Album review: Rihanna - Loud

Rihanna - Loud | Album review
At the realization that nobody wanted Rihanna brooding around with hair like a road runner, singing about how she'd been done hard by - Def Jam chose to strike whilst the iron was hot and capitalize on the success of "Rude boy" (the only song from Rated R that the world unanimously gave two shits about) and have her record an album of material which stuck to the formula of just being fun. Because after all, The Forehead is at her best when she's warbling over hot beats and singing about carefree nonsense. And Loud is chock-a-block full of such songs. It's like the beating from Chris "Take you down" Brown and Rated R never even happened!

Album opener "S&M" is as catchy as hell and is a throwback to the cheesy club orientated pop records of the 90's. As the song title clearly implies, Rihanna sings about how she likes chains, whips and the smell of her sex - which probably smells like her wig: of burnt fries, grease and 4 day old happy meals. The song is actually rather tame for its subject matter, and is nowhere near the level of crudeness of "Rude boy". But the song isn't all that sexy given that Rihanna sounds like Justin Bieber when she starts to sing in her upper register. She sounds f**king awful on the bridge section in particular. But still, "S&M" is a winner because the beat commands you move, the chorus is as infectious as an STD and Stargate deliver a synth line you'll be remembering for a good while. If Rihanna wanted herself a song that would get spun in gay clubs, become a bit of a staple within them for a good while and get remixed to camp heaven, she's got it with "S&M" for sure. This is the shit Christina wishes Ester Dean wrote for her ass.

"Only Klingon (in the world)" is trash. Something Rihanna did nothing to dispel with car wreck after car wreck performances of the song. The verses are absolutely blazing! But the raved out chorus and the horrid wailing just cuts through me like a ban-saw every time. I can't take it. As with "S&M", this will probably have a longer life in gay clubs than it will anywhere else.

"What's my name?" see's the "Rude boy" squad (Ester Dean and Stargate) back at it again, and the result is a song which sounds like a cross between "Rude boy" and "Te amo". It's a good song, but you can't help but feel it should have been a heck of a lot better. Drake features on the song, and his verse is a pile of shit. Oh, and the bridge section is also a mess. (Seriously. What is it with Stargate and their iffy bridge sections in songs?!) Whilst the song has a nice vibe to it, the whole thing still feels like it's lacking that special something to make it really pop and stand out. Plus, there's no skirting around the fact that the song is just a copy and paste job of "Rude boy", with a more subdued sound.

"Cheers (Drink to that)" does exactly what it says on the tin. The song rolls along with a country bar-esque vibe which makes you want to neck back some drinks and just sway. The Runners do a great job with the production, which is a complete switch of gears from their usual style. And Rihanna's Bajan drawl really helps push the song into being a bit of a drinking anthem. Who knew Rihanna would be the one to drop a song like this!? You'd expect something like this from P!nk. But it's rather cool Rihanna tried her hand at it and did a good job of things.

"Fading" is one of my favourite songs on the album. Interestingly it's probably one of the 2 only introspective songs on the album which you could link to The Forehead's relationship with Chris "Take you down" Brown. And even more interesting is that the song is written and produced by Ester Dean and Polow da Don, who worked extensively with Chris Brown on his Graffiti album. And more notably "So cold", which was more than likely about Rihanna. "Fading" is very much like a successor to "Rehab" in that it shares a similar type of sound, which evokes a feeling of space and something slipping through somebodies fingers. It really is a cracker of a song. I'd vote for it to become a single, although I imagine Def Jam would rather lobby for "Complicated" (more on that song further down) instead.

"California king bed" see's Rihanna going rock, but with some feeling unlike those hollow ass attempts on Rated R. I had no idea Rihanna had it in her to sing how she does on this song. She genuinely sounds beautiful on the verses and croons with perfect tone. If you liked "Fire bomb" from Rated R, then you'll be all over this song. It's in the same vein, but executed much better on every level.

