Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rihanna

  • Music of the Sun [Def Jam, 2005] Dud
  • A Girl Like Me [Def Jam, 2006] Dud
  • Good Girl Gone Bad [Def Jam, 2007] Choice Cuts
  • Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded [Def Jam, 2008] Choice Cuts
  • Rated R [Def Jam, 2009] **
  • Talk That Talk (Deluxe Edition) [Def Jam, 2011] A-
  • Unapologetic [Def Jam, 2012] ***
  • Anti (Deluxe Edition) [Westbury Road/Roc Nation, 2016] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Music of the Sun [Def Jam, 2005] Dud

A Girl Like Me [Def Jam, 2006] Dud

Good Girl Gone Bad [Def Jam, 2007]
"Umbrella" Choice Cuts

Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded [Def Jam, 2008]
"Disturbia" Choice Cuts

Rated R [Def Jam, 2009]
Concocting a persona of interest out of one dynamite musical trick and a bad patch I wouldn't wish on Lindsay Lohan ("Hard," "Rude Boy"). **

Talk That Talk (Deluxe Edition) [Def Jam, 2011]
Musically, this is pop without shame--her hookiest and most dance-targeted album, decorated with a thoughtful assortment of suitably titillating blats, noodles, dubs, groans, hiccups, boom-booms, cut-ups, speed-ups, xx samples, and spoken-word bits. Lyrically, it celebrates the relationship of sex to love rather than pain, dipping predictably on the heart songs and theme statements that slow down the second half, especially on the standard edition. Associating carnality with love as I do, I prefer it to her earlier albums because I find its many porny moments titillating. Sure Beyoncé is sexier in principle--I like smart girls, not bad girls, especially bad girls with a thing for worse men. But I believe in taking my titillation wherever it raises its spongy head. A-

Unapologetic [Def Jam, 2012]
So much more provocative as an android than as a human being ("Phresh Out the Runway," "Diamonds," "Numb") ***

Anti (Deluxe Edition) [Westbury Road/Roc Nation, 2016]
The reason I like this record beginning to end has zip to do with whether it documents her sexual mood swings more proudly or soulfully. The presentational Rihanna is so unlike anyone I know that she can say anything she wants about her musical punany as long as she leaves Chris Brown out of it--with this artist, sex is figurative, symbolic, the mark of a pleasure taker turned pleasure provider. So Anti is her best album for a reason so simple it's tautological--despite its supposed rejection of track-and-hook mechanics, it features catchier songs. True, the main time they really make me go woo is when she breaks into gibberish at the end of "Work." But then some German hands her "Love on the Brain," the best new doowop song in decades, which segues perfectly to a power entreaty avec drunk violins, after which the album proper goes out on a piano-enhanced coda that adds a nice sweetness. Only instead of savoring this narrative arc, why don't you just proceed to the three bonus tracks, which top an M.I.A. move with none other than "Sex With Me"? A