Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded
Sleek and supernatural, but just the beginning
Rihanna didn't need a full three minutes to conquer the world in 2007, she only needed two syllables: "Ella. Ella. Ella." That song, written by Pop-n-B geniuses The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, pushed her firmly past the coquettish Calypso-lite naïf who sleepwalked her way through "Pon De Replay" and gave her the one thing any proper pop star needs: a personality. The Rihanna on Good Girl Gone Bad is not to be trifled with. She burns her boyfriend's clothes on the ice-cold Knife-lite "Breaking Dishes" just because he gets home late; she demands satisfaction with a snarl from her paramour on the savvy "Blue Monday" update "Shut Up and Drive," getting a staggering amount of mileage out of a single-entendre auto metaphor — "Can you handle the curves? Can you run all the lights?" — in the process. And "Lemme Get That," with its crackerjack marching band backbeat and schoolyard chant chorus plays like her attempt at rewriting Shirley Ellis's "Clapping Song" (It opens with her coyly asking her man, "I got a house, but I need new furniture/ Why spend mine when I can spend yours?")
Good Girl's uber-futurist production, and the way it's so fully suited to Rihanna's Robo Dominatrix vocal approach — is a big reason the record works so well. Good Girl is all blue-light electronics and primal throb, 25th-century pop music in the here and now. Even that breakthrough inescapable first single sounds like something sleek and supernatural, those medicine ball drums colliding with the latticework of synths and Rihanna sticking on the title like a glitchy Speak & Spell. The album's strangest moment is the slow-crawl "Question Existing," the kind of menacing black-and-blue sex ode that Depeche Mode used to write. "Who am I living for?" she asks on the chorus, "Is this my limit?" As the ensuing years would prove, the answer was: no. This is just the beginning.