Posts Tagged ‘focus’

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what we want.

January 8, 2010

It’s funny how what we want, on a smaller scale, changes. Presumably, nearly all of us ultimately want to be happy; it’s a basic thing.  But the little things, the goals we seek to accomplish on the way to that happiness, are different for all of us.  I was on the bus stop on Tuesday on my way to Starbucks, and I got into conversation with a guy who’d been waiting there for ages.  He was telling me that he had belated Christmas presents to deliver to his sister’s daughter, who lives across town. Because apparently he didn’t have much money (his brother owed him some but wasn’t paying him – bla bla) he couldn’t get what he wanted to buy, which was a pair of Timberland boots.  I get the impression that his niece was young, because he said that the following year, once she outgrew the boots, he would have had them dipped in gold (and then proceeded to tell me about how they freeze the boots in liquid nitrogen before dipping them in gold).  In my head I was furiously thinking that that was horrendously tacky (which it is), but looking at the man’s face as he was talking, he seemed so excited about the idea that it was genuinely sweet.  He really wanted it.  And if that made him happy, and it would make his niece happy, then who am I to judge his dream?

If I were to make a quick list of things that I want in the next year or so, I could go for ages and into specific minutia of jewellery, as well as vague wishes and hopes.  But concrete things that I would like, that I think are possible to achieve, and that would help me on the way to “happiness”, would be:

  • A good, decent boyfriend for whom I can wake up enough to appreciate him.
  • Passing my driving test and getting a car.
  • Finishing my careers guidance course and getting a job that enables me to have my own place.

I think that’s it really! Although sometimes I focus so much on these things that it feels like nothing that I have is ever enough, I appreciate that I have some really fantastic friends (it took me long enough to acquire them but in the last year alone, I’ve made three or four new bffs!), I am sorta good-looking and I lost plenty of weight so that apart from when I am having a little crisis, I know I am not fat.  I have nice things, including designer jewellery, decent technology and a wardrobe with which I am satisfied.  I have a pretty good singing voice, and the ability to make my own music and for that I am blessed, because even if it’s not on a grand scale, I have the tools to realise my own dreams.  And as you know, I finally got my tattoo!  None of this precludes me from wanting to improve or revolutionise all of these aspects of myself, but as things stand now, I am satisfied and I have made progress. My dissatisfaction just comes from a desire to keep moving and growing!  But in terms of goals, I only have those three main ones I listed at the top.

Mike told me that more than anything right now, he wants to move away from central Bristol to somewhere a little quieter, with more green space.  I can’t understand it myself because I’m the total opposite, but then he has a wife and child, he’s had a different upbringing, and so he has different things that will make him happy.  It’s really important to him in the next few months to achieve his dream.  I have a friend who is hoping to be successful in his new job application, another who wants to do really well in her finals at university, and one more who is on the next step to realising her dream of becoming a doctor – a journey which has taken her a really long time.  I admire everyone who has goals, because I think it’s goals that make us get up in the morning, work that little bit harder and keep it moving.  Looking at my parents, a generation older than me, and I don’t know if this is because relations between us are kinda tenuous at the moment, but I couldn’t tell you what they want.  I mean, they have done well for themselves in life, but I can’t imagine that at 50 years old, you suddenly just become satisfied with everything you have.  Isn’t it part of the human condition to always want something?  Again, by that, I think we all want to be happy ultimately, and we don’t stop on the quest for that happiness – but doesn’t everyone want at least one thing that puts them that bit closer to being happy?  I can’t imagine that changing with age… I hope that although I can always appreciate what I have, that I never feel completely satisfied… to me, that is a kind of complacency and I always want to be striving for more, for better, to be the best that I can be.  Tyler Durden in Fight Club said that that was a form of masturbation; the Army uses it as their motto; but I really want to be the best.  Not by anyone else’s criteria, but by my own – an even taller order.  Game on. 😉

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regret.

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!  Here’s to the next decade!  Last night I went to Panache with Hannah and Alex to dance the night away.  And I certainly did! The music was generally very good (though it did prove just how dire music is at the moment, since the older hits from the earlier part of the decade, and even hits in the past 3 or 4 years stand head and shoulders above most of what is released today), and we all seemed to enjoy ourselves.  We bumped into a couple of people we knew from school, and I generally ended up feeling very old (I am 24, the others were all 20 or 21) but it was a nice impromptu reunion with people whom I actually didn’t despise at school (generally, the idea of a school reunion fills me with dread and revulsion).

