20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Rihanna’s Rated R by Marc Sollinger
November 24, 2009, 8:34 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Rihanna's new album disappoints

PREVIEW: VISIT Rihanna’s Website
WE GIVE IT: 13/20

To many, Rihanna is the resident queen of pop.  For the past three years, ever since “Umbrella,” pretty much every song she’s lent her voice to has turned to gold.

“Don’t Stop The Music”, T.I.’s “Live Your Life” and Jay-Z’s “Run This Town” all are huge hits, and more importantly, great songs.  If you only listened to the radio, you would think that Rihanna is one of the best R&B singers working today.  And, if you only judged her on the basis of her singles, you’d be right.  Her voice is emotive and expressive, and she usually works with amazing producers.  Unfortunately, Rihanna’s albums are a completely different story.  Like so many other pop stars, her records are dominated by filler, with only about three or four truly good songs.

The hope was that Rihanna’s new album, Rated R, would fix this problem, and cut down on the throwaways.  The album artwork and publicity shots are certainly provocative, with a strong S&M theme running throughout.  But it was not to be — Rated R is the definition of a singles album.

There are exactly four good tracks on this record: the catchy club banger “Wait Your Turn,” the deliciously creepy “Russian Roulette,” the house-influenced slow burn of “Cold Case Love”, and the torch anthem “The Last Song.”  While none of these are as good as song-of-the-decade contender “Umbrella,” all are at least worth a listen. The rest of the album, however, is just awful.  From the ill-advised reggae of “Rude Boy” to the no-chemistry duet with Will.i.am on “Photographs,” all of the other songs simply exist to increase the running time.

Rated R isn’t a step forward for Rihanna. It’s exactly like all of her other albums — four or five singles with a whole lot of nothing in between.  The best way to listen to Rihanna’s ’80s influenced R&B pop is on the radio or in a club, where only her best songs are played.  But when listening to Rated R as an album, it unfortunately fails.

— Marc Sollinger

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