Yes, there is a world of difference between playing out some revenge fantasy in song and hitting someone in real life-and we are in no way suggesting otherwise– but it can be a fine line to delicately walk between being both the totally innocent victim and the perpetrator, both of which she plays on “Rated R.” On “Rude Boy,” she tells her lover, “I like the way you pull my hair.” It”s tempting to give Rihanna a free pass in the name of expressing her rage and art, but it”s equally fair to call her out for sending, if not mixed, slightly confounding messages.
Much of the credit has to be given to her collaborators: Timbaland, Tricky Stewart, Timberlake and Ne-Yo. Plus, Young Jeezy”s rap on “Hard,” sharpens the fangs on the album”s most commercial cut. Will.i.am brings a touch of sweetness and complements Rihanna”s soft side on “Photographs.” Rihanna easily shifts to her inner heavy-metal side with “Rockstar 101,” on which she”s accompanied by every one”s go-to guitarist, Slash. Her only real misstep is her toe-dip into Sappho soft-core on “Te Amo,” on which she heavily flirts before gently telling a Latin lovely that she doesn”t play that way. Maybe she felt that this was the one group she”d ignored in her often overtly sexual imagery.