Rihanna’s seventh studio album, “Unapologetic,” sounds like a scratched rendition of her 2011 release “Talk That Talk.”
It wouldn’t surprise me if this was actually the method to Rihanna’s recording madness, as “Unapologetic” seems to be nothing but an attempt to hit lucky No. 7 in her discography. The album contains everything that one can hope for from a Rihanna record that was produced in 12 months: a Top 40 hit that contains the word “diamonds” somewhere in the lyrics, numerous references to her tumultuous relationship with R&B artist Chris Brown, a song that shows her Barbados roots and David Guetta.
But even with all the wonderful predictability that follows Rihanna these days, it’d be a lie to say that “Unapologetic’s” familiarity isn’t cohesive, fresh and honest.
The album starts with a typical Rihanna beat in “Phresh Out the Runway” that finds her more than willing to discuss all her “dollars” and “jewels.” This provides an appropriate segue into the radio hit “Diamonds.”
One could speculate that the rest of the album honors the various stages of her relationship with Brown. In “Numb,” her first collaboration with Eminem since the 2010 hit “Love the Way You Lie,” she just repeats “I’m going numb,” and in “What Now,” she asks “I found the one, he changed my life / But was it me that changed?”
She even collaborates with Brown in “Nobody’s Business,” a self-explanatory song about their relationship. Sampled from Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” the song holds a Jackson-era smooth R&B feel as they sing “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine and my baby.”
Perhaps the most notable song on “Unapologetic” is “Stay,” a duet between Rihanna and Brown sound-alike and up-and-coming alternative artist Mikky Ekko. One of Rihanna’s most vulnerable tracks in perhaps her entire body of work, the piano ballad exemplifies Rihanna’s lower vocal range, a stunning and impressive contrast to the synthesized, overly-produced sound in most of her electro-dance songs.
Rihanna’s album formula, if you will, has yet to change exponentially from the past seven years, but it works for her. Although we seem to receive remixed versions of old hits from the 2000s, perhaps it is the sheer consistency that keeps her fans wanting more. Maybe Rihanna’s albums are broken records, but at least she’s not apologizing for it.