Rihanna’s Unapologetic’s going to be a divider in the world of diva fanatics. Some of us love her. And, more and more, it seems like there’s a growing camp of anti-Rihanna pop music fans out there that are skeptical of the bad girl and Jay-Z associate. See, she’s one of those pretty young things that seems to have a pretty big team. She executive produced this one, her seventh, and enlisted a small army of writers and producers to put out this one only a year after last year’s Talk That Talk. Critics are calling it rushed. And it doesn’t help that one of the album’s strongest tracks, “Nobody’s Business,” is a duet with former (maybe current?) flame, Chris Brown, a man who beat her and the subsequent fallout has made him a public enemy. In fact, it could be said that this record is all about Brown – many of the songs have to do with a clandestine love, doomed lust and hopeless romanticism.
Philly bartender, movie-maker and blogger, Cristof Lombard, recently ripped it up and gave the record a D+. The mixed reviews continue to pour in and they’re worth considering. It’s a murky record, no doubt. “Diamonds” is a pretty huge hit already and the whole record’s set to debut at the top of Billboard’s Top 200. But could that be due to the fact that she’s one of the only young pop stars to have a fairly regular pattern of behavior: she’s an expert Instagrammer, smokes weed, tours, and hangs out with a camp. No Britney-style breakdowns or years-long waits for records – no DUIs to speak of, no public live performance gaffes, no arrests. But EVERYONE knows about her getting beat up and this slow, painful unfurling of the back-and-forth between the two (both in terms of their careers and their personal lives). Maybe THAT’s enough to get people to buy her new record; they’re too curious about the dirty details it may let loose.
There are a couple tracks that are just awful: the dubstep ones. They fall right in the middle, one after the other – “Jump” promisingly uses a refrain from Ginuwine’s “Pony” before it falls into dubstep purgatory, and the David Guetta-produced “Right Now” feels like a Skrillex imitation. But the heartfelt one-two punch that follows are a couple tracks that might be two of her strongest in her entire catalogue: “What Now” and the duet with Mikky Ekko, “Stay.” Admittedly, when you’re a fan, it’s hard to objectively deem a record a piece of crap or a not-as-great-as-you’d-hoped. The weirdness of the whole Chris Brown situation makes it that much more difficult to firmly critique it. Clearly, she’s loved him and might still – but folks who’re red with rage with Brown for what he did to her don’t seem willing to allow for any kind of nuance in their own dissolution as a couple or lack thereof. It comes with the territory of a tabloid-fueled social media and internet age.
But it sure makes for compelling bar and dinner conversation, doesn’t it? We’re planning on paying her a visit when she kicks off her early Diamonds tour stop at Wells Fargo on Thursday, March 14th .