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 doesn’t sound like a loose collection of singles, but it’s also one of the best of its kind – the lyrics often between angry and confused, addressing the multitudinous ways in which abuse can affect someone, 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 raw, intense outpouring of conflicting emotions in the wake of an unexpected assault. 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 finest.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)