It was a cold, Saturday night. The rain was violently hitting my window pane as the lightning penetrated the black and grey sky. I patiently waited for my phone to ring while reading old texts from a past lover. Immersed in my pain, I ripped the plastic covering Rihanna’s latest offering and gently placed the CD in my laptop drive. The cover, showed a side of Rihanna the world has never seen before, stripping herself of her "good girl" image, the singer completely engrossed herself in the bad. Adorned with smudged eyeliner, black lips and a buzz cut, Rihanna pulled me in closer with her alluring stare. I ran my manicured fingers through my freshly cut hair and caressed my faded sides as the first song "Mad House" drew my interest. Vintage echoes of funeral processions played in the background as Rihanna seamlessly harmonized over the intro. The vibe mimicked that of old horror movies and it complimented my environment perfectly.
Ladies and Gentleman. To those among you who are easily frightened. We suggest you turn away now. To those of you who think you can take it. We say welcome to the Mad House.
Track two, "Wait Your Turn" emerges shortly after and gives me a piece of Rihanna that I’ve always imagined: she was loud and loaded with her Caribbean flow in tow, met with her boastful stance as she asserts her power throughout the three minute and 46 second-track. The black-and-white video displays Rihanna showing off her edgy looks while she covers her eye with a black patch. She oozed an “I-don’t-give-a-fuck-attitude” from head to toe and it moved me instantly. My eyes lit up as I watched her reclaim the power that was senselessly taken away from her while the public watched and speculated. Not only was she was back with a vengeance, she was badder than ever with a vendetta.
I pitch with a grenade. Swing away if you're feeling brave. There's so much power in my name. If you pop off and you say it stadium gon' do the wave. I'm such a fucking lady. You don't have to be so afraid'. Cause I got room up on my team you can play but hold up.
What followed was even more striking, as the bass punctured my eardrums while the singer came through with guns blazing as seen in the militant themed video, "Hard". “They can say whatever / I'ma do whatever / No pain is forever, yup, you know this / Tougher than a lion, ain't no need in tryin'/ I live where the sky ends, yup, you know this.”The visuals effortlessly complimented her lyrical dominance as she displayed her strength in this Jeezy-assisted track while destroying the whispers and rumours of her presumed victimhood.
A smile firmly planted on my face while I listened to the artist call out those who doubted her. I fell in love with her resilient swagger and her confident persona. She held nothing back, this was her time to speak up and live her truth.Moving from the high powered "Hard", the album transitioned into "Stupid In Love" where she recalls foolish actions made in the past during her former, abusive relationship. Critics immediately associated the lyrics with Brown.“Don’t understand it / Blood on your hands / And still you insist / On repeatedly trying / To tell me lies / And I just don't know why,” was used a catalyst to fuel these rumours, however Rihanna’s ability speak out against the turmoil remains one of the stand out tracks on Rated R.
From hard to soft and back to hard, the Slash duet, "ROCKSTAR 101" was a notable feature on Rated R. While listening, I felt the days of Music of the Sun, Rihanna slowly fade into the shadows while a renaissance was underway. I quickly rose from my bed and started to strum an invisible guitar while shaking my head violently to the electric rhythm. Equally outstanding, the video was a visual pleasure as Rihanna flossed and performed her crude impressions of rock n’ roll and gave life to this natural born anthem.
Six inch walker. Big shit talker, I never play the victim. I'd rather be a stalker.
Complimenting this tone, "Russian Roulette" appears like a thief in the night as her voice slowly creeps up my neck. "Roulette"’s power lies in its lyrics as Rihanna compares the lethal game of chance to her past relationship. While expressing doubt, anxiety and uncertainty she likened loving an individual to a game that she or him may not survive, however in the end, she remains the victor. The controversial single, along with the music video, was risky and arrived to mixed reviews, but it served as a vessel for the multifaceted singer as she created a new life. It was the rebirth of Rihanna.It was approaching 10 p.m. and my older sister walked into my room demanding me to turn the music down. I got up and slammed the door in typical teenage angst fashion and heard the ramblings of a guitar strumming destructively yet passionately. Before I could make my way to my bed, I placed my back against the wall and slowly slid down the surface as Rihanna removed the armour carried throughout the album and showed a common side of heartbreak in "Fire Bomb" — hurt.
Baby we were killin' em. They couldn't handle the millionth degree. We were criminals. As we were burning, the world called the police. Fire department, ambulance. You can call me crazy, cause I believe the only move for me and you is to go out blazing.