However, on my journey home from Hannah’s house today, I was thinking about some things that I need to get a grip on.  After the afternoon’s passed and I’ve relaxed at home, these things don’t seem quite as urgent as they did at the time, but I still think it’d be good to write them down just so that I have a record of what I was thinking (or wasn’t, as the case may be).  I know that when we went to the club, I looked good and I felt good, and I had drunk some but I wasn’t smashed.  However, by the end of the night, I was embarrassingly off my face.  I remember being aware of it, not being able to focus my eyes, coordinate my limbs (my dancing, usually pretty decent, had deteriorated into a bit of a joke) and slumping in the seating area while Hannah brought me water.  In the taxi home, it was only shame and finance that stopped me from vomiting all over the back seat (motion sickness really gets to me when I’m drunk – I know that it’s motion sickness because as soon as I get out of the car, I’m fine – and I wasn’t sick at all that night nor in the morning.  It’s happened before when I first met Mike and we went to the student bar and then he drove me home – I wasn’t sick then and I wasn’t about to start now).  I wasn’t going to have to pay £70 for the privilege of being sick in a moving vehicle, and I wasn’t going to embarrass myself by not being able to control my own basic bodily functions.  But it was a close one!  Somehow I managed to wake up and not feel hungover – a small miracle, but also not really the point.

I also drank so much that although I was perfectly happy and I didn’t do anything embarrassing, I sorta did behave flirtatiously with one guy who was dancing up against me and vice versa (it was all unwitting but funny) – but more seriously, I ended up slightly coming onto one of the people we bumped into from my old school later in that evening.  After a while, I gave up which was a really good move, because in the morning I just was like “OMG WHAT was I thinking?” The guy is ok, but somewhat immature and really not that attractive.  It would have purely been because he was there, and because to try and take my mind off Mike, I would be distracting myself by whoring myself out to other people.  As has been proven over this Christmas break, that’s not the way to go.  I’m worth much more than random forced encounters, and I’m certainly worth much more than lowering myself to the standards of any average-looking person. And Mike is better than that, and it’s sorta a disgrace to try and replace what he means to me with the first random who shows an interest.  Plus, I get frustrated at the fact that I have to make effort and chase these people – why isn’t anyone chasing me?  I like how I look more than I ever did before, so why is it suddenly so difficult to find someone?  I’m in Gucci, Armani, Prada – most guys my age don’t know what those even are.  And I guess I answered my own question – I try to be solid gold on the outside as well as on the inside (I know that I have a good heart) but I try too hard and it goes unappreciated, and I forget my earlier wisdom of being ice king and not easily won.  Overall I’m glad that nothing happened, and I’m mortified that I even entertained the thought.  I thought about giving up alcohol, but that would never happen; lo and behold, I appear to be staying over at Mike’s on Monday night, so drinking will definitely happen then anyway!

Alcohol also makes me (as it did during the Christmas party a few weeks ago; although last night I was about 3 times as drunk) seem to run off in random directions.  Hannah and Tess went missing during one period of the evening, and I spent half an hour pushing through people in the club in an effort to find them – it turned out they had gone to the kebab van without telling anyone!  Then I ended up helping a girl who was in tears, had acquired another girl’s phone but had lost her own, and needed a lift from her friend but didn’t know where to meet him.  I was out of the club wandering around Broadmead for half an hour with this girl who clung to me tighter than a starfish on a rock, who was using my phone (luckily I’m on contract so it was fine) and smoking my cigarette – she was appreciative, but it’s not something I would ever have taken the time to do had I been sober!  And I hazard a guess that if she had been sober, she wouldn’t have been in that situation anyway 😉  The moral of this post seems to be that alcohol is messy!  And it is.  But I suppose that compared to what could have happened, it was all pretty harmless.  I did have a good time, and I didn’t do anything wrong or bad.  We got there and back in one piece, I wasn’t sick anywhere, I didn’t embarrass myself (as far as I’m aware) at Hannah’s house in front of her parents, and I don’t appear to have lost anything vital.

