Rihanna is now officially a bad girl. The Caribbean teen sensation straps on some high heels...
DJBooth Album Review
Rihanna’s breakout single Pon De Replay dripped with island-pop charm, and prompted thousands of people to pretend they knew what “pon de replay” meant, myself included, but it wasn’t exactly Grammy material. On Good Girl Gone Bad industry king and Def Jam president Jay-Z has arranged for some production heavyweights to work the studio with Rihanna and for the most part she steps up. It’s rare that we get to see an artist mature, but the 19-year-old is doing just that. They grow up so fast.
The album’s first single Umbrella sets the tone for Rihanna’s new and improved self. The track has a futuristic feel with its echoing percussion, layered synths, and rock guitar background, and none other than Jigga contributes a slightly abstract flow. For her part Rihanna doesn’t light the track on fire, just hits her notes, puts in some personal style, and delivers a replay worthy performance. Rihanna has essentially become the girl-next-door version of Beyonce. She can sing but isn’t going to belt out a show-stopper, she has some undeniable sex appeal but isn’t going to become a sex symbol. Watch Umbrella and Beyonce’s Upgrade You back to back and see what I mean. If every woman wants to be Beyonce and every guy wants to be with her, they also know it’s not going to happen. You seemingly don’t need to own a yacht to date Rihanna, and you don’t have to be Christina Aquillera to sing along with her. It’s this kind of crossover appeal that should have fans lining up to buy Good Girl Gone Bad.
It wouldn’t be a major album without Timbaland, and sure enough the production master gives Rihanna something to work with. Lemme Get That is trademark Timbo, he somehow combines Indian singing with a marching band to head nodding effect. The track’s hot, but Rihanna isn’t strong enough to make it her own. Timbaland’s beats are so powerful it takes a truly dynamic artist to rise above them, a problem I wrote about in length, and in the end the music overwhelms Rihanna. Timbo also brings along Justin Timberlake to write Rehab, a more laid back song that allows Rihanna to shine, even if it sounds almost exactly like J.T.’s What Goes Around…Comes Around. All three Timbo tracks are tight, but you get the feeling they could have just as easily been done by Nelly Furtado.
Ne-Yo on the other hand lets us hear the full potential of Rihanna. The two combine for an acoustic guitar duet on Hate That I Love You, a well-crafted song that has Ne-Yo lending some vocal support while still giving Rihanna the spotlight. He also wrote the title track Good Girl Gone Bad, which despite its scandalous title is a social commentary blaming male abuse for leading good girls down the wrong road. Ironically Ne-Yo might be the best female empowerment songwriter alive. Even more impressive is Question Existing, an intensely personal and atmospheric track that has Rihanna asking,”Who am I living for?” With songs like Question Existing Rihanna has established she’s more than just another pretty face, she’s a true artist.
The road to stardom is littered with young singers who showed promise but in the end just couldn’t maintain (excuse me Ashanti, I didn’t see you there). Good Girl Gone Bad is a crossroads album for Rihanna. It has enough genre bending material to make her a truly national star, or she can fall victim to fame and fade into oblivion. I’ll put money down that ten years from now we’ll look back at this album as her Rhythm Nation, an album that opened the door to national prominence. Any takers?
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 06/4/07
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First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Umbrella ft. Jay-Z" (2007)
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