Loud (Deluxe) by Rihanna
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After navigating a highly publicized dark period, Rihanna reemerged as vibrant as ever with her fifth album. She told producers Stargate at the time of recording that she wanted to go back to having fun and making happy, uptempo records. The album’s unofficial theme is liberation, with the singer dyeing her hair a striking red that perfectly embodied the attention-grabbing energy that catapulted her into full-fledged pop-star status with unshakable international dominance. The LP spawned seven singles, three of which topped the charts both Stateside and overseas as party anthems: “Only Girl (In the World),” “What’s My Name?”, and “S&M.” Rihanna wasn’t new to crafting dance-driven hits (see 2006’s “SOS” and 2007’s “Don’t Stop the Music”). But it was Loud that confirmed just how easily she could rule any genre she experimented with. “Only Girl (In the World),” the album’s lead single, sets the tone thanks to its pulsating bassline and throbbing synths that defined the 2010s EDM revival. Marking her first time dipping into the genre, Rihanna demands the spotlight with full-on belts, showcasing some of her most commanding vocals to date. Naturally, the bigger-is-better approach worked in the singer’s favor: “Only Girl (In the World)” soared to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The party continues with “Cheers (Drink to That),” which revs up an Avril Lavigne “I’m With You” sample into a downright fun late-night sing-along, while “Raining Men,” alongside Nicki Minaj, finds the ladies having fun using potential suitors as toys. Loud is a kaleidoscopic reflection of Rihanna’s personality, spiraling from cheeky to vulnerable to unabashedly taboo. The ferocious “S&M” is filled to the brim with “na-na-na, come on!” come-hither chants and sexually suggestive lyrics as the singer explores the world of bondage and fetishes. Not one to take herself too seriously, though, the bedroom anthem winks with playfulness. “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But chains and whips excite me,” she growls atop Hi-NRG production dotted with fuzzy keyboard riffs. The confidence continues with “Skin,” one of Rihanna’s most alluring tunes, as she seductively purrs over a beat that fuses R&B with languid trip-hop. While Loud may be a more pop-leaning record, Rihanna continues to celebrate her Bajan roots, injecting tropical doses on the dancehall-tinged “What’s My Name?” Featuring frequent collaborator Drake, the chart-topper highlights the pair’s palpable chemistry as they trade flirtatious pickup lines: “The square root of 69 is eight somethin’, right?/’Cause I’ve been tryna work it out.” “Man Down” is deeply rooted in Caribbean reggae, as Rihanna details a vengeful tale of being on the run after pulling the trigger, echoing the suspenseful style of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ 1973 single “I Shot The Sheriff.” Threaded throughout the album are ballads centered on love’s ebbs and flows: the Enya-sampling “Fading” is a lightweight R&B midtempo where Rihanna moves on from an inconsistent lover; “California King Bed” is a heartbreaking power ballad as the singer desperately tries to save a relationship that’s growing more distant by the minute. The album closer “Love the Way You Lie, Pt. II” with Eminem, the sequel to the rapper’s hit single, tells Rihanna’s side of a broken love story over a tearful piano melody. Loud set off Rihanna’s pop explosion, and she’s remained music’s most fun party girl ever since.
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