Colorful, catchy, lighthearted pop characterized her debut release, Music of the Sun, and its sassy follow-up, A Girl Like Me. She was a Good Girl Gone Bad on the hit album that spawned the Grammy-winning global smash “Umbrella.” Then it was all about the dark, somber fare for the confessional fourth album, Rated R. Now a more risqué, teasing Rihanna has emerged in time for the release of her sunny, sexy new album, Loud (Def Jam), arguably her most coherent effort to date.
It’s always something new with the singer (affectionately called RiRi by the countless fans that adore her), who continues her evolution from Bajan pop princess to glam pop-R&B goddess, these days sporting a head of fiery red tresses. The catchiness of her lyrics and the honey in her voice are probably the only unwavering elements one can pinpoint when talking about Rihanna’s growth and success. And speaking of catchy lyrics, there’s enough hot stuff on Loud to totally rule radio. You have to give Rihanna credit; the girl knows how to drop a hot single to not only blaze the airwaves and video playlists but also stay on the tongues of her loyal listeners.
Boasting lyrics like, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me,” the album’s rumored third single “S&M” (one of three StarGate-produced tracks) sets the tone for the overwhelmingly sexed-up vibe here. “Skin,” with its deceptively smooth air, is a vicious, in-your-face bedroom romp on which Rihanna purrs lines like, “You know I like it rough.”
As for the guest spots, fellow sexpot Nicki Minaj does not disappoint on the finger-snappy, dancehall-influenced “Raining Men.” Drake shows up for the funky, flirty “What’s My Name?” (which currently sits atop the Billboard Hot 100) while Eminem is featured on the sequel to their domestic drama hit “Love The Way You Lie.”
To say that Rihanna doesn’t skimp on the merriment and sensuality would be an incredible understatement. On the soaring, ballad-esque “California King Bed,” her voice is at its most appealing, and even when she switches up the groove with the hedonistic jam “Cheers (Drink To That)” the girl can seemingly do no wrong. And don’t even get me started on the vibrant, reggae-tinged “Man Down” (which reminds me of Melanie Fiona’s sleeper hit “Somebody Get Me”), for which Rihanna – as a fresh murderess – turns to her rich Caribbean roots.
As Loud proves, very few in pop can blend fun and sexiness for a successful album quite like ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. It’s indisputably another winning disc worth your attention. You had fair warning on Rated R’s rubbery hit “Hard”: That Rihanna reign just won’t let up.
DOWNLOAD: “Cheers (Drink To That),” a bona-fide, feel-good jam, and the chart-topping nugget “What’s My Name?” (featuring Drake)