"Man down" sees The Forehead tap back into the reggae influenced sound which she abandoned like a baby on a door step for Good girl gone bad, after being knee deep in it for her first 2 albums. Unlike much of Music of the sun and A girl like me's lax and boring reggae efforts, "Man down" is a good 'un. The Forehead sings with overdosed amounts of swagger, and she sounds awesome when she brings out the patwa for the bridge. The song may not be to everyone's liking. But it is an example of a song on Loud which very few artists in the mainstream game could pull off as well as Rihanna does.

"Raining men" features the it girl of the moment Nicki Minaj, and is your typical hood club banger: clichéd as hell. "A Milli" snare patterns, chipmunked vocals, hand claps, dudes chanting "Hey" repeatedly over the chorus and sirens going off. I'm a sucker for these types of songs, so of course I'm down with it. And Nicki comes correct with her verse as she always does on her guest spots. I can't see this song becoming a single what-so-ever. But rest assured, Urban radio and clubs will spin this regardless. Because it really is a banger.

There's a song on Loud where Rihanna belts. Like...actually belts! And that song is "Complicated". She's no Leona, Christina or Beyonce. And of course, these ladies would slaughter Rihanna like a goat in a Jamaican butcher shop. But she holds her own on the song nicely. I can't even hate. Her vocals on the chorus are as strong as her adamantium forehead.

"Skin" sticks out on the album for feeling very Rated R-esque in its sound. The song is all about nakedness and sex, but doesn't play around with the subject so much as "S&M" does, and instead goes the slow jam-esque, sultry route. The problem with this song is that as sexy as the beat is, Rihanna doesn't sound sexy at all. She sounds like she's fed up and has a cold.

"Love the way you lie" was a mammoth hit for Eminem and Rihanna. So of course she'd have a version of the song feature on her own album. This version see's Rihanna take the lead, with Eminem contributing a rap for the bridge. I'm usually sceptical of these Part II'ers. But this alternate version of "Love the way you lie" is pretty damn good. The Forehead sounds nice, the small changes to the music work well, and the whole thing feels like it was built from the ground up alongside Eminem's version, and not knocked up as an after thought for the sake of capitalizing on a hit (even though the latter was probably the case).

One has to hand it to Rihanna. Her vocal game has stepped up a little. Her range is a little more broad and she jumps around her (limited) scale much more on this album than any of her past efforts. Songs such as "Fading" and "Complicated" caught me off guard with the way The Forehead hit notes and ran through certain sections of the songs.

Loud feels as though Def Jam were not willing to take any form of risk. Every song follows what is now The Forehead formula: repetitions of words which beat into your skull until it's the only word you can utter for the next 10 minutes. And forms of "Eh", "La", "Na", Woah" and "Oh" all repeated and studio wizardried to overlay the chorus and turn it into a form of playground anthem. It works wonders on every song. But it does get tired after a while because it makes you very much aware that every songwriter who worked on the album stuck to a template, and that there is clearly a formula at work. It ruins the magic somewhat.

Whilst Loud is solid as a whole, it's not memorable. Sure, The Forehead will top charts with the singles and she get another tour out of it. But the album will not be remembered for anything other than the set she rushed out after Rated R and promoted looking like Ronald McDonald's booty call. The album is full of potential singles, which was the whole purpose of this release after Rated R was so light on chart toppers and obvious single choices. But it seems this was done at the expense of creating songs which will stand the test of time. Say what you will about Rated R, but there's no escaping that "Rude boy" is a staple. There's no song on Loud which will get played years from now and make you fall in love with it like it's the first time you heard it. Every one of The Forehead's past albums have a song or two like this, Loud does not.

If you're a fan of Rihanna, you'll lap this up. But as to whether this is better than Rated R; my answer would be No, not really. It's no better, or worse. It just is. And this is the problem with Rihanna. She always drops albums which deliver the hits, but as bodies of work, the albums themselves are never that great. Loud will make its fair share of noise now. But it'll be a mute in a year's time, when she'll probably have another album out, and a wig that has her look like a puppet from Sesame street to coincide with it.

Album highlights:
■ S&M
■ What's my name?
■ Fading J's fave
■ California king bed
■ Raining men
■ Love the way you lie (Part II)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Nice review J!!

    My friends and I did a review that is very close to yours...

    It's a shame you dont understand french :-( (I would give you the link to check it out)

    Or maybe do you?


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