Saturday, 1 October 2016

RIHANNA: Music of the Sun (2005)

"Tangents are not only allowed, they're encouraged" 
                                                                    -- John Gabrus 

For some reason I can't really explain, I started getting into Rihanna's music this year. I listened to a coulee songs, liked them and listened to a few more. Since I was already on that road, I decided to have some fun and review all of her albums. Since she's only released eight, and they are readily available, this task did not feel that daunting.

At the start of this, I was only vaguely aware of Rihanna's music. I mean I wasn't completely unaware of her -- she's so omnipresent you can't miss her -- but I knew nothing of her work beyond the big hits. The earliest song I can remember of Rihanna's is 'SOS', so going into her debut, I had no frame of reference. 

Man,  this album was boring. It's a collection of the reasons why I tend to run away from mid-noughties pop music. Bland songs and bland production -- if Rihanna had not kept plugging away, I doubt whether anyone would remember who she was.

The album opens with the one hit off the record, 'Pon De Replay', which would not even cut it as filler on a contemporary Rihanna album. There's a disjunct between Rihanna's voice and the production, which fills out a mechanical beat with what sounds like that air raid siren from the Death Star.

The rest of the album segues into more of a Caribbean vibe. I am not that familiar with reggae or Barbadian musical styles, so I'll leave that aspect alone. However, the style here is very electronic, with little in the way of real instruments -- it makes the music sound plastic, cold and, frankly, a bit racist.

A few songs rise a bit out of the morass. The title track is a little rote, but is pleasant enough (there is a synth string section in the background which kind of ruins it though). 'Willing to Wait' is a nice change of pace -- it's a sultry slow jam and sticks out even with Rihanna's present day work. 'Let Me' is the one dance track where the 'Caribbean' flavour and the dance beats connect. It may be the best track on the album.

All in all, Music of the Sun is aggressively middle of the road. It's dull and unoriginal, with the attempts at mixing the musical styles of Rihanna's homeland with then-contemporary pop styles feel forced and a bit racist.

 However, as a look back at where she started, this is a vaguely intriguing document. When juxtaposed with her next two albums, it is interesting to track how Rihanna and her collaborators figure out what she is good at, in terms of style and subject matter.

On its own though, Music of the Sun isn't worth a listen.

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