About three years ago, when Rihanna’s pivotal third album Good Girl Gone Bad was released, Jay-Z dubbed her the Black Madonna. It seemed ridiculous at the time, but considering Rihanna’s reinvention of herself with every work that followed, Jay-Z might have been onto something.
Rihanna’s gumption has progressively escalated in both her sound…and hairstyles. Through her “safe” period during her first two albums Music Of the Sun and A Girl Like Me, the Bajan beauty emitted a Pop-Caribe vibe on the first, delivering her debut hit “Pon De Replay”. By the second, Ms. Fenty approached the edge, with the dark and dramatic “Unfaithful”, still sliding the Pop hit “SOS” into the mix. Then Good Girl Gone Bad happened; an album that became so big it was re-released and “re-loaded” with more songs. Rihanna had joined the ranks of Jay-Z’s esteemed “Roc” roster, cut off all of her hair and began a romance with Chris Brown. Brown even penned her mid-level hit “Disturbia” (ironically the title of the movie her rumored former love interest Shia LaBeouf starred in). However, it was “Umbrella” with Jay-Z that truly propelled her to superstar status, with “Please Don’t Stop the Music” and “Rehab” fanning the flames.
A tumultuous relationship with Chris Brown left her bruised (but never broken), resulting in her fourth album Rated R. Rated R was exactly that, as Rihanna shaved the sides of her head and went buckwild to songs like “Hard” with rapper Young Jeezy, “G4L” (aka Gangsta 4 Life) and “Rude Boy”. It was clear that the siren was lashing out, yet exposed moments of vulnerability on tracks like “Cold Case Love”, assumedly a “hindsight is 20/20” look into her previous relationship.
Her fifth studio album Loud offers a dramatically different twist to Rihanna’s sound. Her fire engine red locks are a true testament to her new Phoenix mentality; coupled with the stringy, synth-loving production her fifth album leans on. From the emotionally technotronic “Only Girl In the World”, the aurgasmic whips and chains beat of “S&M”, to the candy-coated “Raining Men” with fellow hair changing femme Nicki Minaj, Loud is a declaration of Rihanna’s independence. Rihanna also returns to her Bajan roots on a few songs including “What’s My Name” with Drake and the epochal “Man Down”, where she loves a man so much she kills him. She even reunites with Eminem on Part II of their intense hit “Love the Way You Lie”.
As she’s weathered a few storms and a collected a number of hits, Loud could very well be Rihanna’s Ray Of Light. She hasn’t quite earned an Immaculate Collection yet, but there’s still plenty of time for that.
By Kathy Iandoli