Rihanna, LOUD

Rihanna has come full circle. After getting popular with radio-friendly pop on albums like Good Gone Gone Bad: Reloaded, she channeled her public abuse from Chris Brown into the darker album Rated R. Loud, Rihanna's newset album, returns the singer to (mostly) light pop.

I'm not entirely sure where the title for the new album comes from. There are a few songs where Rihanna yells as much as she sings, but for the most part Loud is the usual mix of up-tempo pop tunes and slower ballads.

If Loud is about anything, it's about Rihanna and men. The songs are mostly about sex ("s&m," "skin"), dating ("What's My Name?" "Only Girl (in the World"), relationship problems (the touching "California King Bed," "Fading," "Complicated"), and even how available and disposable men are ("Raining Men"). These songs are enjoyable, if somewhat typical.

As for the other songs, "Cheers (Drink to That)" is a celebration of the alcohol-filled weekends (though more sedate than Pink's "Raise Your Glass") and "Man Down" would be a serious song about killing someone -- if it didn't have a light, breezy reggae melody to it. The exception is the jarring final song, "Love the Way You Lie (part II) with Eminem. This stands out as far more serious, depressing, and substantial than anything else on Loud.

Rihanna's Loud is decent, but for the most part she's still settling for routine pop songs. While this album has mostly good songs, it's not until the last song that Rihanna shows what she's really capable of.

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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