Sunday, 2 October 2016

RIHANNA: A Girl Like Me (2006)

Released less than a year later, A Girl Like Me finds Rihanna moving into more traditional pop territory. If one factors in the Reloaded version of Good Girl Gone Bad, Rihanna managed an album a year between 2005 and 2012.

Going into this album, I was a little less ignorant of the content. I remember 'SOS' blaring from the radio about a million times around the end of high school. I was not a fan of the song,  so I was not really looking forward to doing a deep-dive into this one. However, after the joyless dirge of Music of Sun, things can only better.

Fittingly, the album starts with the one track I know. 'SOS' was one of those songs that was passed around a few times before Rihanna got it. It basically set the template for a decent portion of Rihanna's hits: take a piece of an older song (in this case, Soft Cell's cover of 'Tainted Love' from 1981) and then build a dance number around it.

It's a pretty good song, and immediately wiped the plastic reggae of Rihanna's debut out of my memory. The production is better, and Rihanna's voice sounds a little more older and more confident.

This sense of confidence continues on 'Kisses Don't Lie', which manages to weave a reggae groove within a pop context far more successfully than anything on Rihanna's debut.

Other highlights include the guitar-led ballad 'Final Goodbye', 'Unfaithful' and the duet with Sean Paul, 'Break It Off'. None of these songs rank with Rihanna's best, but they are  a massive leap above her first album.

'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' did not turn out to be a cover of the Queen track, but like 'Kisses Don't Lie', the reggae number (featuring J-Status, who guest-starred on Music of the Sun) is a fun little confection that is (as I've already stated) far better than similar tracks from her debut.

While it might not have as many good songs as her later albums, I enjoyed A Girl like Me far more than I expected to. Even with lowered expectations, this album was a good time.

The dance tracks are memorable, the reggae tracks don't feel overly produced, and there are a few tracks where Rihanna experiments with other genres. Overall, it is a decent smorgasbord of different flavors.

Taken as either a stepping stone to the pop gold of Good Girl Gone Bad  or an album in its own right, A Girl Like Me is a lot of fun.

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