Rihanna, "Loud" (Island Def Jam)
It's been five years since Rihanna released her debut CD -- and now she's putting out her fifth album.
But Rihanna isn't typically an album's artist. Her first two discs, "Music of the Sun" and "A Girl Like Me," had hits that dominated the dance floor, but to call them well-rounded albums would be a bit of an overstatement.
Then the Barbadian beauty brought forth "Good Girl Gone Bad," a nicely crafted pop CD that was groovy and showcased the singer's edge, both in style and sound.
Rihanna somewhat lost that spark on "Rated R." Though it was a decent album that contained the gem "Rude Boy," the performer tried to take her edge to the next level and went too far.
Thankfully she's back on track with "Loud," an 11-track set that is top-notch from its opener, the jamming fetish-revealer "S&M" to the closing number, the sequel to the riveting abuse tale "Love the Way You Lie," where Eminem this time takes a back seat to Rihanna's emotional roller coaster ride. And what's in between is equally as fulfilling -- or better.
"Cheers (Drink to That)," which samples Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You," is a certified frat party anthem that already sounds like a monster hit. And collaborations with Drake and Nicki Minaj on "What's My Name?" and "Raining Men," respectively, are enjoyable uptempo jams.
Rihanna knows how to sing a song about leaving a man: She did it beautifully on the pop tune "Take a Bow" and does it again on the exceptional "Fading," produced by Polow da Don and co-written by Ester Dean.
But on the reggae track "Man Down," the 22-year-old is truly at her best. It's a compelling song about Rihanna shooting her lover in public and calling her mother to detail the news. "Run, bum, bum, run, bum, bum," a terrified Rihanna says in her homeland accent -- while singing falsetto breakdowns -- over a fire-alarm beat.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Like "Rude Boy" on "Rated R," "Man Down" is the true gem on "Loud."