Rihanna Loud

Rating: NNFive albums into her career, hip-hop's hardest-working hook singer chooses swagger over subtlety on Loud, a scattered, sporadically satisfying.


Rating: NN

Five albums into her career, hip-hop’s hardest-working hook singer chooses swagger over subtlety on Loud, a scattered, sporadically satisfying effort that lives up to its title. Rihanna boasts a sharp, strident voice, a take-charge attitude and some of the top songwriters in pop. What her songs lack is character, not always essential on a hook or number-one hit, but after 11 tracks of ear-splitting vocals you begin to wonder if the 22-year-old is overcompensating.

Take 80s AM radio ballad California King Bed. RiRi starts off like Lisa Loeb, but hardly a minute in she’s blaring like an uptight air horn. Cheers (Drink To That) admirably tries for definitive drinking anthem, but her shrill vocal interplay with a grating Avril Lavigne sample sounds more like the world’s worst hangover. The record’s best moments aim low rather than loud, with spacious, skittery beats that let loose Rihanna’s Caribbean cadence.

Top track: What’s My Name

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