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Open any dictionary and next to the word ‘loud’ you will find several definitions including ‘noisy’, ‘offensive’ and ‘vulgar’. If these are the type of meanings that Rihanna wants her listeners to derive from her new album then she has effectively achieved her goal.
‘Loud’ is the fifth studio album to be released by the Rihanna in as many years and it features the red haired vixen doing what she does best – attaching herself to the latest trends in Pop music. However, despite being bolstered by tight production and catchy melodies, Rihanna’s blatant lack of vocal skill and originality causes the 11-track LP to be far less impressive than those of her peers.
Like most devastating plane crashes, the album starts off on a high point with the expected third single, ‘S&M’. Vivacious and enticing, Rihanna delivers a respectable vocal performance while allowing her sexuality to be fully liberated over a mix of synths, drums and a foot-stomping beat. In fact, this song may be her most honest record to date as she belts “sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me”.
The only other shining moments on ‘Loud’ include the vocally impressive ‘Complicated’ and Country/Alternative ‘California King Bed’. In both instances Rihanna actually challenges herself to open her mouth and sing in ways that she rarely ever dares to perform. Indeed, these tracks provide rare moments in her entire career where listeners might wish that the production was toned down to allow her voice to shine through as she belts and scales to new heights.
Now ‘Loud’ Airlines has begun its descent and things start going horribly wrong. In true Rihanna fashion, the rest of the album proves to be a collection of horrendous vocal performances and nonsensical chanting, proving exactly how limited she truly is as a vocalist.
Songs such as the sickeningly nasal ‘Cheers (Drink To That)’ and the painfully boring ‘Fading’ confirm that even the industry’s most clever producers cannot compensate for Rihanna’s limited ability as a singer. She unsuccessfully tries to force her voice to adapt the melody of the records, resulting in more painful than enjoyable results.
Yet, the carnage does not end there. Songs that Rihanna’s West Indian roots should have given her some advantages prove to be too much for her to handle. She awkwardly channels her fellow Caribbean native Tanya Stephens on the song ‘Man Down’ which, strangely enough, has a striking similarity to the Jamaican’s hit ‘It’s A Pity’. Rihanna is even upstaged by Nicki Minaj on ‘Raining Men’ who sounds more comfortable on the track than her Bajan counterpart.
When the smoke clears and the wreckage of this plane crash are revised, the main weakness of ‘Loud’ is that it is not a cohesive body of work. The album is simply a collection of singles from which Rihanna’s label can choose to service to radio. No wonder they have already chosen all of the future releases from this record to follow ‘What’s My Name? (Ft. Drake)’ and the annoyingly ever-present ‘Only Girl (In The World)’.
The fact that people in her camp had the nerve to compare this album to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ demonstrates that they must think that true music enthusiasts are relics of the past. On the contrary, it does not take a genius to realise that singles artists like Rihanna continue to fail to deliver the ground-breaking material that they promise. Her music might be loud but her blatant lack of artistic ability is even louder.