Thursday, November 25, 2010

Oh Na Na, I Actually Bought a Rihanna Album!

She's definitely talented. Beautiful. Interesting. Even if her music and image isn't your style or taste, you can't deny that she is undoubtedly a star.

For the past 5 years she has been consecutively knocking out hits pon toppa hits, yet it wasn't until her fifth studio release "Loud" came out that I actually had the motivation to purchase one of her albums.

I'm a strong believer in supporting the cause. If I want to see a movie, I'd rather go to the theatre than buy it bootleg. If I love an artist and feel like their album will inspire me, I'd rather own the entire album than beg a burn/download off someone else. I definitely prefer to buy a book than borrow one from the library.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the art form, and I appreciate a tangible product received as it was intended. The overall experience is different for me when I know that I own the product. It gives it additional value, even if only in my head.

Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan said it best when he declared that the "medium is the message" -- the manner in which the message is presented is acutely related to what is being communicated.

Hense, going out in the cold to cop this CD.

For the first time in 5 years, I actually believed in Rihanna's message.

I've liked her other stuff. "Pon De Replay" I thought was lame and hardly the reggae song it attempted to be as her introduction, but other greats like "Break It Off" (with Sean Paul), "Don't Stop The Music," "Unfaithful," and of course "Umbrella" were definitely hot tracks. Also worth mentioning, "Numba 1 (The Tide Is High)" from Kardinal Offishall's "Not 4 Sale" album -- great tune. "Live Your Life" with T.I. = fire. "Run This Town" with Jay-Z and Kanye...fantastic!

With that many songs on the charts though, who could really keep track of what album was what? The songs just kept coming out, and it got to the point where I just expected that her releases would be great. She has set an incredibly high standard for her career, and she has easily maintained it.

Ms. Fenty is only 22, but is argueably the hottest pop star there is right now. She's already in the ranks of Beyonce, Mariah, and Lady Gaga, when it comes to producing chart-topping sh*t and great videos, regularly.

She's won a total of 53 awards already in the span of her short career including 4 American Music Awards, 14 Billboard Awards, 3 Grammy's, 3 Much Music Video Awards, and even a Juno (international album of the year).

This particular album was pretty good. Not groundbreaking or exceptionally phenomenal, but it's a good listen that you can have on repeat a few times over without getting annoyed. The sounds and vibes are consistent, yet diverse enough that it's not just hearing the "umbrella-ella-ella-ella" yodle in your ear for an hour. Her tone changes, the intensity changes; it's a nice mix:

01) S&M - re-establishing good vs. bad, signature sound
02) What's My Name - cool vibe, unique sound
03) Cheers (Drink to That) - Avril Lavigne sampled pop groove
04) Fading - nice song, has an Enya feel to it
05) Only Girl (In the World) - feel good club banger
06) California King Bed - nice guitar laden ballad
07) Man Down - reggae vibe, cool lyrics
08) Raining Men (Nicki Minaj) - cute track, good blend of voices
09) Complicated - pop ballad, 80's feel
10) Skin - sensual, nice vibe
11) Love the Way You Lie Pt. II (Eminem) - vulnerable remix: dope

Can she keep this momentum? Where will she go from here? How many more hair styles can the chick think of to stay fresh and trendy? Who knows! But right now, I'd say she's at the height of her career, and I'm happy for her. The improvement, the growth, and watching her come into herself reminds me of the artistic journey, and the manner in which talent can expand, change shape, and develop.

So why now? Why am I finally learning her story, and interested in who this girl is? It was all inspired by her performance on the American Music Awards this past Sunday, November 21, 2010. I've seen her perform a million times, but this is the first time I actually believed her as an artist. She seemed happy. She seemed authentic. She danced her butt off. She smiled. She was in a groove, and I actually felt like this was the artist she has been preparing to be. There was a new vibrance to her, and it made all the difference in my perception of her.

I love to see people out-do themselves and exceed their own boundaries...I love knowing that everyone starts out as an average individual with a dream, a goal, and the motivation to do something about it.

Therein lies my inspiration from this album and Rihanna's journey. Because somewhere out there on the French Riviera, on a yacht with Matt Kemp, the little Bajan girl Robyn feels really proud of herself for seeing her vision through to the end.

In case you missed it, here's a clip of Rihanna's performance on the 2010 American Music Awards show where she wined like she was at Cropover, and inspired a standing ovation from the crowd of her industry peers.

The Urban Toronto Tales collection by Stacey Marie Robinson features books about life, love, and relationships in Toronto. For more information, please visit

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