Rihanna’s first album following her heavily publicized battery by Chris Brown represented a startling change of direction for the talented superstar. Not only is “Rated R her first album that sounded like a real album (by which I mean that it didn’t sound like a loose collection of singles, which is more or less what her early discography is), but it’s also a great album – the lyrics often vary between angry and confused, addressing the multitudinous ways in which abuse can affect a person, not to mention a young person in the public spotlight. It doesn’t feel like an attempt at public relations, but instead feels like a very raw, intense outpouring of conflicting emotions in the wake of an unexpected assault that had altered her life, however temporarily. Rihanna has, at least publicly, recovered from this regrettable moment in her life, and this album (along with its jolting, candid songs like “Stupid in Love” and “Fire Bomb”) serves as a powerful reminder that even the toughest of the tough can be destabilized by the betrayal of a loved one. This is riveting mainstream music at its absolute finest.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)
You can watch the video for “Hard” here: