Smokey D. Fontaine is the Chief Content Officer of Interactive One, the parent of TheUrbanDaily.com. For more news, updates, thoughts and exclusives, follow him on Twitter @Smokey
It’s here. A moment in pop music where the artist set up to look the best, sound the best and actually be the best, lives up to the hyperbole and wins the prize. Rihanna will dominate our digital waves whether we want her to or not, but despite the great opportunity to—and even greater expectation that she would—the biggest star on the planet didn’t just chill under that glass ceiling of expectation.
Kinetic and musically varied, Unapologetic blasts the sounds of global, post-mod youth culture through every track. She creates an emotional soundtrack not of some affected, stupid-rich celeb, but of a 24-year old survivor who rocks and laughs and cries. Three years ago, no one would have paid attention to a beautiful piano-ballad like “Stay,” but now you can’t deny its truth. Not because of the events we all witnessed, but because of how honest and emotionally-connected her vocals are.
“Diamonds” succeeds in its video-driven who-is-this-about mystery, but works better if taken as a self-reflective song of love, affirmation and triumph. “…you’re a shooting star I see.”
“What Now” takes a page from Pink’s yell-as-long-as-you-have-a-great-hook style and raises her one.
“Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary” takes some Madonna-esque ‘90s synth notes and flips them into a brave confessional. “Mr. Jesus, I would love to be a Queen… / but I’m from the left side of an island” is the chant that will end her stadium tours with a perfect raise-your-smartphone-candle moment. “I’m prepared to die…” she cries. A 21st century big-girl-lost.
Unapologetic is Rihanna’s 7th album in as many years and so I’m transferring my “hottest working in show business” title—held by Diddy for a decade—to the Barbadian workaholic with over 140 MM digital sales worldwide & twelve Hot 100 #1s singles. Most of the hits have been the brash and upbeat kind.
“Fresh Out The Runway” continues the tradition. It’s loud and as curse-filled as it should be to satisfy the album title, reminding all the parents from the album’s first verse that your tween ain’t ready for Rihanna yet. The second David Guetta produced electronic dance track, “Right Now,” is a future #1 that sounds so obvious because…it’s that good.
Adele was our last pop obsession. Her success was a wonderful correction on the landscape, a reminder that every seven years listeners must experience overwhelming talent or else suffer that same-song-over-and-over descent into superficiality. Unapologetic also helps us avoid that fate soaring when it unhooks itself from what’s pop-current and comfortable.