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For fans only - 3.5 stars
on January 18, 2013
Overall, not as good as Talk that Talk, let alone Rated R. With each album, the sweet little islands girl from "A Girl Like Me" goes further under the tidal wave of superstar hip-hop production. Sometimes her personality can integrate with it more or less well, but mostly it's pretty damned well lost. To wit: "Right Now" and "What Now", sitting smack dab in the centre of the album like a double steaming turd with their bombastic synthesizer buzz-bass turned up to 11. The same sonic abomination recurs in a few lines of the closing "Lost in Paradise", just enough to stink up an otherwise fine song. Another thing that overshadows her own voice is obviously all the collaborations, including another with the puerile motormouth Eminem, gee thanks a lot for that. For that reason so much of this album is just genre-cliché or throwaway. The highlights, on the other hand, are the beautiful torch song "Diamonds" and the ballad "Stay", which demonstrate what Rihanna can do when she's just allowed to SING. Unapologetic is also partially redeemed by the four songs that close it, starting with lyrical depth of "Love Without Tragedy/ Mother Mary", the refreshing atmospherics of "Get it Over With" (an emotional weather report), the lovely reggae of "No Love Allowed" and the almost-successful (see above) "Lost in Paradise", which is partially ruined by its production. Certainly not one of the highlights of her career, but there are things here for the real fans. Makes you wish Rihanna hadn't turned into such a goddamned INDUSTRY.