Rihanna has come a long way since “Pon de Replay.” Seven years after making her debut, Barbados’ hottest export is all grown up on her seventh album, Unapologetic. The reigning pop princess serves up a mix of dance tracks, dark ballads, and club bangers, calling on collaborators Chris Brown, Eminem, and Future, and hitmakers including The-Dream, David Guetta, Stargate, Pop Wansel, and No I.D. How did the critics rate RiRi’s latest? Find out below.
USA Today: The catchiest song on Rihanna’s new album, Unapologetic, may also be the most disturbing one [“Nobody’s Business”]. … There are other infectious tunes on Unapologetic, and others that will make you squirm a bit. 3/4
Entertainment Weekly: Clearly, Rihanna’s in a more somber mood on Unapologetic. Even the dance songs feel dark: she has traded the upbeat Eurodisco romps of last year’s Talk That Talk for screwed vocals (“Phresh Out the Runway”) and dubstep-warped bangers (“Jump”). B+
Los Angeles Times: Rihanna can be as unapologetic as she feels she needs to be, and can support Brown all she wants. But when she starts dragging down Eminem [“Numb”], somebody needs to atone.
The Washington Post: The first half of the disc is weighted with club tracks, the second with milder R&B songs and some genuinely lovely ballads, but Rihanna’s always-on recording method is bearing diminishing returns. The dance tracks aren’t as booming as on past releases and the hooks are less hooky.
The Boston Globe: Unapologetic is a defiant middle finger to her critics, particularly the ones who don’t approve of her relationship with Brown. Given how exuberant her catalog has been, it’s surprisingly moody at times. Even the club bangers (“Phresh Out the Runway” and “Numb,” featuring Eminem) are heavy with bass that rumbles more in your chest instead of rattling your feet.
Chicago Tribune: Much of Unapologetic is a tough listen, ostensibly a pop album from one of the biggest pop stars of our time that’s dark and emotionally complex. 2.5/4
New York Daily News: The disc risks more ballads than usual. “What Now” lets Rihanna unleash a belt that may not rival Beyoncé’s, but it does show heft. A hidden track at the end, “Half of Me,” proves the star can be as evocative as she is provocative. 3/5
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Diamonds,” “Jump,” “Nobody’s Business,” “Half of Me”