Rihanna is “Loud” with her Grammy-nominated album

By Ashley Berger

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Check out other reviews of Grammy nominated albums: Adele rolls into deep success with ‘21’ | Bruno Mars an unlikely contender in Grammys | Grammys for Gaga | ‘Wasting Light’ not a waste of time

With her fire-red hair and her feisty attitude and vocals to match, Rihanna is a pop star that has grown up in the spotlight, topping the charts since her debut in 2005 with her smash hit “Pon de Replay.” Six years and multiple radio and award successes later, Rihanna is now nominated for the prestigious Album of the Year Grammy for her 2010 release, the aptly named and daring “Loud.”

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“Loud” is Rihanna’s fifth studio album and is certified Platinum in the United States. The album also peaked at No.1 on the US R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 3 on the US Billboard 200. Selling 207,000 copies in the first week of release, “Loud” is Rihanna’s highest selling record within the first week.

Contributing to the success of “Loud” was the help that Rihanna had from some other talented musicians in the course of making it. Vocally, other superstars Drake, Nicki Minaj and Eminem appear on the album. The three also helped co-write the tracks that they respectively appear on. Pop star Avril Lavigne helped to co-write one song. “Loud” also features instrumental work from former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt.

The album features six of last year’s defining singles. The release of the first single, “What’s My Name” (featuring Drake), became a huge success and Rihanna’s eighth Billboard Hot 100 hit. The song is a duet between these two R&B heavy hitters (not to mention sex symbols), and it works as a back-and-forth lyrical frenzy.

The sexual undertones in the song made the song appealing to fans. While the deep and sultry voices of the two sublimely blend together, the song still has an upbeat rhythm to it, making it universally enjoyable. The song was recognized as a huge hit, going Platinum twice in the United States.

In January 2011, Rihanna released the third single off of “Loud” titled “S&M.” The overly sexual dance track was well received by fans, shooting to the top of the charts. The song hit the No. 1 spot in Australia, Canada and the United States, making it Rihanna’s 10th No. 1 U.S. hit.

The song’s raw vocals and its solely sexual lyrical content might lead listeners to wonder when Rihanna grew into such a sex-driven 23-year-old. While the lyrics may be graphic and explicit, “S&M” proves to be a song unlike any other in pop music today; colorful, exaggerated, up-tempo and thrilling – it all adds up to a pop smash hit.

Following the release of “S&M,” Rihanna took a totally different turn with her singles. “California King Bed,” released in May 2011, proved to be extremely raw, but in an emotional rather than a sexual context. The slow moving tempo of the ballad showcases Rihanna’s vocal ability, effortlessly spanning octaves. The nuanced vocals also express the story of longing and passion detailed in the lyrics.

Also unlike the previous single, “California King Bed” is a powerful love ballad featuring a heavy guitar solo. Rihanna’s voice competes with and ultimately triumphs over the guitar, but the mesh of the two sounds works beautifully.

“Loud” also featured chart-topper “Cheers (Drink to That),” a single about partying, being young and enjoying the weekend. With easy-going lyrics, the song is relatable for young adults who just want to have a good time. Becoming a party ballad of 2011, “Cheers” features a heavily synthesized backing track while also showing off Rihanna’s dynamic range throughout the chorus in the song.

Though not released as a major single, Rihanna brings in the Real Slim Shady to assist her in the deliverance of “Love The Way You Lie (Part II)”, a follow up to their smash “Love The Way You Lie.” While not as good as the original, the sequel makes for a quality addition to the album.

While “Loud” may not have the most inspired, intellectual or even appropriate lyrics, the album explores a variety of different subjects and showcases the development in Rihanna’s vocal ability over the years. Successful and well-received “Loud” has a shot at taking the Grammy for its category this year.

Ashley Berger can be reached at [email protected].