How could you be so fun/ And sound like you selling rocks?” While some may be drawn to its catchiness, there is too much going on. However, this makes a great workout song. 2/5

“Diamonds” is the lead single from ‘Unapologetic,’ and its success (peaking at number 2 on the Hot 100) has given Rihanna a promising start to her new era. Simple and free-flowing, “Diamonds” is beautiful song that is easy to sing along to and is relatively different from the trendy music Rihanna typically releases. 3.5/5

Numb (feat. Eminem)
Eminem assists on Rihanna’s “Numb” and although his verse is pretty solid, it does not help the song much. Basically, this song is Rihanna singing, “I’m going numb/ I’m going numb” repeatedly on the hook, and it sort of makes me numb. It’s not exactly a bad song, but it just doesn’t have all the “meat” it needs. 2.5/5

Power It Up
Rihanna gets a little ratchet on “Power It Up”, a mid-tempo urban track that is perfect for the strip clubs (I’d assume). The singer is still as confident as ever, rapping, “All I see is dollar signs/ Money, money on my mind/ Throw it, throw it up/ Watch it fall from the sky.” Who doesn’t like being ratchet sometimes? 3.5/5

Loveeeee Song (feat. Future)
I’m going to get this out of the way and say I don’t really know who Future is, but he joins Rihanna on this dirty-dance-inducing song. The beat on “Loveeeee” is slow and reclined, while the pair sings lovingly to each other. 3/5

Rihanna fuses pop and R&B together seamlessly on “Jump”, sampling 90s singer Ginuwine’s “Pony” in the chorus. Ms. Fenty is ready and willing as she demands, “If you want it/ Let’s do it/ Ride it/ My pony/ My saddle is ready/ Come and jump on it.” This song is definitely a contender to be a single. Really, it would smash on urban radio and Top 40. 4/5

Right Now (feat. David Guetta)
While the demo of “Right Now” featuring vocals from Ne-Yo surfaced this summer, Rihanna snatched this David Guetta track right up and put her name on it. The bass-heavy dance anthem is perfect for the clubbing folk, and I’d expect to see the song shimmy all the way up the Dance/Club Play Songs chart. 3/5

What Now
What’s that I hear? Rihanna is trying to step up her vocal game?! “What Now” changes up the pace of the album, getting slower, emotional and vulnerable. Rihanna pours her heart out on this ballad and its a great reminder that she actually sings. 4/5

Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko)
Another emotional ballad, Rihanna continues to open up and show her soft side. I really love how her and Mikky’s voices blend on the record, and I’m glad Rihanna doesn’t try anything too fancy by staying within her range. I wish the harmonies were perfected a tad more, but it’ll do for now. 3.5/5

Nobody’s Business (feat. Chris Brown)
Clearly, Rihanna knows that controversy has been helpful in her career, so why stop it now? For the third time this year, the singer collaborates with her “friend” Chris Brown and they are letting you know that their relationship is nobody’s business. Sampling Michael Jackson, Rihanna and Chris balance each other on the electrifying “Business.” But, I had to remind myself that it wasn’t Chris’ song by the time it was over. 4/5

Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary
Another old-school-inspired track, Rihanna coos,”what’s love without tragedy,” as the beat pulsates in the background. Suddenly, things get even slower with “Mother Mary” and it makes me sad for a second. It sounds cute, but boring. (redacted for flop opinion) 3/5

Get It Over With
Lalala, I am bored with this one, too. It sounds pretty interesting but I’m not that used to these slow songs from Rihanna. I am ready to…well, get it over with. To be fair, she sounds lovely. Who is the mystery male singing background vocals? Is it Chr..nevermind. 3/5

No Love Allowed
A Rihanna album would not be complete without a Caribbean-eque track that highlights her unique twang (i.e. “Man Down”, “Watch n’ Learn”). This song is very relaxing and reminds me that I am due for a vacation. 3/5

Lost in Paradise
The album is winding down and “Lost in Paradise” carries us home from a wild night out. Still, Rihanna finds herself at a crossroad in her love life but fortunately, the thumping beat is drowning her sorrows. A nice ending to a solid project and I’m impressed.

  • Refill: Jump, Nobody’s Business
  • Refund: Phresh Out the Runway, Numb0

In sum, I enjoyed Rihanna’s effort this time around. While ‘Unapologetic’ was just as rushed as her last album ‘Talk That Talk’, this one seemed more coherent and polished. I feel that Rihanna is on to something here. There is a bit more substance here than there has been since her ‘Rated R’ and I can tell that she is finally maturing musically.

Really, it seems like her best material comes at times when she is intertwined in sticky love situations.

Before we conclude, I just have one small question: How come Rihanna neither wrote nor co-wrote a single song on the album? Okay, let’s not ruin the moment. Total: 3/5 [SOURCE]

Rihanna, 'Unapologetic' -- Read EW's review of her new record here
Just how controversial is Rihanna’s new album? That depends on how worked up you get about rhyme schemes like this: “Your love is infectious / Let’s make out in this Lexus.”

She might’ve stirred up headlines by inviting her ex Chris Brown—the same guy who, you might remember, gave her a black eye three years ago—to sing that pick-up line on “Nobody’s Business,” which borrows its title (and its ’80s R&B sound) from Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” But it doesn’t sound like she has forgiven him just yet. “Your love hit me to the core,” she moans on the woozy reggae track “No Love Allowed.” “I was fine until you knocked me to the floor.”

Clearly, Rihanna’s in a more somber mood on Unapologetic. Even the dance songs feel dark: she has traded the upbeat Eurodisco romps of last year’s Talk That Talk for screwed vocals (“Phresh Our the Runway”) and dubstep-warped bangers (“Jump,” which nods to Ginuwine’s equestrian-love classic “Pony”).

And she’s experimenting with more ballads, tapping into her Thom Yorke side by the piano (the SNL-approved ballad “Stay,” which features Mikky Ekko) and working through some tortured, ripped-from-my-diary confessions (“Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary”). “You took the best years of my life,” she sings on the latter song, “But what’s love without tragedy?”
Is she talking about Brown? Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter.

The most shocking thing here is how vulnerable she sounds.

  • GRADE: B+
  • BEST TRACKS: Diamonds, Jump [SOURCE]


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