“A purposely demure delivery starts to sound more like someone merely going through the motions”
Digital Release: October 5, 2011
Physical Release: N/A
A curious truth about Rihanna these days – and most certainly, one that has existed since she rose to prominence, gradually coming to the forefront more and more obviously with every album she’s released – is that her omnipresence has worn thin the excitement that once surrounded the youthful underage Barbadian girl dancing in circles on a beach, now replaced with her overbearing stronghold on the charts and social media. Some would call it infallible promotional technique, others would prefer the term ‘staple’: she’s become far too much a staple to be something fresh any longer – you could bet a pound to a penny that even if she hadn’t ditched the afro-pop, even that would beginning to turn stale due to overexposure. But that’s the just it – Rihanna hasn’t kept any of her original style (not convincingly at least) since being positioned precariously at the peak of inextricable popularity. She relinquished her mystical vitality, slowly ebbing away the playful afro-pop influences (even though the existence of said roots at least managed to trail sporadically into some of her albums in the form of the lukewarm ‘Te Amo’ and the would-be impassioned ‘What’s My Name?’) and in their stead we have a fully-grown femme fatale who’s made more of a person and less of an object simply by her red hair, sensational scandals and tabloid column inches.
And since the poorly-executed mix-and-match of ‘LOUD’s contents has finally abdicated from the chart (with the exception of ‘Cheers (Drink To That’)), Rihanna’s only option for the continuation of her career is to churn out another album. Most likely as equalling embellished with sexual innuendos as ‘LOUD’, it’s raunchier content (lyrically speaking, at least) has been set aside for the moment in place of lead single ‘We Found Love’, produced by Calvin Harris.
Pleasant as ‘We Found Love’ is (Rihanna’s vocal performance is near flawless, but the melody is soon tired), a recurring and perturbing issue that resonates with the song and by default, Rihanna herself, is that it often appeals to one as something trying to be impressive, rather than something trying to be enjoyable, not least because of Harris’ ineffectual build-ups to customary drops, and therefore it fails even when viewed from that stance, because the last thing ‘We Found Love’ can call itself is impressive. It’s a by-numbers dance-pop nodule that feels like a deflated balloon pumped back to half-life with some of Harris’ as-standard synthesiser melodies. All the components are there, and it certainly feels a world apart from the hedonistic desires Rihanna frequently voiced on ‘LOUD’, but the big issue in Harris’ ‘electro-house’ style is that a purposely demure delivery starts to sound more like someone merely going through the motions with such perfunctorily vacant routine qualities that it becomes impossible to pretend it’s much more than just another generic chart song.