Loud is the fifth studio album by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, first released on November 12, 2010, by Def Jam Recordings. The album was recorded between February and August 2010, predominantly during Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour and filming for her first feature film Battleship (2012). Rihanna was executive producer on the album and worked with several record producers, including StarGate, The Runners, Polow da Don, Tricky Stewart, and Alex da Kid, among others. The album featured several guest vocalists, including Drake, Nicki Minaj and Eminem, who is featured on the sequel to "Love the Way You Lie", "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)", where Rihanna sang lead vocals. Britney Spears appears on the remix of the single version of "S&M", although she is not on the album version.
The album differed from Rihanna's previous release, Rated R (2009), which featured a prominently foreboding and angry tone with dark themes and incorporated elements of hip hop, rock, and dubstep music genres. Loud features up-tempo and pop genres, ranging from dance-pop to electro-R&B, and marked her return to her dancehall roots, which was prominent on her earlier albums Music of the Sun (2005) and A Girl like Me (2006). The album also incorporates rock in "California King Bed" and reggae in the Caribbean inspired "Man Down".
Loud received generally positive reviews from music critics, who complimented its upbeat material and Rihanna's vocal performances, with some critics calling it "brilliantly sassy and exuberant at times" and praised "the subtle West Indian flavor." However, some critics found the album to be "slapdash" and more of "an unfocused assortment of poor-to-solid songs than a unified set." The album debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first week sales of 207,000 copies, the highest first week sales of her career to date. The album debuted at number one on the Canadian and Swiss album charts. In the United Kingdom, the album reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and was the fourth best-selling album of 2010, although it was released at the end of November of that year. Loud was a commercial success internationally. It peaked at number one in Canada, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Scotland and Switzerland, and reached the Top 5 in Australia, Denmark, France and Germany.
The album produced seven singles, including the international hits "Only Girl (In the World)", "What's My Name?", and "S&M". All three singles reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. "S&M" was Rihanna's tenth US number one song, making Rihanna the youngest recording artist to accumulate ten number one songs in the shortest time, surpassing Mariah Carey's record. In the United Kingdom "Only Girl (In the World)" and "What's My Name?" peaked at number one, while "S&M" peaked at number three. "Only Girl (In the World)" won the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording in February 2011. To support the album, Rihanna embarked on her third worldwide concert tour, entitled the Loud Tour. On November 30, 2011, the album was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
Rihanna’s fifth album in as many years has been described by the singer as "sassy, fun, flirty, energetic" – a return to the slick pop with which she made her name following last year’s darker Rated R. But it’s not quite that simple; after all, that album delivered the dancehall smash Rude Boy while this record closes with Love the Way You Lie (Part II), an affecting sequel to her Eminem collaboration that takes on added relevance given the domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.
Loud certainly (if intermittently) lives up to the singer’s promise. It is brilliantly sassy and exuberant at times – the enormous synth and shout-along chorus of Only Girl (In the World) is about the measure of it, while Nicki Minaj makes for a superb partner in crime on Raining Men, her wild, kinetic flow complementing Rihanna’s steely delivery to wicked effect.
Disappointingly though, the knowing strangeness that coloured even Rated R’s most chart-friendly moments has been toned down in favour of a brazen sexuality that sits at odds with what Rihanna is trying to accomplish here. Since when was ‘flirtatious’ synonymous with ‘sadomasochistic’? As bracingly huge and catchy as it is, S&M doesn’t deviate much from its blunt title: lyrics like "Sticks and stones may break my bones / But chains and whips excite me" feel forced, not daring. Similarly, her insistence that "I like it rough" on the comparatively restrained Skin can’t help but come across a little uncomfortable in the light of her personal history.
But the argument over whether songs like this subjugate or empower their female performers is one for another time, or maybe one not worth having at all – not when the songs are this good, the singer’s voice this powerful. What’s My Name? features the similarly young and talented Drake mulling the "square route of 69" over choppy Caribbean rhythms that reappear on Man Down, where Rihanna relays a break-up as murder metaphor in thick Barbadian patois. Love the Way You Lie (Part II) even bests the original, Eminem’s verse exuding the kind of volatile, simmering menace that got everyone so excited about him in the first place. But it is Rihanna’s vocal – at once commanding, soulful and vulnerable – that anchors the song, and Loud itself, elevating it from a hit-and-miss collection into something oddly arresting. User Comments