Some female singers are better at re-invention than others.
Bad attempts include Britney Spears circa “Blackout” and whatever Christina Aguilera is doing now. Instead of going down that road to Rihanna seems to inching toward joining the ranks of the queens of re-invention, Madonna and Janet Jackson (even they have had their bad re-invention moments, though).
Rihanna started as the “good girl,” serenading us with SOS and We Ride from her first album A Girl Like Me. She moved onto the Good Girl Gone Bad album and phase with edgier hits like Umbrella and Rehab. Next, she went “good girl gone bad gone gangsta” with her post-Chris Brown album, Rated R, with songs like Hard and G4L (if you haven’t heard G4L, it’s a must-listen song).
The first two albums seemed to be more about her image than Rihanna herself, which happens with young artists a lot. Her last album was more of a reflection of where she was in life. After her very public break-up with Chris Brown, she wasn’t singing about being in love; that’s not where her mind was. The running theme on that album seemed to her taking control of her life and letting everyone know just because she was beaten physically and emotionally by her ex-boyfriend, that didn’t mean she was weak. A few of the songs even captured weak moments that people face when they are in love. When the album came out last year, I actually reviewed it for a publication I wrote for at the time.
If I had to give her name for this phase in her music, which coincides with her soon-to-be-released album Loud, I’d say it was: “good girl gone bad gone woman.” From what I’ve heard of the tracks, Rihanna has really come into her own as a woman. I’d no longer call her a girl. Her first two singles have been about relationships, but they are done in a mature way. Well, mature for a young woman (remember, she’s only 22). They’re fun, upbeat and reflective of how much better her life seems, as opposed to what was happening during her last album. I’m counting on some really good ballads, as well, including Love The Way You Lie (Part II) with Eminem. The first version of that song is one of the most productively honest songs the two have done about their past relationships (Eminem’s marriage was not exactly the stuff from Leave It To Beaver). I also heard a song she did with Nicki Minaj called Raining Men, which is nothing like the original song of the same title, but is an amazing song in its own right.
As she continues down this path to more honesty in her music, I’m hoping Rihanna will go to the next level by picking up a pen and writing a few tracks herself. She’s done some co-writing on her past albums, but I’m hoping she will do a little more of it on her own. I’ve looked up writers for the songs on this next album and it’s looking like she didn’t do any songwriting for it. Surprisingly, Ne-Yo, who has written hits for her like Unfaithful and Take A Bow, did not contribute any songwriting either.
If you’re embarrassingly behind on your music, you can watch the videos to her first two singles below.
Only Girl (In The World)
What’s My Name ft. Drake