Rihanna’s Unapologetic: The Good, The Bad and The Definitely About Chris Brown

by (@zaragolden)

#Rihannaplane landed last night in New York, and while we wait on the final dispatches from our brave colleagues who were onboard, we thought we would take a moment to start looking at the album that has inspired the whole thing but been seemingly tucked a back seat pocket for the duration of the seven days. Who has time to talk dub-break downs when there’s Ace to be sipped and buses to catch! We get it.

But Unapologetic marks Rihanna’s seventh turn, and it brings to the table much to be reckoned with regarding quality and quantity and he-who-shall-not-be-named. There is also Rihanna’s confidence and swaggering deviance, and of course: “Diamonds.”

The Ones That Are Definitely About Chris Brown:

Otherwise known as or suspected to be: most of the album. And then of course there is the song where they together try to convince us that it’s not our business. She is, as we on the internet might say, a troll, and a very good one at that. She needs something to be Unapologetic about, and when her penchant for partying and profanity just won’t shock, she’s more than happy to bring in her trump card. She’s frequently defiant (“I still got my money/Who cares how you haters feel?” on “Pour It Up”) and defensive (“I was flying ’til you knocked me to the floor,” in “No Love Allowed”) of love that leaves bruises. And that’s to say nothing of the song they share (more on that in a second). Brown’s inclusion raises the #nophucksgiven stakes for Rihanna, but might make this otherwise very enjoyable album a tough one for some people to listen through. We couldn’t exactly blame you.

The One That Actually Features Chris Brown:

“Nobody’s Business,” is Rhianna at her most unapologetic. While the rest of the album has her throwing elbows and fighting for her right to be rich, to party hard, and to hang out with her one-time abuser, “Nobody’s Business” seems to have her feeling loose and having fun. And as heavy as Rihanna and Chris Brown’s history may sit with you, this song — summoning Michael Jackson as it does and so danceable as it is — is carefully crafted to leave you feeling the same way. It’s the most difficult song to reckon with, and also one of the album’s best. So, Rihanna wins this round while Brown, he and his MJ impression take the assist.

The Vexing:

She’s not done. “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary” comes next, dropping us like a thud as it lets the air out of the charade that was “Nobody’s Business ” The nearly 7-minute suit again keeps Brown close, but this time has Rihanna marking their relationship as tragic with worried admittances like: “You took the best years of my life / I took the best years of your life / Felt love struck me with a knife / I pray that love don’t strike twice.” At one point she swears she’ll change, at another she’s bracing herself for death, and whatever make-out-y feelings you were feeling after “Nobody’s Business” turn back to guilt. It makes for a confusing stretch, but probably also the most autobiographical ten minutes in her catalogue.

The Eardrum Altering:

Like every pop album this year must, Unapologetic embraces the Euro-womp that has so thoroughly infected airways, and particularly so with David Guetta‘s two contributions: “Phresh Out the Runway” and “Right Now” are gritty, grinding and guttural, and will for sure have parents jumping to turn down the volume if they ever make it to the radio.

Best Influence Guest Verse: “Loveeeeeee Song” has Future, an Atlanta rapper with an unbelievable knack for melody, almost moaning while he sings: “I hope I’m not sounding to desperate.” Rihanna sounds clear and bright by comparison. It’s rare and refreshing, even if she’s still singing about wanting to be someone’s “possession.”

Biggest Waste Of Space Guest Verse:

“Numb” swirls and slurs under the influence and is very, very good, but with no thanks due to Rihanna’s guest on the song Eminem. Despite her “get closer to me if you dare, I double dare” pleadings, he only manages to muster a butt police (“reear-reeaar”) joke and a mumbled something about bath salts. His real misstep though is his mention of “Love The Way You Lie,” their tormented duet from his 2010 Recovery that makes his turn here pass like a hallucination.

Biggest Disappointment / Best Surprise:

We really fell for “Stay” as it was debuted it on Saturday Night Live, spare and weighted with emotion and unlike anything we have come to expect from Rihanna. The album version still has Rihanna really singing, but she sounds bored, and Mikky Ekko’s part has the whole project sound like a Gotye song. It’s not bad, but feels deflated after that first performance. “What Now” finds her far more aching, and it turns out to be the most compelling of the album’s piano-led ballads. And while we’re here, Oddest Enunciation goes easily to the way she pronounces “mirror” in this song as “me-uh-ur.” Runner-up goes to “bidness” on “Nobody’s Business.” Rihanna, do you!

And The One Where She Sings Ginuwine‘s “Pony”?

“Jump” is great! As are: her get-hers anthem “Pour It Up” and, duh, “Diamonds.”

But that’s all just us! What did you think of Unapologetic?