Rihanna’s albums tell a surprising story: beautiful girl leaves Barbados for the big city and discovers her inner goth. Between her 2005 debut and this fourth album, the Jay-Z protégé and R&B star has gotten pierced and tattooed, and gone from pastel bikinis to fetishy black leather, from a disarming smile to a glare worthy of Grace Jones. Rated R arrives in the wake of Rihanna’s widely publicized beating by Chris Brown, and the lyrics are dark (and surprisingly profane) — from “Russian Roulette” to “Stupid in Love,” which contains references to “blood on your hands” and the line “Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.” Unfortunately, the music and words, often written by others, don’t always match. The more minimal, dubstep-like tracks bolster the Rihanna image and brand, but the piano-and-strings ballads are too generic by half. Rated R demonstrates evolution, but she’s got further to go yet. — Phil Freeman
Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.