Rihanna, ‘Loud’ – First Listen
NME: We took a trip down to the offices of The Man to hear Rihanna’s forthcoming fifth album, ‘Loud’ (due out November 15). As you might expect it’s a tasteful collection brimming over with wholesomeness and propriety, exactly the kind of thing that should grace the stereogram of any good Christian household…
From the off, ‘Loud’ doesn’t mess around with this dirty, hi-NRG Eurodance banger produced by her longtime collaborators Stargate. The sure-to-be-much-quoted lyrics leave as little to the imagination as a bikini of barbed wire, Rihanna bawling “Sex in the air but I don’t care, I love the smell of it/Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me”, over a fat wrecking-ball of a beat.
‘What’s My Name’
A slower, more brooding number, but the beats are still sharp and dark. It’s moody and sultry, but with an agile, playful vocal on the chorus, and Rihanna making full use of her Barbadian burr as she challeneges “Hey boy, I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me “. Rumoured former paramour Drake’s nonchalant drawl slides over the brutally sharp beats, wondering about the “square root of 69” (NB Drake dropped out of school to act in TV, so he may not be qualified to answer).
‘Cheers (Drink To That)’
A good old fashioned drinking song, driven by an elfinly yelping “yeah-yeah” refrain, a warm, loping, lazy pop-rock number vaguely reminiscent of Bran Van 3000’s ‘Drinking In LA’. Rihanna’s at the bar, posing in her Ray-Bans, sticking it all on her card, advising in an accent so thick it’s almost Germanic, “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. The track drops away into a load of pissed-bar-chants before coming back in with the soon-to-be-massive chorus, “Here’s to the freakin’ weekend/I’ll drink to that”.
A weird baroque pop opening, violin stabs and treated vocals, builds slowly into a rolling and shuddering beat and soft, sad-toned piano. A set-jawed, merciless break-up song in the mould of ‘Take A Bow’, it’s glossy and classy and hard, Rihanna urging “Go on, be gone/Bye bye so long/Can’t you see we’re fading away”.
‘California King Bed’
The inevitable big ballad with acoustic guitar (complete with audible string scrapes) soft piano keys and intimate melancholy, building into a massive power-balladish chorus in the manner of ‘If I Was A Boy’. RIhanna bewails the breakdown of a relationship: “Chest to chest/Nose to nose/Palm to palm, you were always just that close… in this California King Bed we’re 10,000 miles apart.”
More pronounced Caribbean/reggae flavours than anywhere else on the album. As with ‘Russian Roulette’ it’s hard to tell whether the central narrative “Mama, mama, I just shot a man down in Central Station/In front of a big old crowd” is a romantic metaphor or actually a song about unloading a gun in someone’s face.
‘Raining Men feat Nicki Minaj’
An MIA-ish, grindingly dirty baile-tinged number completely with parping klaxons. The cheeky team of Rihanna and Minaj (playing the Missy Elliot trickster-girl to RiRi’s glossy Tweet) gang up on the lads: “Set your sights lower boy, you’re aiming too high,” scoffs Rihanna, while Nicki’s more to the point: “Couldn’t find that thing with a microscope”.
A clean, sharp dancepop number, backed by a dark and shuffling hip-hop beat and a melancholic pop vocal “Why do you make it so hard to love you?/I hate it,” wails Rihanna, and we’re reminded of the best and cleverest moments of the Sugababes (RIP).
Dark low bass and creeping touches of synth, and suspenseful, sultry vocals. “I got secrets that I wanna show you,” promises Rihanna. (We hear she’s quite into etching between commitments, though she doesn’t like to talk about it). The beats are restrained and controlled, with no big drop like you’re expecting. “You know I like it rough,” she asserts. “You a big boy, you know I like that”. CRIPES.
‘Love The Way You Lie feat Eminem (Pt II)
Reversing the Em/Ri-Ri balance of the first instalment, Pt II delves deeper into the tortured relations of its characters, starts with piano and brooding chords, soon undercut by massive, hefting, tectonic, Umbrella-styke beats. “Maybe I’m a masochist,” muses Rihanna, “try to run but I don’t wanna never leave/Till the walls are going up in smoke with all our memories.” Eminem’s guest verse sounds completely deranged, practically screaming with fury at some points, bawling “tell me how ugly I am and how you’ll always love me.” Sheesh, that’s the last time we suggest he might take the recycling out more often.