“As is the norm of many of Rihanna’s endeavours these days, it’s half-arsed”
Digital Release: November 12, 2011
Physical Release: November 14, 2011
With crushing inevitability, Rihanna is back with a new single before the last one’s finished doing the rounds. It’s an odd thought that people stick stubbornly to a pedant’s view of music morality when it comes to Katy Perry’s unnaturally obsessive conquest of Billboard chart records, and yet no-one seems to bear a grudge when the focus is shifted to Rihanna’s conveyor belt album production. Onto her seventh album release (including the 2008 re-release, ‘Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded’) in six years, it’s never going to be expected that Rihanna’s album are particularly personal anymore. The monochromatic moodiness of ‘Rated R’ came close, but only brief moments managed to sing their message loud enough – and within aural pleasure – and deliver much of the survivor’s rebuttal she was aiming for. And if, by now, you’re feeling slightly un-eased that Rihanna was going a bit quiet for a few days following her ‘return’ to the charts with the Calvin Harris-assisted ‘We Found Love’, then fear not, for not five days ago she announced she’ll be releasing ‘You Da One’, and not two days ago she got the chance to début the thing.
But going back to my original point: we’re not treated with any kind of notion that Rihanna’s learning to mature either, even in her balladry. But even if she’s still happy enough to pootle along through song after song, acting like life’s a party and still scoring zero points for living in the real world, things hit an unprecedented low when listening to ‘You Da One’, the off-the-cuff new single from ‘Talk That Talk’. It sees her sink further into Rihanna land as she blurts out in heavily processed monotone and a mock-Creole accent – “You are da one that I dream about alway-ay-ays”. She’s not excused for the piss-poor attempt at rhyming or the equally poor execution of it, but then again, Rihanna has always had a knack for drawing out syllables for rhymes that really aren’t worth saving; it’s better than hearing her nasal groan, at least. Although, by the time “My love is your love/Your love is my love” rolls – well, plods – around, you do start to wonder how many splinters she has after scraping those lyrics off the bottom of the already-bereft barrel of nonsensical ideas.
The production, unmistakably the work of Dr. Luke with it’s lurching, sludgy beats and overall tunelessness, is the perfect background for Rihanna’s poor vocal melody. The production is merely a chunk of fatty filler on it’s own; a wall of sound that sets the tone for it’s singer, whoever it ended up being. This sort of laziness leaves Rihanna’s poor shoulders to carry the responsibility of providing some recognisable melody, but as is the norm of many of Rihanna’s endeavours these days, it’s half-arsed and her voice just sounds like an anonymous version of her former self, bleached of any personality and void of the fun she attempts to create. In a world where she practically commands the public into buying one of her songs whenever she feels like adding another hit to the track-listing of the eventual Greatest Hits album, it’s hard not to wonder where she would be if this was the kind of music that kick-started her career.