Ma­ture dark­ness

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Musicreviews - BRIAN BOYD

When Bar­ba­dian pop star Ri­hanna first hit the charts, she was just an­other teenage r'n'b chanteuse who was search­ing for a sound that com­bined pop, dance­hall and hip-hop. Noth­ing re­ally worked for her in the early days – she ob­vi­ously had tal­ent, but there was noth­ing there that re­ally sep­a­rated her from the posse.

Over time she has dropped the “I love Mariah Carey” state­ments and now is talk­ing about how The Prodigy in­flu­enced this new al­bum. In be­tween she had the global block­buster that was Good

Girl Gone Bad (2007), which yielded one of the best pop songs of the past decade in Um­brella. The al­bum sold over seven mil­lion copies and cat­a­pulted Ri­hanna right to the top of the queue – just be­hind Bey­oncé.

The events of last Fe­bru­ary, though, changed her ca­reer tra­jec­tory com­pletely. Vi­ciously as­saulted by her then boyfriend Chris Brown, Ri­hanna was hit­ting the head­lines for rea­sons that she found per­son­ally dis­tress­ing.

When she re­turned to the stu­dio she de­cided to chan­nel her shock, anger and fear into Rated R. And this, while maybe not quite hav­ing the im­me­di­ate pop ef­fect of the pre­vi­ous al­bum, is a solid and ma­ture work which, nat­u­rally, has a darker hue to it.

Justin Tim­ber­lake, Ne-Yo, Slash and will.i.am all crop up, ei­ther on the song­writ­ing or the guest-mu­si­cian side, and you get some sense of the mood she’s in on the gui­tar-heavy Rock Star, which has her singing “Got my mid­dle fin­ger up/I re­ally don’t give a fuck”. And then on G4L (Gangsta For Life, if you please) she trains her sights on “any moth­er­fuck­ers who want to dis­re­spect”.

It’s not all so in-yer-face though: Te Amo (a song that Madonna would kill for) is a beau­ti­ful slice of hip-hop-in­flected ca­lypso that will be­come one of the al­bum’s stand­out tracks.

Her most in­ter­est­ing work to date and def­i­nitely her most cathar­tic – Rated R will sur­prise and de­light in equal mea­sures.

Down­load tracks:

Te Amo, Rock Star

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