But the reason why I wanted to write this post was to say more than “don’t drink too much or you may act like a twat”.  Everyone knows that.  I just wanted to say that although it’s not a complete excuse, alcohol made me forget myself.  It made me forget my own sense of dignity, which I nearly compromised by being sick, by pulling someone below my station and ultimately, by forgetting that I am worth more.  I guess I’m disappointed in myself because I felt and acted weak last night, and I should be strong – most of the time, I am strong.  But last night, I forgot that a meaningless encounter won’t hold a candle to a strong friendship and infatuation with a close friend; I forgot that I am a good person inside as well as on the outside, and I shouldn’t settle.  I deserve more, so why did I entertain settling for less?  That’s my first regret of 2010 (I start early!), but I hope that it’s something I can do something about. 🙂

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lessons learned.

December 30, 2009

For my final blog post of the year, like I said, I’m not going to attempt to give a run down of my 2009.  I’m never very good at that and I either misfocus and weigh certain events too heavily, or completely miss stuff out.  However, in trying to cast my mind back, I’ve learned a lot this year.  Here are some of my lessons learned:

Just because they’re related to you by blood doesn’t mean your family will always love you or care about you.  Love is not the same as obligation.

Trusting your own motivation can lead you to places people never thought you could go.  That’s their limited imagination, not yours.

People whom you thought were your friends can turn around and stab you in the back.  It’s not your fault and sometimes you can’t see it coming.

Someone who might initially appear to come from a different walk of life could become your best friend.

There’s nothing wrong with spending money on yourself, as long as you have the money!

People should focus less on telling you what you shouldn’t do and more on accepting you for who you are.  Chances are, you already know better than them what is good/bad for you, and being reminded is both condescending and unhelpful.

Life is open plan, and there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ path; all we can do is follow our hearts and intuition as much as possible, and do what is ‘right’ for us.  That way, at least we have total ownership of our mistakes and our successes.

Marriage doesn’t change who you are, your sex drive nor whom you find attractive.

You’re never too old to fall crazy in love.  You can’t help your feelings, and there’s nothing wrong with having those feelings.

Usually, if you want to do something on a computer and you can’t work out how, there is some technician who has wanted to do it before you and subsequently invented a solution to your problem.  Google is your friend.

Don’t decide to up and learn a new language and consider emigrating on a whim.

Never give up hope.

Thankyou all for your support of this blog, my music and everything else this year! I really appreciate it and I wish you all a fantastic New Year’s Eve (let’s go party!) and a fulfilling 2010.  Here’s to the future!
Much love, Alan x
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don’t take it personal.

December 15, 2009

I apologise for not having blogged in a little bit.  Real life has kinda taken over, and if you follow me on twitter (please do!!! – I have my latest tweets on the right —> ) then you’ll have an idea why.  Basically, although I’ve been open that I’m slightly envious of the fact that Mike likes someone other than me, and that other person seems to like him back (although there are marriages, children and mixed signals thrown into the mix), I’ve been handling it pretty well.  Yep, that’s right, you spotted the past tense.  Well, I’m handling it well again now.  But we had our Christmas meal on Friday night, and I might have got a little bit paranoid and possessive.  Allow me to elaborate.

Mike & me are HBICs on our course.  We do more or less everything together, we are friendly with everyone and everyone knows us as the smokers / naughty guys talking dirty at the back of the class / dedicated and working in the library on the sly / fun and easy to talk to / the ones who organise the social events on the course.  The third person in our equation is someone Mike noticed early on, but has only been included in our circle the last few weeks.  I knew that Mike was developing feelings before he admitted it to me, but it is still hard to accept.  I know he’s a straight married man, but what does a not-stunning 33-yo woman with 2 kids, an overly-possessive husband and an average wardrobe have on me?  Ok, she is a lovely lovely person, and admittedly has sparkling blue eyes and a shapely butt. But I’m 24, I apparently “look immaculate” (Julie), am “very pretty / beautiful” (Mike!!! and others), I can sing, dance, write and produce my own music, I smoke, play piano and guitar, I’m quite intelligent and “articulate” (Leanne) and “really good to talk to and understanding” (Penny, Emma, Mike).  What the fuck more can I do?  How many more hoops do I have to jump through?  I’m missing the point.  Sexuality is sexuality, although I firmly believe that although you can definitely be instantly attracted to physical traits, ultimately the body is the wrapping and the gift is the person inside (I mean that not in a sexual way, but in an emotional / spiritual / personal way).  Somewhere along the line, he’s my best friend but he doesn’t see all of who I am – otherwise if he has feelings for the woman, he certainly would have feelings for me as we share a good heart and a love of innuendo.  I’m going over old territory here, but although he’s my best friend at university and I utterly cherish that, sometimes it’s maddening that I can’t have more.

