Prolific pop star Rihanna rolls out her most personal album to date with 'Unapologetic'
Around this time last year, we wrote about Talk That Talk, Rihanna's sixth album. We vividly recall not being thoroughly impressed with the album as we thought it focused too much on smut. The sleeve of her seventh album, Unapologetic, may not do much to change that opinion, but it is in fact the artist's most honest and intimate record, where she lays everything bare _ literally and figuratively.
After the We Found Love mania subsided, the Barbadian diva didn't wait around long to re-establish her name in the charts. Unapologetic's first single, Diamonds, couldn't be better timed, having come out after a heavily rumoured reunion with Chris Brown. ''Find light in the beautiful sea/I chose to be happy/You and I, you and I/We're like diamonds in the sky,'' she sings during the intro. This, of course, does little to comfort those who had been hoping she wouldn't reunite with her ex.
Then there's second single Nobody's Business, a duet with Brown, which not only confirms the rumours, but is also the freshly reunited couple's way of flipping off the world. It may be an uncomfortable listen to most, but there's no denying that it is a pretty catchy tune _ one of the record's best if you're willing to overlook the controversy behind it.
More ''flipping off'' manifests itself in eclectic musical offerings from hip hop (Fresh Off the Runway) and dance (the David Guetta-assisted Right Now) to dubstep (Jump) and dancehall (No Love Allowed). After all, this is still 2012, and nothing screams 2012 better than the bass-heavy, built-for-dancefloor genre that is electronic dance music.
As with most pop records these days, collaborations are obligatory. Rihanna's latest packs in enough familiar names to keep things interesting. Apart from Brown, Eminem returns on Numb _ to a lesser extent (and impact) than his contribution to Love the Way You Lie back in 2010. The most notable collaboration, however, turns out to be with R&B singer Mikky Ekko, who lends his charming crooning to Stay, one of the album's only two piano ballads.
Summing up the record (and, by extension, Rihanna's romantic life) at its best is the brutally honest double track Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary. The first part details the destructive height of her relationship: ''You used to be this boy I loved/And I used to be this girl of your dreams/Who knew the course of this one drive/Injured us fatally.'' She hits the nail on the head, following with the lines: ''You took the best years of my life/I took the best years of your life/Felt like love struck me in the night ...''
Things then segue into the more austere during the Mother Mary segment where the singer drastically softens up. ''Mother Mary I swear I wanna change/Mister Jesus I'd love to be queen,'' she confesses before finishing off with: ''Let's live in the moment/As long as we got each other/I'm prepared to die in the moment.'' It truly is a revelation.
As a Rihanna album, Unapologetic is bursting at the seams with a commercial appeal. There are enough potential No1 hits to buy her some time before she cranks out another studio album (most likely by the end of 2013). But, more importantly, this album is her statement _ an open letter _ to us outsiders trying to get a sense of what's going on inside her head.
Wan Sook/ Plastic Plastic
Brother and sister duo Plastic Plastic had their start in the music industry after winning first place in a music contest held by a Bangkok-based radio station. Armed with little more than piano and guitar, the twosome make feel-good music in the same vein as Praew Kanitkul or even Lula. Their second single, Wan Sook (Friday), is the perfect song to usher in the weekend with its lyrics inspired by that universal anticipation of that certain time of the week when you get to meet someone you love.
Nicolas Jarr and Theatre Roosevelt/ The Ego
The ever experimental 22-year-old American-Chilean musician gets inventive on The Ego, a new dubby electronic number that features voice snippets from a mysterious character referred to here as Theatre Roosevelt. The end result is four and a half minutes of Jarr's signature atmospheric soundscapes perforated by Theatre Roosevelt's chopped-up monologues spoken in a thick Jamaican accent. It's an outlandish, even bizarre musical concoction that somehow seems to work in the deft hands of Jarr.
Ellie Goulding/ Figure 8
After the mellow first single Anything Could Happen, British pop sensation Ellie Goulding follows up with a heart-wrenching tale of lost love on Figure 8. Taken from her second album Halcyon, the track sees Goulding pour her heart out alongside a dark and brooding electronic beat. "I chased your love around a figure eight/I need you more than I can take/You promised forever and a day/And then you take it all away," she laments during the dubstep-laced chorus. The genre itself may be getting a bit trite, but if there's one pop star who's a perfect fit for dubstep, Ellie Goulding would definitely be it.
Solange/ Lovers in the Parking Lot
We still can't stop humming along to the lite-funk gem that is Losing You, and Beyonce's little sister has given us another excellent single to get excited about. Produced once again by Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, Lovers in the Parking Lot is an R&B ballad that showcases Solange's impressive vocals. Here, she blames herself for a relationship that's gone sour: "Played around with your heart/Guess I played myself from the start." And as we've come to expect from anything he lays his hands on, Hynes' production sparkles with a hint of cool retro vibe coupled with pinches of synth and disco. Solange's full length album is not due until 2013, so fans will have to make do with her seven-track EP, True, in the meantime.
Big Boi/ Mama Told Me (Featuring Kelly Rowland)
Two years after his solo debut Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, OutKast's Big Boi finally comes out with a new single from his upcoming second album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. Featuring former member of Destiny's Child Kelly Rowland, Mama Told Me is a vibrant jam that gets its influences from '80s pop. We love the track's bubbly synths and the overall funky vibe that suits both artists. Set for releases later this month, the album is said to feature artists including TI, Wavves, Kid Cudi, BoB, ASAP Rocky and Phantogram.
About the author
Writer: Chanun Poomsawai