Rihanna's album is entitled 'Unapologetic.'(Photo: Rihanna, Twitter)
The catchiest song on Rihanna's new album, Unapologetic (* * * out of four), may also be the most disturbing one. On Nobody's Business,
an exuberant, strings-laced duet that nods to great pop-soul records of
the '70s and early '80s, the singer is joined by fellow star and former
steady Chris Brown, his voice limpid and silky smooth. "I want to be
your baby," she croons to the man who pled guilty to assaulting her
three and a half years ago. "You'll always be my baby. Tell me what you
There are other infectious tunes on Unapologetic
(out Monday), and others that will make you squirm a bit. It's not
always clear if the 24-year-old superstar is being painfully candid or
playfully provocative -- or which of those approaches should be more
unsettling. The tracks, crafted by a team that includes Stargate,
The-Dream and David Guetta, use spacious arrangements filled with
bright, sometimes frosty electronic textures that, like the lyrics,
alternately convey lust and fear, a need to connect and an impulse to
retreat. "Get close to me if you dare," Rihanna teases on the coldly
thumping Numb, featuring a cheeky Eminem.
On the frantic, pulsing Right Now, she extols instant gratification: "Tomorrow's too far away ... All we get is right now." What Now
veers from sweetly spare acoustic verses to a thrashing chorus; on the
bridge, Rihanna laments, "I don't know where to go/I don't know what to
Several songs portray the singer as a young woman prone to romanticize danger. On Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary, propelled by a rhythmic riff that recalls The Police's Message In A Bottle,
she recalls a relationship wrecked by an incident in a car -- the scene
of her alleged confrontation with Brown -- and admits that it "felt
like love struck me in the night." Then the arrangement slows, and over a
stark, airy backdrop, she appeals to "Mister Jesus" and "Mother Mary,"
but resolves, "I'm prepared to die in the moment."
On the last track of the standard version of Unapologetic, the anthemic Lost In Paradise,
she confesses, "If I open up my eyes/I can see the storm," but opts to
keep them closed: "It may be wrong/But it feels right." Maybe it's
nobody's business if she feels that way, but Rihanna still compels our
curiosity -- and our concern.
Download: Nobody's Business, Right Now, No Love Allowed