Rihanna Rated R

Rihanna Rated R
We all know what Rihanna went through in February. Even before the dust-up with Chris Brown, Rated R was primed to be a triumph capitalizing on the superstardom she found with 2007's Girl Gone Bad. But one listen to album number four and it is apparent Rihanna couldn't separate her personal life from her professional one. And so, Rated R puts her devastated emotional state on full display, both as a victim and as a gun-toting survivor. Lyrically, she hides nothing. Piano-heavy slow jam "Stupid In Love" is so brutally honest that you feel overwhelming discomfort for knowing all the gory details of her relationship with Brown, while "Fire Bomb" spoils what could have been a poignant statement with pesky faux-metal guitar chugs that never quit. It's not all heartbreak though. "Russian Roulette" is a slow, grinding dirge that never makes the impact the subject matter implies, and "G4L" gets even darker with her violent imagery, with Rihanna taking on the persona of a "gangsta for life" and waving her "guns in the motherfucking air." Although her new image is dark and edgy, Rihanna doesn't wear it well. That we need to rely on the Young Jeezy-assisted "Hard" for the only real banger is further proof of Rated R's shortcomings. Rihanna's identity crisis has obliterated any traces of the feel-good radio jams that made her a star. We get it ― she's in a dark place, she needs to vent ― but there's little evidence here to suggest this is the same person that gave us "Umbrella." And I don't think I'm alone in wishing there was something even half as good as that single on Rated R. (Def Jam)