I had heard mixed things about Loud, but the presence of guitarist Nuno Bettencourt made me excited to give it a listen. I'm a big fan of his band Extreme, so to see his name pop up in the credits filled me with hope.
The strain of her annual commitment to release new content is pretty evident on Rihanna's fifth album, but it still boasts some strong songs.
Following the more aggressive sound of Rated R, Loud feels like a return to the style of Good Girl Gone Bad, with the more adult themes carried over from Rated R. It's not really worth going into the track list in great detail -- simply put, the singles are great, the deep cuts not so much. To that extent, Loud is not that dissimilar to Rihanna's first two albums.
'S&M', 'Only Girl (In The World)', and the Eminem collaboration 'Love The Way You Lie (Part II)' tower over the rest of the record. The guest stars (Drake and Nicki Minaj) don't gel, and other tracks, while not particularly bad, blur into the background.
'King Size Bed' and 'Man Down' are fun, and add a little bit of variety. 'The former is a ballad, riding the line between adult contemporary and country music. Not sure if Bettencourt's the man on guitar, but whoever it is does a decent job. 'Man Down' heads back to reggae, and feels like Rihanna's spin on the 'I Shot The Sheriff'/'Miss Otis Regrets' subgenera of bad romances ending in a hail of bullets.
Overall, Loud is an appropriate title for this album: it has plenty of flash and pyrotechnics, but not much beyond that.