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I Love the Internet. Probably my most anticipated release of the year leaked about two weeks early. And I’m so happy it did. Coming after the hugely successful “Good Girl Gone Bad” and the trio of singles released from it’s re-release, Rihanna had a lot to live up to on her 4th album “Rated R(officially released November 23rd). Not even going into her personal troubles, Rihanna was definitley busy this past year fine-tuning what is actually a pretty amazing album. This wasn’t clearly evident late last month when she leaked 3 of the tracks off the album. On their own they were very underwhelming, and I lost some faith in the album.
Luckily it turns out that the songs she leaked are basically all the filler, as she left some really outstanding stuff for the album. In fact the album is sequenced so well, that the filler tracks sound alot better while listening to the whole album. The similarities between “Rated R” and “Good Girl Gone Bad” end at the fact that they both are very well put together and can easily be played from front to back.
“Rated R” has Rihanna continually evolving from a teeny-bopper Pop personality into a more edgy Rock Icon. The sound of “Rated R” is Definitley darker, edgier, more street and more mature, which is exactly what I love about the album. What made me fall in love with Rihanna in the first place was her personality and aggressive attitude she left on the tracks, this album takes all of that to a new level. Her voice and her vocally delivery have improved quite drastically on this album, the official first single “Russian Roulette” and the perfection that is “Cold Case Love” (masterfully produced by Justin Timberlake’s production team The Y’s) show her vocal maturity. And tracks like “Rude Boy” and “Hard” show that even when presented with material that might sound a little dated, she owns with the delivery of the lyrics which make the songs.
Probably the three stand out cuts on this album are the aforementioned “Cold Case Love“, which is such a great production in that it builds, her vocals and the great lyrics are at the forefront throughout most of the song and than it builds up to a grand finale. Truly an epic track. The same can be said for “Firebomb” a perfect Pop/Rock mashup, almost reminiscent of a Leona Lewis or Beyonce track, but the producers take it to a rougher edgier level. This song also has great lyrical content. Finally “Rock Star 101”, an infectious track and her Swag is at 110% on this one. The rest of the album flows really nice, there are actually a bunch of great songs I could name, “Stupid in Love” “Hard” “The Last Song” “Photographs”, even the one I like the least are undeniable. I was worried, but I don’t have any doubts that this 4th album will establish Rihanna as a force in the industry that is definitley here to stay.
Now if you follow this blog, you might have seen my “Love/Hate” article about Lady GaGa. And I was on the “Hate” side at that time. I felt like she was getting alot of undue praise for being just average. Since than, a bunch of Lady GaGa songs have ended up becoming guilty pleasures and I have seen her turn in a few outstanding live performances. So when her “The Fame Monster” leaked, I got it. And boy am I shocked. Let’s just clarify one thing first, “The Fame Monster” is going to have a bit of a complicated release on November 23rd. There is a Deluxe Edition that will act as a re-release of her debut “The Fame” and including the 8 new tracks she’s recorded for the “Monster” portion. And you can buy the “Monster” portion by itself, it will still be titled “The Fame Monster” even though it won’t include “The Fame”.
Okay all of that out of the way, “Monster” is actually a really great set of dance material which subtly shows GaGa’s growth as an artist. Listening to the album, it’s like each track is a different form of Dance music. Unlike her debut, which I felt was a majority of uninspired and generic dance beats, this one ventures into everything from straight up House tracks, 80’s Freestyle, Industrial, New Wave, Funk and even some R&B. The track “Speechless”, reminiscent of “Brown Eyes” from her debut, actually is heavily (and obviously) inspired by the Beatles and the hook recalls “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, though her vocals make the song all her own. Which can be said about every song on this album actually. At certain points, there is a MAJOR Madonna sound (“Alejandro” “Dance in the Dark”) but on first single “Bad Romance” and album closer “Teeth” it’s 100% GaGa. She can even hold her own against powerhouse Beyonce who is featured on the Rodney Jerkins produced “Telephone“. I’m not fully on the “Love” side for GaGa, but my ears and eyes are open and I think maybe she could become a bit of a force in the music world.
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