Posts Tagged ‘guns’

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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.

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dream: apocalypse rob.

September 18, 2009

This dream is a masterclass in me.

The first thing that I remember is being at lunch in a fancy restaurant, ordering French pastries with Charlotte from Sex and the City.  We were discussing relationships and sex, and about whether I was a failure for not having gotten married yet.  Charlotte was as lovely and reassuring as she is on the tv programme, and I remember as I took bites out of my French cake (strawberry – which I normally don’t like), she told me that I was young and that there was plenty of time to fall in love.  We sprayed each other with the new Prada fragrance, L’eau Ambrée, and it was delicious.

I left the restaurant and Charlotte, and met up with Rob (the Romanian) and we went back to my place (I had a very white apartment) where we sat on the bed and were talking and flirting for ages.  (I am wearing my Opium Pour Homme today as I type this as a result) At one point I was so tempted to kiss him, but I couldn’t do it because he had/has a boyfriend and that would not really be ethical.  I reached out and stroked his face, and he nuzzled into it while saying “You know that I can’t do that”.  The tension mounted and I kept my hand against his cheek, but eventually the moment passed and I had to go.

The next thing I know, I was walking along the edge of a bayou (!!!) and I came to a big wooden Colonial-style house with lots of people crowded around on the veranda.  I mingled with the crowd, looking for Rob and it transpired that his family owned the house.  There was a raft on the river of the bayou, ready to “set sail”, and I tried to get Rob to go on it with me and we could go down the river together.  However, once I sat on the raft I discovered that his sister was going to use the raft with me, and she was a prostitute.  She got on the raft, along with a couple of other guys, and Rob disappeared and we started to drift upstream, towards the big white gates of the city.  The gates opened, and after some forgettable conversation, I got off the raft and left Rob’s sister and her guys to it.  I walked along the street and went back to my apartment.  The whole city looked as if it had been whitewashed, and it was ominously pristine and futuristic.

I went into my apartment block, and suddenly a siren sounded and the dean from St. Anne’s College at Oxford University, Martin Jackson, came thundering down the stairs and informed me that we were on ‘high alert’.  He told me to follow him up the stairs to a safe part of the building, and I had no choice but to do so.  He led me to an isolated part of the apartment block on the top floor, where all of the doors were sliding and gleaming white, with no handles or anything – they seemed to open and close of their own accord, as if they could see us coming.

Once I arrived on the top floor, I found out that the country / world was on ‘high alert’, because the Chinese had massive guns that they were using to shoot down all the other countries.  (Dreams are not logical.)  Although we were trying to fight back with our own guns, our guns were not as big and therefore we were almost certain to lose, and the world was due to descend into warfare and possibly the end of the world.  So that was why it was important to take refuge now, before it was too late.  In the top floor of the apartment building, there was a hallway leading off to three rooms.  I chose to enter the room on the left, which was furnished largely in red velvet with chairs set up for an audience.  At the front of the room was a massive flat-screen television, and it appeared that we were supposed to be watching something.  I have no idea what was supposed to happen in the other two rooms, but I had the impression that it was something more sinister and that I had chosen well.

Little by little, the room began to fill up with people, including my friend Hannah, and also a girl from school called Hannah Drake.  Hannah found me and we were relieved that we were both safe.  Meanwhile, the screen began to show Street Fighter games for different gaming platforms (including the Playstation and the Sega Saturn; it was some weird hybrid of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat).  Akuma from Street Fighter actually entered the room and sat himself down, all fiery red hair and glowing eyes, and finally the film began to start.  It was very abstract and didn’t explain much.  At one point, me and Hannah looked at each other and started giggling because it made no sense, but one of the old women seated behind us hushed us and told us to pay attention to the film as it was important.  I remember lots of cityscapes and white gleaming buildings, and that was it!

Anyone willing to psychoanalyse?  Sigmund Freud?