Rihanna 'Unapologetic,' but struggling with impulses
Posted November 19, 2012
The catchiest song on Rihanna's new album, Unapologetic (* * * out of four), may also be the most disturbing one. On Nobody's Business, an exuberant, strings-laced duet that nods to great pop-soul records of the '70s and early '80s, the singer is joined by fellow star and former steady Chris Brown, his voice limpid and silky smooth. "I want to be your baby," she croons to the man who pled guilty to assaulting her three and a half years ago. "You'll always be my baby. Tell me what you want now."
There are other infectious tunes on Unapologetic (out Monday), and others that will make you squirm a bit. It's not always clear if the 24-year-old superstar is being painfully candid or playfully provocative -- or which of those approaches should be more unsettling. The tracks, crafted by a team that includes Stargate, The-Dream and David Guetta, use spacious arrangements filled with bright, sometimes frosty electronic textures that, like the lyrics, alternately convey lust and fear, a need to connect and an impulse to retreat. "Get close to me if you dare," Rihanna teases on the coldly thumping Numb, featuring a cheeky Eminem.
On the frantic, pulsing Right Now, she extols instant gratification: "Tomorrow's too far away … All we get is right now." What Now veers from sweetly spare acoustic verses to a thrashing chorus; on the bridge, Rihanna laments, "I don't know where to go/I don't know what to feel."
Several songs portray the singer as a young woman prone to romanticize danger. On Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary, propelled by a rhythmic riff that recalls The Police's Message In A Bottle, she recalls a relationship wrecked by an incident in a car -- the scene of her alleged confrontation with Brown -- and admits that it "felt like love struck me in the night." Then the arrangement slows, and over a stark, airy backdrop, she appeals to "Mister Jesus" and "Mother Mary," but resolves, "I'm prepared to die in the moment."
On the last track of the standard version of Unapologetic, the anthemic Lost In Paradise, she confesses, "If I open up my eyes/I can see the storm," but opts to keep them closed: "It may be wrong/But it feels right." Maybe it's nobody's business if she feels that way, but Rihanna still compels our curiosity -- and our concern.
Download: Nobody's Business, Right Now, No Love Allowed
Latest in Entertainment