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Review: Rihanna - "Unapologetic"

Rihanna is a machine. She is an unstoppable force. She is the BC hockey of pop music.

Do you realize that we current college seniors have seen Rihanna release a new album every year since we arrived on campus? And that every one of those albums has produced multiple gigantic-mondo-inescapable hit records that you’ve heard at least 50 times since - in the Mods alone? Look:

  • Freshman yearRated R: “Hard,” “Rude Boy”
  • Sophomore yearLoud: “S&M,” “What’s My Name?” “Only Girl In The World”
  • Junior yearTalk That Talk: “Where Have You Been,” “We Found Love,” “Birthday Cake”
  • Senior yearUnapologetic: “Diamonds,” [TBD]

That last slot got left TBD because we don’t know which new Rihanna songs we will party to; we just know that we will be partying to them until graduation.

As you can see and are probably very aware of already, one of them has already been decided: “Diamonds.” If you don’t know this song, go listen to it. If you’re a normal, sociable human being (meaning you do already know it), please take this time to watch Rihanna’s recent performance of the song on Saturday Night Live, which writers besides myself have called one of the greatest in the history of the program:


So we’ve already checked one “gigantic-mondo-inescapable hit record” off the Rihanna album checklist. What’s left?

Swag. Much swag. It takes over immediately, with the track’s opener, “Phresh Out The Runway.” What do you need to know about this song? Just that it sounds like it was produced for a Carter III-era Lil’ Wayne, but the swag police took it away from him after he forgot how to rap and gave it to the next artist on the BAMF rankings: Ms. Robyn Rihanna Fenty.

See? That song needs to be spelled with a Ph. Taylor Swift ain’t spelling nothing with a Ph. Rihanna 1, Rest Of The World, 0.

“Pour It Up” is probably going to supplant “Rack City” as this year’s CSOM anthem. “All I see is signs/All I see is dollar signs” – not only is this one of the sickest eye problems anyone has ever had, the line is spit with so much attitude that I feel like I should take a money shower just for listening to it.

The swag crescendos with “Jump,” a legit dubstep banger that features Rihanna straight jacking the chorus to Ginuwine’s “Pony” and not even changing it to reflect the gender flip. Whatever; I’d rather hear Rihanna say literally anything if the other choice is Ginuwine. Also, I’m pretty sure but not quite sure that Kanye West jumps in at around 3:11. Fact check me if you feel so obliged:

The album is going great (and if you don't believe me, I didn’t even mention the duet with Future called “Loveeeeeee Song” with like seven E’s) up until Rihanna decides she needs to sing about Chris Brown and just Chris Brown for the entire second half of the record.

Rihanna – WHY.



It’s not enough that we have emotional ballads like “What Now” and “Stay” that feature RiRi not knowing how to move on from the guy who turned her into his own personal punching bag three whole years ago. She has to go and “modernize” a classic Michael Jackson song (“The Way You Make Me Feel”) – WITH CHRIS BROWN. And you know what?

It’s awesome.

Rihanna, how can you do this to us? It was hard enough to enjoy the “Deuces” remix two years ago, which at least we could justify as a celebration of Chris Brown never getting to talk to you again. But to release this undeniably sick song that will keep the Mods bumping all night long (read: until 1:15) - you had no business making us feel so conflicted. I hope that terrible play on the song title makes you feel badly about what you’ve done.

Thankfully, the rest of the Chris Brown tunes are forgettable enough for us to justifiably hate on. There’s a seven-minute epic called “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary”, which I suppose was meant to serve as the album’s climax, but instead comes off as seven minutes of Rihanna wailing about a problem nobody feels bad about her having anymore (LEAVE. HIM. ALONE. End of story).

The three final tracks, “Get It Over With,” “No Love Allowed” and “Lost In Paradise” could very well be excellently constructed pieces of music, but we’ll never know. Music cannot be listened to in a vacuum, without context, by anyone who already knows the context in which it exists. And this context destroys any shred of beauty in the music.

Yes, the album is called Unapologetic, but I have no idea what Rihanna was trying to do to her fans by dedicating half of its 14 tracks to pop music’s unquestioned symbol of evil in the 21st century. We’ll enjoy the several new additions to the Mods soundtrack, but as for the rest of the album, Rihanna needs a change of direction as badly as some of the non-hockey portions of the BC athletic department.

Gavel rating: 6/10

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Rob hails from Lexington, Massachusetts and is a member of the Carroll School of Management Class of 2013, concentrating in Finance and Marketing. He joined the Gavel Media editorial board as a freshman and was Culture Editor during his sophomore year before assuming the role of Managing Editor in January 2012. He loves hip-hop, Dos Equis commercials, and talking to people about Tom Brady. Follow him on Twitter @RVRossi.