Review: Rihanna - Unapologetic

Read our track-by-track review of RiRi's seventh studio album

Wed 21 Nov 2012

Read our track-by-track review of RiRi's seventh studio album

1. Phresh Out The Runway

A proper in-your-face opening to the album as Rihanna throws tonnes of swag and attitude into a hip-hop banger that wouldn't sound amiss on a Lil' Kim album. Produced by David Guetta, expect unrelenting drum beats and a thumping bassline as Rihanna challenges her haters. "How could you be so hood, but you so f***ing pop?" she sings, no doubt mimicking those who have doubted her. There's no doubt here, it's one bold, brash and unapologetic album opener. 

Favourite lyric: "I love it, then come and get it. I know that you're f***ing with it"

2. Diamonds

If Phresh Out The Runway was a bit too hip-hop for your liking, RiRi returns to pop with Diamonds, the lead single to be released from the album. It's a Sia-written track which has already stormed charts and hit No. 1 spots worldwide. Rihanna is raspy, the vibe is mellow and the result is gorgeous. We realise this mature pop (as opposed to try-hard hip-hop) really is the kind of song we prefer RiRi doing.

Favourite lyric: "You're a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy" 

3. Numb ft. Eminem

Their previous collaboration Love The Way You Lie was massive, so can we expect just as big of a hit with this new duet? In a word, no. That's not to say, however, that it's not good. The song has a slight middle-eastern vibe going on and there's a dirty beat and repetitive chanting-style chorus that'll be stuck in your head for quite a while. It's very different to Love The Way You Lie which is great as the pair haven't tried to recreate their previous magic. It feels fresh, fly and almost brilliant yet ever-so-slightly bland.

Favourite lyric: "I'm the butt police, and I'm looking at your rear-rear-rear"

4. Pour It Up

A trippy, hip-hop beat as Rihanna sings about a night at a strip club. Dollar bills are flowing as we're told girls are grinding up and down the poles. Lovely stuff. It's a good hip-hop song but we can't help (yet again) wondering whether this is what Rihanna's predominantly-pop-loving fans are wanting from Unapologetic? 

Favourite lyric: "All I see is signs. All I see is dollar signs"

5. Loveeeee Song ft. Future

It's slow groove time as RiRi hooks up with Future for Love Song, albeit with a few extra 'e' letters thrown onto the end of the title. The song's a throwback to early 90s R&B ballads, as Rihanna croons about wanting her guy and satisfying him in the right way. We can imagine this being played in a hotel lobby, or maybe being used as hold music on a seedy chat line. But probably not out of our speakers again. Sorry.

Favourite lyric: "Boy I just wanna be in your possession"

6. Jump

After peaking with Diamonds, it felt like this album had burnt out way too early. Then came along Jump. Rihanna combines the raw vocals of Rehab and the sassiness of S&M, alongside a fantastically dubstep chorus. It's a response to Ginuwine's 90s hit Pony, and it's one of the best tracks of the album. It's as refreshing as a nice homemade cloudy lemonade on a red hot summer's day. 

Favourite lyric: "My saddle is waiting, come and jump on it"

7. Right Now

AT LAST! A song that actually sounds like a previous Rihanna single. Don't get us wrong, we like that she experiments with sound and isn't afraid to take risks, but so far we can't help think there's too many risks and too much variety on this album. Right Now, however, is a proper David Guetta floorfiller. If you like Guetta's trademark beats and synth and you like RiRi's uptempo, feel-good pop tunes, then you'll love this. After the amazing Jump and the epic Right Now, could this album now be back on track?!

Favourite lyric: "We young right now, we got right now, so get up right now 'cause all we got is right now"

8. What Now?

As soon as we heard the piano intro to this track, we knew we were in for a treat. It's a tender mid-tempo ballad with crashing drums and a roaring chorus. We like. RiRi's voice sounds sweet.

Favourite track: "Dry as a bone, but I just wanna shout"

9. Stay ft. Mikky Ekko

We can't help but wonder why these past few tracks are not higher up in the tracklisting of this album. Rihanna shines on this fragile ballad, featuring indie rocker Mikky Ekko, chock full of soul and helplessness. With a lone piano throughout and no other instruments, it's simple yet hugely effective.

Favourite lyric: "Not really sure how to feel about it, something in the way you move, makes me feel like I can't live without you"

10. Nobody's Business ft. Chris Brown

Whatever your opinion of Chris Brown and Rihanna's relationship, you can't deny they've knocked out an absoloute belter in the form of Nobody's Business. It's a disco-inspired funk-tastic affair, hugely surprising and hugely different to anything either of them have ever done before. Their pairing may be controversial, but the song is amazing.

Favourite lyric: "Always be my boy, I'll always be your girl"

11. Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary

We could be listening to something from Sting or The Police, but we're not, we're definitely still on the Rihanna album. Love Without Tragedy mixes old school 80s pop and guitar with something far more modern and fresh, to create an instantly likable and clever track. Just when you're getting into it though, everything changes and the second part, Mother Mary, kicks in. Listen out for the breakdown, it's all very retro and all very good. Extremely confessional and personal too.

Favourite lyric: "Mr Jesus, I'd love to be clean"

12. Get It Over With 

Chilled out, mellow, dreamy.... Expect lots of strings and tight harmonies in this mature-sounding R&B ditty. Skip to the next track though if you're in a rush. 

Favourite lyric: "Won't you just f***in' rain, and get it over with?"

13. No Love Allowed

We've had Sting, Sia, Lil' Kim and Ginuwine moments, but now it's the turn of Bob Marley's influence. The Bajan in RiRi comes out to play in this jolly reggae-pop fusion. It's a laid back kinda track, offering one big slice of Caribbean goodness, and actually a real opportunity to hear Rihanna's vocal talent.

Favourite lyric: "Like a bullet your love hit me to the core"

14. Lost In Paradise 

Ending the album on a slightly hypnotic note, Rihanna combines dazed electronica and crashing drums to create the final track on Unapologetic. It's not a ballad and it's not uptempo. It's just a mid-tempo exploration of the world of electronica. And yes, we quite liked the exploration whilst it lasted.

Favourite lyric: "All my fears are gone tonight. I'm lost in paradise"

Overall, Rihanna's Unapologetic album can be seen as quite misleading. With the exception of Diamonds, the first five tracks did not sit well with our ears at all. There was a point where we thought we simply could not carry on listening, however, thank goodness we did. 

Unapologetic may not be to our taste in the first couple of tracks, but by the second half of the album, there are some absolute belters. Jump, Nobody's Business and Love Without Tragedy are three examples of Rihanna pushing those boundaries, creating amazing pop songs through experimentation of genre and style. We may be slightly bored of RiRi's messing around with hip-hop, like Phresh Out The Runway and Pour It Up, but if you can overlook this (or just press the skip button on your CD player) there's some real gems on this LP too.

Rihanna didn't finish Unapologetic until 13 days before release

Rihanna ft. Kanye West - Diamonds (Remix)