May 22, 2007
Glenn Sez: Rihanna
Hi chippers, Glenn here. This week I'm here to actually recommend something. And it's quite something, really. It's the new CD by that oddball pop thingamajig Rihanna. She of terrible first album in 2004, who then shocked everybody by releasing one of the best singles of 2005 in the form of "SOS", which quickly followed by her second album is as many years that was, yes, terrible. So it with with cautious optimism that when "Umbrella", the lead single from her third album in three years (does she ever stop and breathe?) On one one, the song was one of those truly rare freakin' brilliant zeitgeist moments for pop music. And on the other hand, "SOS" was a whole of alright and the album turned to the shitter.
But it is with happy enthusiasm that I can announce her new album Good Girl Gone Bad - which is merely based on a song title because surely she has it the wrong way around. She was never "good", nor has she turned "bad", unless bad is new slang for "better than she has any right to be" - is really quite amazing. I shall guide you through it.
Track 1 - "Umbrella" (featuring Jay-Z)
Apart from the dreadful opening rap number as a ridiculous method of getting the song played on American radio (without the ubiquitous rap, no one will play it? That's crazy), this song is 20 different kids of awesome, and probably a few more kinds of awesome than have yet to be discovered by humanoid ears. It's all crunchy guitars and a wave-your-hands-in-the-air chorus that'll get your feet moving and make you go into a singing fit of "ella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh". If someone had never heard the song they'd think you were a freak. Until they heard it and realised you were Jesus and "Umbrella" was your ten commandments. Or something. That analogy didn't quite work, but essentially: "Umbrella" = Jesus.
Track 2 - "Push Up On Me"
So, now I know what happened to Salt-n-Pepa! Rihanna beat them up with a meat mallet and then ate their bloody pulpy remains and soaked up their retro vibes from when, ya know, hip-hop music was actually about making you dance and not putting you into a coma. It's much more dance-oriented than that style of hip-hop, but I can totally get into that groove. It's fun. This song is made to have a video in which Rihanna does that thing that so many singers do these days where they move their arms and their chest in rhythm so it looks like they're using a horizontal jackhammer. Or something like that. Ya know?
Track 3 - "Don't Stop The Music"
This one samples Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Something" is it is quite amazing. It's a flatout dance track and this is gonna make your head explode when you hear it in a club, no doubt. Seriously. This absolutely must be a single. If it's not a single then I will put it on a cd and mail it to every DJ in the country so that they play it and it charts on the club charts and the company finally uses their limited brain capacity and releases it officially with about 239583 different remixes. It's that good.
Track 4 - "Breakin' Dishes"
Okay, Rihanna is angry. Am loving the "I don't know who you think I am" part. This song is all about being so angry that she wants "break dishes on your head" and she's not gonna stop "until [she] sees police lights". omigod, right? This has also gotta be a single, surely. We need another angry-female song on the charts. I think this song includes everything but the kitchen sink.
Track 5 - "Shut Up and Drive"
Like "SOS" and "Don't Stop The Music", this song uses another prominant '80s sample. This time it's that apex of '80s cool, "Blue Monday". It's not as in-your-face as "SOS", but it's there and it's awesome. This song is set to be the second single and while I really love it, but it's clearly no "Umbrella" or "Don't Stop the Music", ya know?
Track 6 - "Hate That I Love You" (feat Ne-Yo)
Okay, so a major change of pace here. Considering it's with Ne-Yo we shouldn't be surprised. But, considering it's Ne-Yo I'm actually surprised I like this track as much as I do (his stuff is usually tosh apart from Beyonce's "Irreplacable", but I didn't have to listen to his whiney voice in that one, he just right). This will most likely be a single - the third, most likely, because music execs like to make sure that the third single is a slower one so that it attracts new buyers. Anyway, the song is nice and lovely and is a gallant effort at a ballad by Rihanna.
Track 7 - "Say It"
This is more in line with what she was doing with her last two albums (reggae-tinged pop), and it may just be my favourable reaction to this CD so far that makes me not hate it as much as would if the rest of the album was shite. It's definitely one of the lesser tracks on the CD. It's sort of boring and I could imagine taking a snooze while it was on and dreaming about a calypso paradise.
Track 8 - "Sell Me Candy"
Clearly the best title on the CD, the song is utterly bizarre. Not as immediate as the first five tracks, but it gets there in the end. The chorus makes it better than the verses would have you believe. It sounds tribal, but bouncy. And it's only 2 minutes 45 seconds so it's over before you really get a chance to get overly annoyed. I've found myself liking it more on repeated listens though. That chorus has something.
Track 9 - "Lemme Get That"
Set the sounds of a marching band (cheering included), I am really getting into the groove of this track. Her delivery is eccentric, but it's fun. Actually. I really like it. I really really like it. There aren't enough tubas in pop music today, don't you think? I think she mentions burning furniture, too so that's all sorts of unreal. The end is odd. It probably would have worked better without the fadeout... thing. It's not an actual fadeout, but it is. I'm making no sense. I like the song.
Track 10 - "Rehab"
This is the track written by Justin Timberlake and produced by Timbaland. Thank god Timbaland didn't waste this track on his dreadful Shock Value album (yeah, it was atrocious). This feels like a quasi-outtake from JT's great FutureSex/LoveSounds album, except Rihanna doesn't sound laughable singing about being a badass or whatever (which JT obviously would). I could have done without the ubiquitous JT/Timbaland cameos (must they do that every single time?) If you like JT's "What Goes Around... Comes Around", then I'm sure you'll like this. I doubt the video would have Rihanna and Scarlett Johansson make out in a pool... and then in a staircase... and then on a lounge... and then have ScarJo get pulvarised in a car accident. Although that'd be sort of great, wouldn't it?
Track 11 - "Question Existing"
Interesting song. The music is great. I wanna wrap myself up in it's '80s essense. But, the vocals have been computerised and buried under zips, zaps and swirls. The "dear diary" parts are nice I guess. I definitely like the song, and it could be a grower. Seems much more personal than the rest of the album though.
Track 12 - "Good Girl Gone Bad"
A nice closer to the album I guess. It's another slower track, but it's not a "slow jam". In fact, I quite like the song. There'll be an acoustic b-side of this at some stage I can tell.
Yeah, it's really really great. Buy it. If it's your thing. Don't be turned off by the fact that her first two albums are dire shite, because here she's the real deal. Finally making an album and not merely a collection of possible singles, most of which sound the same as each other, ya know? And, seriously, there are some great songs on here. I'm gonna be addicted to "Don't Stop the Music" just like I've been obsessed with "Umbrella".
It's the sort of album that will take the winter blues away from us in the southern hemisphere, while giving those in the northern hemisphere are perfect summer confection. Don't stop this music, please.