is something of a mixed bag. There are good songs, "meh" songs, and the occasional not-so-good song. It's an uneven listen all the way through, but like many pop albums, the standouts and singles are what count here. There are plenty of those to go around, and the filler tunes aren't missed when they're skipped.
Most of the tunes on Loud
were solid, ear-candy pop songs. There were a few that left me cold: "California King Bed" feels like a cheesy power ballad straight out of the late 80's, and it's not exactly the kind of blast from the past that evokes wistful nostalgia. "Man Down"'s attempt at reggae vibes falls flat due to overly electronic production unsuited to the style and a forgettable vocal performance. The rest of the tunes, though, are solid - "Only Girl (In The World)" is a surefire radio and club smash, "S&M" is upbeat, energetic and plays well to Rihanna's bad-girl side, and "Raining Men" and "Cheers (Drink To That)" (to name a few) will stick in your head for days.
Where the rest of the songs do fall flat, its usually because they're mismatched with Rihanna's vocal style. Her emotional range is limited - she does well with the more energetic, upbeat material but falters on the slower numbers. Her voice just doesn't adapt well to more sensitive tunes like "Fading," "Skin," and "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)." While the tunes themselves are solid pop songs with slick, radio-ready production, they're not quite right for Rihanna and would be better off in someone else's hands. Conversely, tunes like a "S&M," "Raining Men," "What's My Name" (sans Drake's verse) and "Only Girl (In the World)" play to her strengths, and are some of the album's standouts.
Some of the biggest disappointments on Loud
were the guest appearances. Eminem takes over for Rihanna as the guest performer on "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)." However, his aggressive flow comes off as awkward, especially given that it's matched to the subdued song's quietest moment. The inevitable comparison to his own version of "Love the Way You Lie" doesn't help things either. Drake's contribution to the album is equally unproductive - his guest verse on "What's My Name" is easily the low point of the song. The wordplay is forgettable and the delivery is just as lackluster. Nicki Minaj is the odd one out here - there's a reason she's become one of hip-hop's most in-demand voices, and she's in top form on "Raining Men."
I can't recommend Loud
as a cover-to-cover listen. However, it was never intended to be one, and in today's playlist-oriented world, that's a winning game plan. The best tunes are primed to make appearances on radio stations, party playlists, and top-40 charts everywhere, and the rest won't be missed if they aren't included. -peter menniti
Rihanna Official Website