Tears slowly ran down my face as I connected the lyrics with moments of being violated in the past yet still wanting to be held with endearment from the lover who inflicted the very same pain and abuse. "Fire Bomb" ignited every feeling in my body as I sympathized with the singer's agony in her voice. She stripped the judgment and fear placed onto her and submerged herself into the flames without regard of the consequences; a phoenix rising in the ashes.Right on time like a roller coaster of emotions throughout the album, Rihanna swoops in with the Caribbean inspired "Rude Boy" serving as a flirtatious gem that remains a top ten to this day. Wiping my tears away, I started to wine my waist and my worries away in the mirror to the eclectic riddim. "Come here rude boy, boy / Can you get it up / Come here rude boy, boy / Is you big enough / Take it, take it (yeah) / Baby, baby (yeah) / Take it, take it (yeah) / Love me, love me (yeah)." Unlike, "Russian Roulette" and "ROCKSTAR 101", the video was shot in vibrant colours and exuded a sense of happiness and joy that was lacking in Rated R’s visual content.
Following these explosive tracks, the ballad that is "Photographs" featuring will.I.am had me reminiscing over what was. I replayed The Black Eyed Peas-infused sound over and over until I memorized the chorus. I desperately wanted this song to be a single while I scrolled through Facebook and mused over old photographs of my ex and I shared: “All I've got, is nothing without/ All I've got are these photographs”.Ten tracks in, and "G4L" makes a monumental entrance with a stunning instrumental, that exudes futuristic elegance. The singer fiercely sings over this chaotic beat and belts out lyrics that have intentional tones of sisterhood and unity. In this undisputed contender, Rihanna viciously plays the villain (or gangsta if you will) seeking revenge that lets the target know what she and her army will do if they step out of line.I lick the gun, when I'm done'/ Cause I know, that revenge is sweet, so sweet/ This is a gang, ladies thang / Baby bang, tell me what you need, oh/ Any motherfucker wanna disrespect/ Playing with fire finna get you wet/ How'd it feel down there on your knees, ah/.
While turning the volume up, I felt every expletive that she spit from her lips in my soul as I made mental notes of the messages she was trying to convey in this anthem. "Come one girls, come on we ain't done yet / Gotta a lot to handle, we ain't took over the world / We're an army, better yet a navy / Better yet, crazy, guns in the air." From this moment on, I felt like a member of the Navy who would do anything to be down.It was getting late and "Cold Case Love" was next up on this carefully constructed soundtrack. The ballad quickly became a favourite as it highlighted the artist’s emotional range that traveled throughout the album. Her raw vocals made me motionless and the blind nature of love was a theme that remained a relatable note throughout the six minute and four second number. The rain wasn’t letting up and neither was my desire for Rated R’s excellence. While violin strings played in the background, Rihanna’s voice served as a testimony for her cold, hard truth.
Should've investigated. But love blinded eyes. Couldn't see (no)And then I tried to cage it. But your love ain't the kind you can keep. Release me now cause I did my time. Of this cold case love. My heart's no longer cold & confined. I've had enough.
The end of the ballad served as a battle cry as she masterfully joined hands with "The Last Song" and closed the album on a heart-rending note. The melodramatic number wrapped up Rated R tastefully as it served as a goodbye to all the trials and tribulations she faced prior while still acknowledging its presence.The Rated R era was a renaissance of sorts as Rihanna made her mark equipped with crass flows that meth tenderness. "The Mad House" that is Rated R consisted of Rih singing grotesque, edgy yet boastful rhymes after the assault from a former lover. All eyes were on her as she played with themes of love, deceit and resilience. The album was a self-published exposé as she brilliantly moved from gritty, raw emotion in "Russian Roulette" to sultry, passionate prose in "Te Amo".
Rihanna flawlessly experimented with the feelings that are most commonly felt after a tumultuous relationship meets its end and didn’t apologize for her wide range of emotion. Dabbling into this darker territory, dressed in all black, Rihanna was bold and daring as flipped the script and controlled the narrative that was being portrayed in the circus that was the media for months.While Anti (justifiably) is often heralded as a classic, it isn’t the singers first as Rated R is a soul crushing project that beautifully experimented with different sounds and uncovered a deeper look at Rihanna’s artistry; reminiscent of the glory days on MTV’s Unplugged. The singer challenged the standards made for modern day pop star’s and reinvented herself as a rebel with a cause. The intricate, authentic storytelling in Rated R helped solidify Rihanna’s place in the music industry and has been one of her most memorable, critically acclaimed albums to date. Not only did the singer inspire hordes of women to take more chances in reference to their beauty/fashion choices, she relentlessly influences a generation of girls who abide by her raw, unapologetic nature. That Rihanna reign just won't let up.
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