Rihanna first burst onto the pop scene with the blistering dancehall single 'Pon De Replay'. The 19-year-old Bahamian has undergone something of a reinvention with 'Good Girl Gone Bad', her third album in as many years. It sees a move towards an urban pop sound, rather than booming dancehall beats, but she pulls off the new sound successfully.
The album kicks off with the Jay-Z collaboration, and current US hit 'Umbrellas'. It features a relentless rhythmic beat coupled with odd vocal effects and majestic sounding orchestration. It's a difficult song to follow, but 'Push Up on Me' is a worthy successor, an electro tinged affair, with a beat and catchy refrain that guarantees dance floor success.
'Don't Stop the Music' has more than a dash of an early 1990s rave tune, with almost Bee Gees-esque vocals. The mood changes with the ultra-sassy 'Breakin' Dishes', an aggressive song for a cheating man. The lyrics are amusingly demented, "I'm looking around for something else to throw."
'Shut Up and Drive' sports a rocky electric guitar riff, and although the mash-up doesn't sit that comfortably, it's not nearly as bad as the obligatory pop ballads that follow. They are especially jarring at the end of such a strong run of tracks. The Ne-Yo duet 'Hate That I Love You' brings mournful acoustic guitar strumming, embarrassing harmonising and trite lyrics to a dreary whole.
Rihanna's strength firmly lies in the uptempo numbers, and mercifully the album takes a turn for the better with a string of Timbaland productions. 'Lemme Get That' is without a doubt the album highlight. The languorous rhythm, her Caribbean inflected vocal lilt and his distinctive production style make it an irresistible groove.
'Rehab' penned by Justin Timberlake (where Timbaland goes musically he will follow) is disappointing. It relies on the tired metaphor of love being a drug, and since she's lost it, now has to check into rehab. The vocal contributions of Timbaland and Timberlake liven it up a bit, but mostly it's just, well, lame.
'Good Girl Gone Bad' runs out of steam towards the end, but there are enough hook-laden tracks to hold it together as Rihanna's strongest and most cohesive album to date.
To buy 'Good Girl Gone Bad' from the RTÉ eshop click here.