At the beginning of the 2010s, Rihanna had undeniably develop into the trade’s industrial darling of pop, R&B, hip-hop and dancehall. With three hit albums below her belt – and a repute as a creative chameleon – she appeared unstoppable… till tragedy struck. With media headlines obsessing over her private trauma, Rihanna’s world turned the wrong way up, leading to her most revelatory and weak work thus far: Rated R.
Hearken to Rated R proper now.
A rule-breaking spirit
Through the lead as much as Rated R, Rihanna dropped a number of hints at her new route. Her earlier album, 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad, embraced her rule-breaking spirit, whereas a bonus observe on that album’s Reloaded version, ‘Disturbia’, signalled a sharper transformation in her music movies, fashion and tune buildings. Its haunting nature would predate Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster and ‘Unhealthy Romance’, as soon as once more inserting Rihanna forward of her friends.
Underlying the darker flip the singer was taking, on three June 2009, Kanye West launched his music video for ‘Paranoid’, starring Rihanna in a sufferer function, dashing in a getaway automotive. The nightmarish imagery mirrored an expertise she’d had earlier that yr: a domestic-violence altercation together with her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown.
Able to take over the world… once more
As photos of Rihanna’s injured face leaked to the press, the singer endured criticisms and rumours about how she dealt with the scenario, prompting her to take a break, each musically and from public appearances. After her look in Kanye’s video, nonetheless, she returned to the studio. Singing on a triumphant hook from Jay Z and Ye’s ‘Run This City’, Rihanna made it clear: she was able to take over the world as soon as once more.
Launched on 23 November 2009, Rated R performs out like a basic horror movie. A narrator opens the album with an ominous introduction: “Women and gents/To these amongst you who’re simply frightened/We advise you flip away now/To these of you who assume they’ll take it/We are saying: welcome to the Mad Home!”
Over a chilling dubstep beat, Rihanna encourages listeners to “come on, come on”, earlier than main into the second observe, ‘Wait Your Flip’. Stuffed with sports activities metaphors, ‘Wait Your Flip’ is Rihanna at her cockiest. Shot in stark black-and-white within the accompanying video, Rihanna struts round like a latter-day Grace Jones, sporting a slicked-back Mohawk and declaring, “The wait is over!”
Rated R’s official first single, ‘Russian Roulette’, would take an excellent darker tone. “As my life flashes earlier than my eyes/I’m questioning if I’ll ever see one other solar rise,” she painfully recounts on a ballad that sparked one other watercooler second surrounding her non-public life.
However ‘Russian Roulette’ was simply the tip of the iceberg when it got here to the form of emotional excavation she would carry out on the album. Stuffed with gut-wrenching ballads, Rated R sees Rihanna making an attempt to separate her actual self from tabloid narratives and a packaged persona. Even with a crew of high pop producers at her disposal, she was closely concerned with the songwriting course of, co-writing 9 of the album’s 13 tracks and receiving an government producer credit score.
‘Silly In Love’ appears like a pained torch tune, the singer wailing, “That is silly, I’m not silly… I could also be dumb,” as she forgives her associate, regardless of her associates’ warnings. ‘Hearth Bomb’ continues this theme of tortured love, as Rihanna and her lover meet a Bonnie and Clyde ending. “I simply wanna set you on fireplace so I received’t must burn alone,” she asserts on the hook. Within the background, gasoline is sparked and flames crackle to a hard-hitting area guitar as Rihanna takes it to the bridge.
‘Chilly Case Love’ is one other gothic-tinged affair, full with funeral organs and violin solos, on which Rihanna liberates herself from a poisonous relationship. “Launch me now, ’trigger I did my time,” she sings. As soon as once more, electrical guitar fuels the ballad, underscored by a rhumba groove that continues on the Latin-flavoured, LGBTQ-centric observe ‘Te Amo’.
The emancipation of RiRi
Rated R stands the take a look at of time as a fan favorite. Much like Anti, the album pushed boundaries for Rihanna as an artist, furthering her style experimentation and avant-garde aesthetics. As her first specific album – with a Parental Advisory sticker on the quilt, no much less – Rihanna ventured into territory that the majority of her pop friends weren’t daring sufficient to embrace.
Rated R additionally sees her dive into rock’n’roll decadence on ‘ROCKSTAR 101’, with an help from Guns N’ Roses axeman Slash, as she seductively yells, “I instructed ya, child… I’m a rockstar!” On ‘G4L’, Rihanna takes on the persona of a vengeful femme fatale – or “Gangster four Life” – flipping the script from ‘Russian Roulette’ as she goes from sufferer to aggressor.
One of many few singles that contrasts with the darkish power of the whole Rated R album is the hit ‘Impolite Boy’, on which Rihanna talks about her penchant for unhealthy boys over a dancehall observe harking back to her earlier albums Music Of The Sun and A Girl Like Me. The anthem topped the Billboard Scorching 100, a style of what would come.
A final reflection
Rated R is, for essentially the most half, a solo affair with few friends or options, one of many exceptions being a spot from Black Eyed Peas frontman and producer will.i.am, who wrote and options on ‘Pictures’. Initially meant for his group’s The END album, Rihanna fell in love with the observe and used it for her personal undertaking, the place it stays a sleeper hit in her catalogue.
In the meantime, on the Prime 10 hit ‘Laborious’, Rihanna does her greatest hip-hop posturing over aggressive synths and pounding piano notes, enlisting rapper Younger Jeezy for a Soiled South co-sign. From the soar, Rihanna lets you recognize that nothing (and nobody) goes to sluggish her down: “No ache is without end/Yup, you recognize this,” she spits.
After placing herself by way of the ringer, Rihanna lastly finds closure on the aptly titled ‘The Final Music’. With shimmering guitars and moody suggestions, it’s the emotional climax of Rated R: a final reflection on the individual she as soon as was and the artist she was destined to develop into.
Rated R can be bought here.