It was announced today that on November 19th, Rihanna will release her seventh album in eight years. I will probably hate it, while everyone else will love it. Then about six months later, when everyone else continues loving it, there will probably be one or two songs that have slowly revealed to me some sort of inexplicable brilliance or at least unrelenting ear-worminess, and I will feel like an idiot, at least until I see her give some some really cheap, stupid performance on an awards show or something and I can go back to finding everything about her totally laughable.
My problem with Rihanna is essentially that she is more reliant on cliches than perhaps any other pop star currently working, despite the events of her real life providing ample fodder for close self-examination and soul-searching. I’ve always felt bad lodging this argument against her, because, shit, maybe she really did dig deep when all the Chris Brown stuff went down. It’s just strikes me as sad and disappointing that all she came up with was lines like “While you’re getting your cry on, I’m getting my fly on” and a whole lot of boneheaded sexual innuendo. There’s some emotional heft scattered throughout her post-Chris Brown output, sure, but its far outweighed by the fluff. It’s defiantly fluffy, perhaps, but fluffy nonetheless.
The title of her new album is Unapologetic, which is obvious eye-roll territory for me. From it, I gather that we’re supposed to brace ourselves for some totally raw and unfiltered version of Rihanna, ultimate proof that she’s no man, or industry’s, puppet. On the album cover, she appears topless because, you know, fuck you, she is a real person who has breasts! She also has nipples, but she seems at least somewhat remorseful about those.
Thing thing about the title, and about the statement I assume it’s supposed to be making, is that it’s just the same statement she’s been claiming to make over and over again, for years. At the beginning it was sort of lightly implied, with A Girl Like Me, then it was spelled out a little more clearly with Good Girl Gone Bad, and then even more clearly on Rated R. These were followed by Loud and Talk That Talk—all of them saying basically the same thing: that she is who she is and she’s not apologizing for it. I get it. But it’s still boring and predictable.