May 2, 2006

Once-promising Rihanna makes us stop caring about a Girl Like her

Before discussing the beastly new album by Rihanna, let’s reflect on her auspicious debut album, Music of the Sun. Though it did have a couple of garish tracks, Rihanna defined the album with reggae-inspired songs full of vim and vigor. This was apparent on radio hits like “Pon de Replay,” “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want,” and “Let Me.” Sadly, Rihanna’s new single, “S.O.S.,” exemplifies the type of under-produced music on Girl Like Me.

It was hysterical to read fans’ reviews of this crap-tastic album, as they claimed Rihanna explores more genres on this album than her last, or that her voice is reaching new heights, and other lies. The truth is there are probably four tracks that are even passable. The rest of the album reeks more and more with each awful second. I haven’t heard an album this bad since former American Idol contestant William Hung’s Inspiration, which was arguably a joke. Girl Like Me isn’t a laughing matter at all.

Girl Like Me is Heaven for the cynically inclined, complete with appalling production, horrendous lyrics, heinous vocals, and loathsome impersonations. Seal would be embarrassed after hearing “Final Goodbye,” Rihanna’s imitation of his “Kiss From A Rose.” The possible club joint “Break It Off” features an indifferent Sean Paul shouting a random lyric over an overly digitalized beat. And why did Rihanna feel inclined to include a remix of Music of the Sun’s “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want”? For some reason, I think a Casio piano and midi samples were a major part of the production.

The worst track on this album (though this is debatable) is, incredibly, Rihanna’s next single, “Unfaithful.” The lyrics “I feel it in the air/ As I’m doing my hair” should explain enough—without me having to point out the whiny vocals or the overdramatic piano and simulated violins. Maybe the worst three minutes of my life were spent listening to “Million Miles Away,” which features a piano and guitar duet (as many other songs do). The difference here is that this song would have been a real power ballad, had it not been for the fact that Rihanna was singing it. Her vocals wreak havoc upon this poor, defenseless song.

Reggae was a major production tool with Rihanna’s debut CD. However, every single attempt at reggae on this album fails. “Dem Haters” is just boring. Rihanna attempts a bit of slow ska on “Selfish Girl” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” “Attempts” is the operative word here. Both songs sound like futile versions of No Doubt’s “Underneath It All,” lacking actual instruments, pleasing vocal harmonies, and an energetic horn line (as well as energy altogether).

After all of that harping, a few decent songs do exist on Girl Like Me. “Kisses Don’t Lie,” with its reggae influence and bright chorus, is a relaxing flashback to Music of the Sun. Formidable bass supports the amiable acoustic guitar in the nostalgic “We Ride.” A luscious flute fits compactly into “P.S. (I’m Still Not Over You).”

So, what did I learn from wasting my time on Girl Like Me? The once-promising Rihanna can’t sing or write lyrics after all. She doesn’t know what a good song sounds like anymore, since she has likened the art of making music into an unimaginative color-by-numbers portrait. I have also learned that I never want anything to do with a girl like Rihanna ever again.