Rihanna redeems herself with latest CD
Rihanna — Loud ( Def Jam) 3.5/5
After Rihanna’s unfortunate run-in with Chris Brown on the eve of last year’s Grammy Awards, it was only natural for the R&B/pop songstress to want to stand up for herself.
Her next album, however, went too far. Rated R, released last fall, ended up feeling both violent and contrived, like she was trying too hard to come across as a tough vixen.
Like her new hair extensions, Rihanna’s fifth and latest effort, Loud, seems a bit softer as she returns to a more familiar role — of a sweet girl with a naughty side. This is where she excels — Girl Gone Bad, released in 2007, was her bestselling album, fuelled by hits such as Umbrella, Hate That I Love You and Don’t Stop The Music.
Of course, the 22-year-old can’t return to the relative innocence of Girl Gone Bad, where she preferred to sing about love and its various complications, only using gag-inducing metaphors to hint at naked adventures: “You’re running through my garden / Now you’re knocking at my door.” While Loud’s lyrics are more explicit, Rihanna softens the blow with her nuanced vocals.
“Feels so good being bad / There’s no way I’m turning back,” she coos like a fallen angel, drunk with desire, on the opening line of S&M, a surefire club smash with stomping beats, synthesized claps and a Depeche Modeish melody.
She ratchets up the raunch in the chorus, but she downplays the shock value by delivering her lines with a joyous Cover Girl bounce, not a lascivious growl. “’Cuz I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it,” she boasts. “Sex in the air / I don’t care / I love the smell of it.” — Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal
Bryan Adams — Bare Bones (Get Music) 3/5
The intent is admirably simple: Record in front of an audience a collection of songs performed only with acoustic guitar and some reinforcement from pianist Gary Breit.
This could have been another trawl through Adams’ hits, but — though a few are here — these are offset by lesser-known songs, such as opener You’ve Been a Friend to Me from the Old Dogs soundtrack. The latter were largely chosen by the fans.
The album creates an appreciation for Adams’ honesty, and just how sturdy his songs are when reduced to simple terms. — Tom Harrison, Van
Keith Urban — Get Closer (Capitol) 2.5/5
For all that’s been said about his flashy, rock-influenced guitar playing and his hard-living lifestyle (premarriage and fatherhood), Keith Urban really has been a lightweight as an artist.
His tame, over-manicured songs have often felt like generic Hallmark cards designed to maintain his heartthrob image. Since he married actress Nicole Kidman, this has only gotten worse, any edge or grit he ever had disappearing by the record.
Get Closer may be the worst yet, with Urban gushing about love on track after track. And yet, he rarely delves deeper than the realm of country-pop cliches.
Sure, there are catchy hooks here — Put You in a Song, Long Hot Summer, Shut Out the Lights. They’ll all do the trick on contemporary country radio. But they’re also entirely predictable and lacking in bite.
Get Closer’s finest moment comes on the rootsy pop number Big Promises, with its tasty banjo work and sincere, likable chorus, but it’s not enough to save this Music Row powder puff of an album. — Heath McCoy, Calgary
Cradle of Filth — Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa (Nuclear Blast) 4.5/5
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is a steel gauntlet wrapped in silk. Its brutal heavy metal nature is offset by the softer influences affecting this newest concept album.
Lead singer Dani Filth’s venomous vocals are complimented beautifully by the angelic, yet still powerful female duets and background singing in songs like Lilith Immaculate and Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned). In the end, this album is equal parts black metal, sultry violence, and powerful storytelling, all bathed in a creepy Victorian light but, whatever Venus Aversa is comprised of, fans can be sure that it is pure Filth at its finest. — Jarrod Bennett, Edmonton
Kid Cudi — Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (Dream On/GOOD Music/Universal Motown) 2/5
On Kid Cudi’s second album, a sequel to last year’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day, it’s business as usual for the 26-year-old hip-hop artist — drab, sludgy beats, poor rapping, and even worse singing. The music is even more dour. Kid Cudi (a.k.a. Scott Mescudi) thinks he’s the hip-hop Morrissey, only without the voice and the wit. Man on the Moon II ends with a hint at future redemption for Mescudi, both personally and musically: All Along possesses real warmth, built on something that resembles an actual melody, and Cudi’s confessions that he’s “messy at home” and “ate a lot of junk food” are relatable in the way that his theatricalizing isn’t. On Trapped in My Mind, Cudi sings, “I’m trapped in my mind and I know it’s crazy/ But hey it’s not that bad at all.” The kid might end up OK, after all. —