The wait is really ova. Rihanna’s fourth album in five years Rated R arrives today. What kind of rating did it receive from critics? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: A genuine moment of vulnerability plays stunningly on the meticulously layered “Cold Case Love,” penned by Justin Timberlake. Still, Rated R rarely delivers Top 40 fodder. Instead, it’s a raw, often unsettling portrait of an artist who is, she insists, no longer a Girl at all. B
USA Today: “Hard” is a punch in the mouth to her doubters, while “Stupid in Love” declares “the dunce cap is off.” “Wait Your Turn” brashly puts rivals in check, and “Rude Boy” maintains her dance-floor allure. But probably the most telling statement of who Rihanna is these days is the Slash-propelled “Rockstar 101,” which revels in her status as a ubiquitous celebrity. 3 out of 4
The New York Times: In the multimedia whirlwind of a 21st-century pop career, Rihanna simply couldn’t have made an album of lovey-dovey ballads or simple dance songs. Rated R does what divas do: leverage personal troubles into music. And with it, Rihanna never lets her sorrows overwhelm her musical craftsmanship or the determination behind it.
The Boston Globe: Rated R is an interesting snapshot of several current events, including Rihanna’s evolution as a performer and the confluence of tabloid culture and pop art. But the true measure of music released amid a cloud of controversy is how well it stands on its own once the skies clear. For now Rated R is rated a B-minus.
The Washington Post: When the lighter fare arrives halfway through this downcast track list, it hardly registers. The crystalline bounce of “Rude Boy” and the playful zip of “Photographs” are buoyant, but neither can touch the club-happy froth that made Rihanna famous. She seems destined to return to that glitter-dusted dance floor before too long. For now, she’s processing publicly. Consider Rated R a misstep on the road to recovery.
Chicago Tribune: But the album is most haunting when she allows vulnerability to peer through the tougher exterior. She looks back at the wreckage in “Photographs” and “Cold Case Love,” over appropriately desolate musical settings. Even more devastating is “Stupid in Love,” as rueful as a pop song can get. 3.5 out of 4
Chicago Sun-Times: Rated R is a much better effort than many might have expected from Rihanna, and one that makes this listener eager to hear how much more she may grow in the years to come. 3 out of 4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Wait Your Turn,” “Hard,” “Rude Boy,” “Cold Case Love”