Anyway, I admit I’ve been a bit envious.  But I’ve also been more than there for him as much as I can, despite my own feelings for him (which he knows about).  The day of our Christmas meal, I was feeling extremely nervous and on edge, despite telling myself that they are adults, they can do whatever they like and it’s not my job nor my place to keep them apart.  I felt that I didn’t want Mike to be regretting anything the next day, that I might be a bad friend if I let him down by not keeping him rational, and that I would have my heart hurt in the process.  I played “Russian Roulette” multiple times, since that song, those lyrics and the whole Rated R album seem to be the story of my life right now, and nervously arrived at Mike’s house.  For a while I felt fine – we got to the restaurant, Mike said that after we went for late-night drinks and conversation the night before he was feeling more balanced about it all, I was confident and happy.  But then she eventually arrived, I felt the focus slipping away from me, I ended up having a lot to drink (note: 5 sambuca shots in one go is never a good idea), and then my hitherto good handle on the whole situation (which admittedly I had been managing pretty well, considering it’s a lot to bear) flew out the window.  I had to corral our whole group (who were splitting off in various directions, somewhat annoyingly – again I blame the alcohol!) into BSB on Corn Street, and then no matter how much I danced, smoke or drank, I couldn’t help but keep looking back at the two of them chatting in the corner.  In short, I was driving myself crazy, and Mike knew that I was really tense.  Apparently I said a couple of not-so-nice things about how little I trusted her (the drink talking, not that that’s an excuse), and I was dashing on and off the dancefloor and in and out of the club like a crazy person trying to keep my emotions and sanity in check, and then failing miserably.  I didn’t offend anyone, I didn’t do anything stupid or say anything revealing – I even managed to cover for the two of them when an observant Jenny remarked “how close they are… I wonder if they like each other?” (my reply – “Nah, we’re all just close friends” before linking my arm through Mike’s).  I am a good friend and my heart was and is in the right place.  But that night, my head was not.  More than my own envy or my own feelings, I wanted to be a good friend to Mike and stop him from doing anything he would regret in the long term.

At the end of the night me and Mike were walking back from dropping Jenny and her at the car park, and we had a little talk.  I was in a very bad mood, and it took me a while to work out why.  I called Mike to apologise for my mood, and he said it was ok, and I offered to explain what it was tomorrow.  First thing next morning, he texted me to ask how I was and why I had been feeling down.  I explained, he said I didn’t have anything to apologise for and not to worry or think so much. (For the record, “don’t think so much” is an astute but lousy piece of advice!!!)  I felt silly all weekend, but I thought that things were going to be ok and I was looking forward to seeing him on Monday.  Since I had his house key, I had arranged to give him that back.  Fast forward to Saturday night – Mike isn’t replying to my texts (this is unusual behaviour!), I was feeling fed up, caged at home, and decided to go out with Nick to a party and get drunk.  I had a fantastic time, and although I still had Mike at the back of my mind (or midway, maybe), it was whatever.  Life goes on.

Sunday I was in Starbucks working on my essay, when I get a call from Mike (after not replying to another text of mine telling him I had a crazy dream where we were both mercenaries undercover at an underground Nazi gathering led by Daniel Craig, except Mike was being hunted by the police for drug trafficking… yeah) to ask me if I was at home, and if I could give him his house key.  I had his key in my bag so I met him and his nephew Jack outside Harvey Nichols, handed it over (along with some tobacco, since I had run out of cigarettes on Friday night and smoked several of his rollies… it was also a little bit of an “apology offering”) and we had brief conversation.  Once again, everything seemed fine.  But then in the evening, we had texts which went unanswered, others which were answered and I just didn’t know where I stood.  Obviously I was overreacting, but nevertheless I couldn’t stop my own guilty feelings from colouring my judgement and thinking that I might have ruined our friendship.

