It seems fair to say that Rihanna has gained something of a troubled reputation over 2012, what with the incriminating Coachella photos, her increasingly hedonistic lifestyle and the soap opera that is her association with Chris Brown. Undeterred by the bad press she’s recently received, the 24-year-old seems more determined than ever to prove she’s still the number one chart diva with the defiantly-titled Unapologetic, incredibly her seventh album in seven years. Thankfully abandoning the generic electro-pop sound that’s become so ubiquitous of late, it’s easily her most musically intriguing effort to date. But it’s the brave, naive and sometimes irresponsible ways in which she addresses the issue of her controversial relationship that will undeniably spark the most interest. Here’s five of its most contentiously headline-grabbing examples.
The track which every listener will gravitate to straight away thanks to the presence of the man who appears to have shown little remorse for his actions on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards. It’s impossible to deny that “Nobody’s Business” is an unexpected highlight, a bouncy early 90s house-pop pastiche which may sample Michael Jackson but has far more in common with his little sister Janet’s classic feel-good duet with Luther Vandross. But it’s also difficult to distance its carefree sound with the couple’s unsavoury and slightly unsettling ode to how precious their love is: [LISTEN]
Your love is perfection, please point me in the right direction
I’mma give you all my affection
Every touch becomes infectious
Let’s make out in this lexus
A prime example of the mixed messages that Rihanna appears to send out about her brutal attack, this 80s synth ballad begins as a brave and poetic dissection of the night in question, with the use of the past tense implying that there’s no way back for the James Dean and Marilyn Monroe characters she describes herself and Brown as. But its chorus’ repeated refrain of ‘what’s love without tragedy’ then carelessly suggests she accepts that such abuse can help to test the strength of a relationship: [LISTEN]
Heart’s racing, outta control
And you knew that I couldn’t let it go
You used to be this boy I loved
And I used to be this girl of your dreams
Who knew the course of this one drive
Injured us fatally
On the surface, “No Love Allowed” is quite a jaunty reggae number that could be seen as a nod to her Caribbean heritage. But in amongst the skank riffs, there’s another conflicting reflection on the devastation caused by her true love. On one hand, she seems to be completely aware that he’s a good-for-nothing scumbag whose careless actions speak louder than his hollow words. But despite begging for him to be put away, there’s also the confession that no matter how bad his behaviour is, she still can’t quite resist him: [LISTEN]
Like a bullet your love hit me to the core,
I was fly until you knock me to the floor.
And it’s so foolish how you keep me wanting more.
I’m screaming murderer. How could you murder us?
I call it murder! No love allowed.
Rihanna sounds like she’s auditioning for Lea Michele’s role in Glee on this unashamedly overblown and windswept 80s power ballad as remixed by Skrillex. Her cries of ‘I just wanna scream’ as she mulls over the pros and cons of a volatile relationship are pretty much echoed by everyone when it comes to her on-off romance. But the sense of doubt and indecision suggests that Rihanna is at least vaguely aware that a reunion might not be the best idea: [LISTEN]
I found the one he changed my life
But was it me that changed
And he just happened to come at the right time
I’m supposed to be in love
But i’m not mugging
We’re so used to seeing Rihanna as a feisty dominatrix or seductive temptress that it’s quite the shock when this slightly dazed mid-90s slow-jam presents her as a needy and clingy damsel in distress. It’s unclear exactly why there are six more vowels than there needs to be in its title, but if you can forget the fact that this serenade is probably aimed at Brown, then its uncharacteristically positive account of love is quietly charming, although it’s the Georgian drawl of guest rapper Future that steals the show: [LISTEN]
Boy lately, you been stingy with your time
Got me wondering, I’m wondering if I’m on your mind
Boy I just wanna be in your possession
You say I’m the one you want so come express it