Robyn Rihanna Fenty has been pretty much omnipresent throughout the western hemisphere these past three years. There was a very real danger on the back of her uber-successful 2007 chart-topper Umbrella that she could become over-exposed, and no lads I don't mean in the good way. On a personal level I'd have to say that fear was realised; Rihanna is never going to be right up my street as an artist, but she isn't going anywhere, so I'd better get used to her.
What I can say for her is that she clearly has a good ear for a hit, and a fresh and fierce personality that makes her one of the more intersting celebrities on the scene. If I have to have an RnB diva forced on me for the next three years, well, better her than the next one off the production line.
So what of her latest effort, Loud? Is it any good, and am I any closer to being a Rihanna fan?
Going back to Rihanna's omnipresence for a moment, you will surely already have heard the lead single from Loud, Only Girl (In the World). We are in familliar Rihanna territory; her voice, auto-tuned as it is, is instantly recognizable, while stylistically there has been no quantum leap forward since 2009's Rated R. It's a perfectly adequate single, but hardly worthy of keeping Take That off the top spot this week.
Opening track S&M kicks things off, a kinky dance track, which sets the fairly x-rated tone for the rest of the album. The next single What's My Name? picks up the risqué theme and runs with it as guesting rapper Drake and Rihanna play off one another about a one night stand. What's My Name has a raunchy reggae/dancehall tinge to it, and it's this angle that brings out the best in Rihanna I think. Man Down and Raining Men (with serial collaborator Nicki Minaj) are more of the same.
California King Bed is a worthy attempt at the big ballad, and shows off the side of Rihanna that you won't hear in the charts any time soon. Emotion, pathos, and even some classic rock guitar in the backing track make for one of the better tracks on this album.
I gave Loud a good chance I really did, but while I can appreciate it's strengths (which are mainly Rihanna's strengths, as an interesting pop star), it was just never going to be a record for me. The singles will, obviously, be wildly successful but I'm not going to be one of those helping them climb the charts.
Final Score: 55%