Monday comes, I’m talking with Henna outside university when Mike rolls up.  He’s fine, but melancholy.  I apologised, we talked a lot about Friday, but things just weren’t the same.  He seemed glum, I was sad, and although we were talking and spending time together it just wasn’t the same. No innuendos, no physical contact, and at one point he thought I was in a piss with him (when I wasn’t!) and I explained what I was feeling and he said that “although I promised I’d never hit you, if you keep worrying then I will!”  Despite that, it was like our friendship was a shadow of its former self.  I texted him in the evening, but no reply once again.  I felt like I was being punished when I had apologised, been told there was nothing to apologise for and not to worry about it!  I felt like I really was a product of my mother’s emotional fuckery and my father’s control freakishness, and yet I couldn’t stop my brain from over-analysing every little thing (I apologise to Nick, Adam, Nana and everyone else I stressed out to over the past few days – y’all are so understanding and I really appreciate it.  Thankyou. 🙂 ).  I felt so down, that after everything our close friendship had been somehow ruined, that despite my ability to be truly honest with Mike about my deepest darkest secrets and tell him things I can’t remember telling anyone, he couldn’t come correct to me and tell me what the matter was.

This morning I waited for him at our usual block, on edge and feeling sorta upset.  We met up and went to the library, he apologised for not replying to my text (I pretended it was nothing) and the black cloud persisted for a while.  But I soon realised that it wasn’t to do with me – in fact, I was the only person he could spend time with but still be honest about his moods.  I didn’t press him, but I realised that his home situation was really getting him down.  I offered him reassurance, friendship and a hug where appropriate, and tried to give him space.  As the day went on, we perked up (despite the fact we were writing an essay!) and I felt finally reassured that I still had his friendship, and that I can’t be responsible for him always being in a good mood, or for him being down.  His being sad makes me feel sad for him, but however much I might drink on a night out or however much guilt I feel, I can’t hold myself responsible for his moods, no matter how good friends we end up being.  I learned that I really do take things too personally, that I can’t turn my brain or heart off however much it might be convenient sometimes, and that I can be someone’s best friend but I can’t stop them from making a mistake – all I can do is be there for them, give them space to breathe and a shoulder to lean on when they need it.  This weekend was an emotional rollercoaster for me, but it wasn’t without its lessons and I try to take that away from it.  Drinking and love doesn’t mix, and you can only hide your heart under a façade for so long before it nevertheless starts to chip. Now I’m repairing myself and we’re all taking a deep breath and gradually going back to normal, and that’s a relief.  But I promise not to forget what I’ve learned this weekend, and I appreciate (once again) my friendships so much.

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Rihanna – Rated R. (album review)

November 14, 2009

Here is the album review I promised on my twitter yesterday!  Before I start, once again I want to thank you all for supporting my blog, both my music reviews and my personal entries.  I really appreciate all the views and I hope that you’ll keep it locked here because I ain’t stoppin’! 🙂 Thankyou.

You already know what I think of Russian Roulette, and the other 3 songs we’ve heard already from Rated R.  Generally, they portray a darker, edgier side to Rihanna, both in the production (deeper, more menacing beats) and lyrical content that includes a bit of cursing, a lot of swagger and references to pain, trials and tribulations.  “Russian Roulette”, “Wait Your Turn” and “Hard” are more or less indicative of the album as a whole.  In contrast to her previous smash Good Girl Gone Bad, it’s a lot less uptempo.  The songs are mainly midtempos and ballads, which may alienate a lot of fans who want her faster, danceable material (though “Hard” and “Rude Boy” cater to these needs, and do so well with swagger lyrics – the latter seeing Rihanna come on to a ‘rude boy’ as if she were the guy who is gonna “put it on you”).  However, the slower material allows for two major things: one, to prove that Rihanna can actually sing.  Okay, she’s no Beyoncé, but she holds her own a lot better than many people might expect.  “Russian Roulette” and closing standout “The Last Song” don’t employ lots of vocal runs, but they emphasise strong, clear vocals that prove Rihanna’s got a voice as well as a body – btw. the artwork for this era is immense! – and also go well with the more emotionally searching and vulnerable material.  Two, it allows for Rihanna to delve into her pain, and although it’s never made explicit that she’s referencing her love, abuse and love lost with Chris Brown, songs such as “Stupid In Love” and the epic “Cold Case Love” immediately bring that whole affair to mind.

