While the music career of pop icon Rihanna rose to new heights following the release of her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad, which contained the hit single “Umbrella,” it is her latest album,Unapologetic, which is her greatest work of art to date. As catchy and rhythmic as Rihanna’s previous albums are, Unapologetic contains elements and an overall theme that the others do not. Sure, there are feel good songs such as “Pour it Up,” but tracks such as this are few and far between. Overall, this album is sincere and gut-wrenchingly heartfelt.
The songs on Unapologetic, released in November 2012, contain heavy meaning and feeling. Beginning with the lead single “Diamonds,” which was dedicated to her dear late grandmother, Rihanna belts out lyrics of pain and healing. Its a beautiful departure from the type of music for which she has become famous. The seventh installment in Rihanna’s discography is more R&B than Pop.
This seamless transition is part of what makes Unapologetic so impressive. That’s the essence of artistry, not sticking to a single successful formula, but creating something entirely unique and have it be just as magnificent. To reinvent yourself over, and over again. Rihanna is often perceived as tough and edgy– An in your face, “get out of my face” persona. However, on “Stay” she is soft and vulnerable, and a different side of her is revealed.
The soul bearing continues on tracks such as “Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary,” with lyrics that even the most naive listener would believe referenced Rihanna’s tumultuous relationship with singer Chris Brown:
You used to be this boy I loved And I used to be this girl of your dreams
Who knew the course of this one drive Injured us fatally.”
On “What Now” the songstress sounds frustrated, lost and searching for answers. In a place that we have all been, she sounds human:
There’s no one to call ‘Cause I’m just playing games with them all
The more I swear I’m happy The more that I’m feeling alone.”
Then there is “Get it Over With.” Here Rihanna pleads with the perpetual storm:
You keep thundering, thundering
I’m wondering, wondering
Why you keep thundering
Won’t you just fucking rain and get it over with.”
The metaphors are perfectly accurate as she seems to be a proponent of quickly ripping off the Band-Aid, instead of tugging at it slowly and gently, inevitably prolonging the pain.
There are no addictive “ella-ellas” included in the tracks of this album to make it memorable. But there is passion and substance. There is relatable subject matter delivered with infectious emotion.
They say that affliction can be the best muse and birth the greatest art. Here, Rihanna’s pain is unapologetically and unequivocally the listener’s gain. After all, what’s love without tragedy?