Part of what made Rihanna's last two albums -- the upbeat "Loud" and the dance-driven "Talk Talk Talk" -- so enjoyable was the belief that she was getting better. She was putting the abuse she suffered from her ex, Chris Brown, and later the media, which published photos of her battered face, behind her.
On her new album, "Unapologetic" (Def Jam), however, RiRi is apparently having a relapse.
Thematically, she's gone back to the darker head space of her "Rated R" album, the first she did after being brutally beaten by Brown. The first single, "Diamonds," feels melancholy, despite its attempts to be inspirational. "Numb," her collaboration with Eminem, is done in a monotone, as she repeats "I'm going numb" like a mantra. The ballad "Stay" captures the uneasy feeling of falling for someone you know you shouldn't.
"Unapologetic" has a few upbeat moments -- the stomping dance anthem "Right Now" with David Guetta that would have fit better on the past two albums, and the in-your-face hip-hop of "Fresh Off the Runway." However, Rihanna clouds what should be the album's happiest moment -- the catchy "Nobody's Business," built on a sleek '90s soul beat and a lyrical snippet from Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" -- by duetting with Brown.
She sees the collaboration as an act of defiance as they sing "ain't nobody's business but mine and my baby." But what happens when a fan goes back to her abusive boyfriend because her idol did? What happens if she gets hurt again or worse? Will Rihanna still be "unapologetic"? That's not the kind of question you want with your dance pop.
BOTTOM LINE "Uncomfortable" is more accurate