Not every song is concerned with love lost.  “Te Amo” is about a girl who’s infatuated with Rihanna, and its undulating beats have been beefed up slightly on the album version to make it more hypnotic and possibly (along with “Rude Boy”) the song that would have slotted in nicely on Good Girl Gone Bad.  “Rockstar 101” is backed up by Slash’s guitar work and like “Hard” and “Wait Your Turn”, it demonstrates Rihanna’s confidence in herself – something she perhaps wants to emphasise.  She is fierce!  However, compared to some of the other tracks, “Rockstar 101” falls somewhat flat, as it doesn’t have as much depth as the emotionally-charged midtempos, nor does it ring as true as the harder-knocking songs.  It does demonstrate that Rihanna is not an urban artist – she’s a pop singer who encompasses a range of music. On this album, she combines elements of rock, pop, R&B and melds them together to create a dark album that works for the most part.  And credit goes to her for trying to improve on each album – like Good Girl Gone Bad, the amount of filler on the disc is fairly minimal (in contrast to her first two records) and she’s tried to do something different that has evolved as she has as a person.  So I must applaud that.

A couple of the ballads such as “Stupid In Love” and “Photographs” (which benefits from will.i.am’s synthed beats that kick in midway) are perfectly solid, but pale in comparison to the best tracks.  These are, in a nutshell, first single “Russian Roulette”, “Fire Bomb”, “G4L”, “Cold Case Love” and “The Last Song”.  These all work because Rihanna is putting herself out there vocally and emotionally.  The producers do a fantastic job (praise must go in particular to Justin Timberlake and The Ys’ work on “Cold Case Love”, which shows a gradual building of beatboxing, standard beats, guitars and strings to an epic climax that fades out by itself and underline Rihanna’s pain at a love misfired – “Release me now ’cause I did my time”) more or less throughout, but Rihanna herself carries the songs.  “Fire Bomb” has been compared to something by Kelly Clarkson, but in my opinion it knocks much harder and is a compelling contrast to expectations – most people would expect a club banger from the title, when in fact it’s a slow pop/rock ballad which essentially says “if I’m going down in flames, you’re coming with me”.  “G4L” is one of the darkest songs which shows Rihanna pledging to be “down 4 life”, ride or die until the end.  The off-key tweaks at the beginning signal something mysterious, and the lyric “I lick the gun when I’m done ’cause I know that revenge is sweet” is one of the best opening salvos I can remember.  The track brings to mind the tiny gun tattoos on the sides of Rihanna’s breasts, demonstrating that even if she may be a sweet person on the surface, she’s also a strong and determined one – her attitude is reflected in her music as much as her body art.

“The Last Song” was the track that stood out to me most from listening to the 30-second snippets, and it doesn’t disappoint – it’s a perfect closer to the album, not only in name but in texture also.  It employs a soaring guitar and heartwrenching lyrics, chronicling the realisation of a breakup.  “The sad song ends up being the last song you’ll ever hear.”  Rihanna’s spare vocals almost seem to cry the lyrics throughout the track, and the buildup throughout the song until near the end where all the instruments fade out is done perfectly.  Rihanna said that she wanted Lil’ Wayne and Kings Of Leon to like her album, demonstrating her desired blend of urban and rock. The album is definitely a mélange of styles, but apart from “Hard”, I don’t see enough hip-hop for Weezy to connect with, and the rock elements are nowhere near as indie-pop as Kings Of Leon.  However, the soaring guitars provide something edgier and deeper within the context of a pop album, and the hard-hitting beats and synths knock plenty – the combination of which provide something quite extraordinary and special within itself.  Rihanna should be proud of this record.

Rated R has a focused aggression to it that rings truer than it did on Good Girl Gone Bad. Despite the lack of uptempo smashes, it’s a fantastic record that hopefully will have as much repeat-play value as her previous record.  Whether it’s because of her personal struggles, maturity as a young woman or desire to experiment musically (probably a combination of all three), Rated R shows growth.  I pray that her label doesn’t re-release the album, since it’s perfect as it is and comes across as something sincere, rather than designed to make money as a light pop confection.  Why I’m impressed with Rated R, beyond the simple fact that most of the songs are solid or better, is because it’s cohesive.  All the songs work together to make the album more than the sum of its parts.  It has a big emotional impact, and it sets a musical mood (dark, edgy and yet heartfelt) that doesn’t let up throughout – in her own words, from “Hard”, “that Rihanna rain/reign”.  I didn’t know if she had it in her to best Good Girl Gone Bad, but even if it doesn’t have as many number 1 smashes and addictive beats, Rated R is a musical step forward that I personally value that little bit more.