Music Review: Rihanna’s “Unapologetic”

Released: November 19, 2012

Label: Roc Nation/Island Def Jam

Purchase: Amazon

A little step up from her previous oversexed Talk that Talk, but still not even close to impressive. Unapologetic sounds mostly exhausted and rushed. There’s nothing wrong with putting out an album every year to stay current if you can handle it, but at least take the time to perform songs  that will be embedded in the hearts and minds of listeners. Sure there are likable tracks here and there, but not good enough to give goose bumps. 

With the bouncy opener and potential single, Phresh Out The Runway, Rihanna maintains her raunchy and careless constructed image. This is actually the biggest unapologetic anthem on the record, curse words and all. Set aside the hot beat, the lyrics are as generic and repetitive as they come. Nothing substantial to hold on to. 

Diamonds remain one of the better songs on the album. The catchy nature of the track nestles deep in poetic and coded words, with a subtle beat flowing in the background. Sia did a good job penning a song incomparable to any other Rihanna tracks, yet maintaining that high the pop star emits in her music. But if this number warms the air, Numb intensifies the heat. While Rihanna settles in with a smooth and drugged out tone, Eminem’s florific craft is a great addition to the already sexy hip hop reggae fused track. Numb is one of those slow paced club bangers you chill out to at the back of a lounge; legs stretched out and making yourself comfortable. If that even makes sense. Whatever the case. The song’s hot, and I’m loving what I hear.

I do enjoy the ecstasy themed laid back tracks but now its getting played out. Pour it Up would’ve been great had it not been so overtly repetitive and pointless. The relaxed vibe came out lifeless and Rihanna sounded as if she was just doing her job, no effort involved. Good thing Loveeeeeee Song made up for it. Another slow paced r&b focused track, this one soars with its passion emphasized lyrics and addictive hook. I have no idea who Future is, but I love his voice. That electric guitar in the break down crept under my skin. This track is definitely a keeper.

Ginuwine had the ladies hooked on his 90’s hit, Pony. It wasn’t surprising to hear the track sampled on Jump, but the dubstep had me taken aback. The song went well until that electro trend kicked in. I’m all dubstepped out; can people please stop utilizing it in their music now because it doesn’t work for everything. In the case of Jump, the song sounds pleasant during the verse but dives in the hook. 

There’s nothing about dance, techno, or dubstep music that I find authentic, the song lyrics would have to make up for that. In the case of Right Now, originality was absent from the studio during the production of the track. Its without a doubt mainstream quality because that’s what’s happening now, but could DJ David Guetta grant me some gratification and produce something fresh already?

What Now opens up with a refreshing piano melody. This song is beautiful, the words are real and emotional. The electro pop rock rudiments worked in the track’s favor. What Now is not exactly my first pick for single, but it isn’t a filler on the album. This sails on its own.

I was astonished by the song Stay. It gives off a sweet strawberry like taste to the mouth. This was a breathless duet performed amazingly well, neither trampled on the other, instead both vocals entwined and captured the emotional aspect of the song. Stay features Mikky Ekko and depicts a more vulnerable and softer side to the singer. This is by far one of the most non-raunchy tracks on the album, joining forces with Diamonds and What Now. But its the appearance on Nobody’s Business that has everyone talking. 

The 80s influenced r&b pop number depicts a message both Rihanna and Chris Brown spend their days trying to convey to the public. Nobody’s Business samples Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel, not only his adlibs but some “oohs” here and there. I love the old school vibe of the track and would love to hear more production like this on future Rihanna records. I’m not sure how smooth this song will go with both of their supporters but I like it, and need I remind you, neither Chris nor Ri-Ri could give a damn. After all, it aint nobody’s business.

Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary is something only Rihanna could make sound so good. Her voice sounded stronger than ever; I was inclined to listen to the lyrics of both tracks attached together to conjure up something hypnotic and satisfying. I even enjoyed the flow from one into the other, making it, in my opinion, one of the best The-Dream creation I’ve heard lately. The highlight of this production is that drenching bass toward the end.

I kept thinking the entire three minutes and thirty three seconds of Get it Over With, ‘what’s up with the music in the background’? I was so disoriented by the end trying to find the beat or something that worked but it never hit me. This song would’ve sounded much better as an acapella production. Just some finger snapping or humming. I think that idea would match well with the few other r&b elements heard on the album. Aside from that, it’s a nice song just not exceptional.

No Love Allowed is the only track on the album reflecting the sound of Rihanna’s native island. And interestingly, carries the same murder and love  taken for granted themes depicted in Man Down.  But unlike the aforementioned, No Love Allowed doesn’t have that flavor to take it to airplay. The old school reggae song is best left on the album.

Lost in Paradise is not a favorite and I felt no connection whatsoever to the electro dance track. As the album closer on the standard version, I was a bit disappointed but fortunately I decided to give the Emeli Sande penned bonus song, Half of Me, a try.

Half of Me gets real. The track tells the story of a girl living in the public eye but isn’t fazed by the hype or society’s opinion of her. Rihanna sings about being judged by what people see when they look at her but she shines about all that remaining true to herself. Indeed, this song has the most realest lyrics on the album but that is expected of Emeli, who wrote something for us to think about for an artist who mainly releases generic songs about sex, partying and being high on life.

Final thoughts? When it comes to Rihanna, I have no expectations whatsoever, and that is in no way hating on her. I’m simply stating that I usually just wait for the music to hear if she’s evolved from her previous releases. And like I’ve mentioned earlier, there’s not much growth here, just a step into more r&b and a little away from eurodance numbers. There were some sexy samples and catchy numbers but all in all, Unapologetic is just that, passing the time until her next album drops in a couple months.

Rating: 3.9/5


Track Listing:
01. Phresh Out the Runway
02. Diamonds
03. Numb (ft. Eminem)
04. Pour it Up
05. Loveeeeeee You (ft. Future)
06. Jump
07. Right Now (ft. David Guetta)
08. What Now
09. Stay (ft. Mikky Ekko)
10. Nobody's Business (ft. Chris Brown)
11. Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary
12. Get It Over With
13. No Love Allowed
14. Lost in Paradise
15. Half of Me


4 thoughts on “Music Review: Rihanna’s “Unapologetic”

  1. “When it comes to Rihanna, I have no expectations whatsoever..” I am hating on her because she 1) can’t sing, 2) can’t dance (and she’s caribbean) and 3) displays a phony image. @datruthtalker I agree with you. This chick’s a puppet and you can tell how much they play around with her by the subliminal messages in her songs. why are they referring to violence and love that inflicts pain when that’s already a touchy subject in her life? find something else to attract publicity cos this bullshit is getting old. I think its time she takes a 2 year vacation and go lock herself down in Barbados to make some nice and meaningful music. Great review, though!

  2. On da real though, Ri’s just a damn prostitute for her label. Roc Nation n def jam, sony in general is like her pimp. They keep puttin her tired ass to work n u know she can’t say shit cos they run that!

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