If the annual Rihanna album is a pop radio bellwether, it would seem the overblown EDM club sound she's helped popularize is on its way out.
Sonically, the first half of Unapologetic picks up on the syrupy Southern hip-hop minimalism popular last summer, while much of the latter half is a grab bag of unwieldy balladry best summed up by the title of track 12: Get It Over With.
As her Drake duet Take Care demonstrated, Rihanna sounds more expressive singing in a dusky timbre, but on her own albums her vocals are always mixed so loud that her bland, nasal blaring comes off as oppressively strident.
More anesthetized R&B tunes like the Eminem-assisted Numb and unlikely Future duet Loveeeeeee Song sound best. There are also a few weirdo detours into the 80s and 90s like croaky Ginuwine-sampling jam Jump, noodling synth-reggae curiosity No Love Allowed and the swish Chris Brown duet Nobody's Business, a shockingly enjoyable song that harkens back to the duo's more palatable pre-assault personas. It is quite literally a "guilty" pleasure.
Top track: Numb