Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rihanna is “Unapologetic” on New Album.

The album art to Rihanna's latest.
So I wasn’t invited to tramp across the skyways with pop-princess Rihanna on her recent media tour to support the release of her latest album. Unapologetic is the songstress’ 7th studio offering in so many years. Since her debut on the music scene in 2005, Rihanna appeared determined to make a considerable dent on the pop spectrum whether she had an audience or not. So she packed a 777 and decided to hit the road!

7 countries. 7 days. 7 show. The 777 Tour to promote album number 7. Lucky number or not, its gonna grab Rihanna some headlines – as usual.

Somewhat ruthless in her ambition, she laid it into her critics when she unleashed a storm with her hit single “Umbrella.” The collaboration with rap music mogul proved the hit-maker’s strategically second greatest career move since marrying BeyoncĂ©...and fortunately for Rihanna, the single rocketed the Barbadian beauty into super-stardom.

With a near relentless appetite for attention and an equally addictive taste for courting controversy, Rihanna’s music and personal life kept her on the charts and in the tabloid headlines. Cut to her new reality, where the luxury of anonymity is the one thing she can no longer afford. Fame after all does come with a price.

The theme that is most prevalent in Unapologetic as Rihanna thumbs her nose at the public scrutiny that has followed her every move, is just that – that singer has nothing to apologize for. I’m rich. I’m beautiful. So fuck you! Whether you like it or not, I’m here to stay.

Talent is the one still questionable traits that is yet to be confirmed among the artist’s (and I use that word loosely) repertoire, but if Rihanna is capable of anything it’s picking the producers and tracks that will convey every bit the narrative that she is working to express. She is a smart marketeer, comparable to Madonna in her day. Look where that skill has gotten the Queen of Pop. If Rihanna is cut from the same cloth time will certainly tell, but in the here in now Unapologetic may stand has one of her most ardent musical productions yet.

Pushing her dance floor collaborators to their boundaries, Unapologetic starts with the David Guetta production “Fresh Off the Runway” that doesn’t have the trappings and synth associated with the remix/producers. Instead the track is a harder-hitting gang bang of beats and electronic rhythms that sway along with Rihanna’s own auto-tuned vocals and breathy accents. The track’s very contemporary swing confirms that RiRi knows what catches her fans attention...and she’s ready to slam them into the wall.

The already chart climbing “Diamonds” is along the same type of drama that we’ve come to expect from other radio-ready female vocalists that are making the rounds. It’s a powerful proclamation and moves along easily; the arrangement is poignant and is sure to give Rihanna her biggest and brightest moments on stage. The song is wrought with emotion – her emotion is very present in its performance. The production, though not the most soaring, still manages to hit like a wave crashing into the surf.

The rest of Unapologetic features more of the same confection that has become the norm on the pop scheme as of late. There are the guest appearances which include Guetta (who provides the album’s club frenzied “Right Now”), hip-hop acts like Future and Eminem, and alternative artist Mikky Ekko who delivers on the ghostly romantic “Stay”. It’s interesting that the track right after this romantic ode is Rihanna’s sure to be controversial duet with Chris Brown.

If “Noboby’s Business” feels like a seductively bouncy romp that could have been written by Michael Jackson, that’s because the King of Pop contributed a lot of the tracks feel. It’s an unofficial “response” to Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” produced by The-Dream. In a very decisive and somewhat delusional move, Rihanna put away the restraining and paired up with her beau – as for how her fans will react. Stay tuned.

But as for what the pop artist is thinking, it’s apparent – she doesn’t give a fuck what people will think or say about it. There are very interesting productions on Unapologetic that grab instant attention. “Love Without Tragedy-Mother Mary” is one such nugget, while “No Love Allowed” is a sure-fire reminder of her summery sweet beach front Barbados roots, and “Lost in Paradise” rounds out the album with a broken-hearted, rock-tinged single waiting to solidify Rihanna’s place on Billboard...yet again.

Though she has nothing to apologize for – her work ethic, her drive to stay on top, her unique appeal –  it is perhaps her critics who owe her a bit of slack. Unapologetic shines bright like a diamond.

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christina Aguilera’s “Lotus” Blossoms

The last time around that Christina Aguilera was on the radar she was about to hit the big screen, go bionic and was suddenly a single lady. The one-two punch of a divorce and her box-office dud dulled out the buzz surrounding her electro-heavy album project. It took a competition reality show The Voice to remind everyone outside of her fan base how much of a force of nature Aguilera truly is.

A nominally successful single with co-conspirator Adam Levine proved she still had the moves. And a similarly inspired turn as a TV judge solidified that after a decades worth of music Christina knows her shit. After several seasons mentoring the musical talent of tomorrow, Christina Aguilera returns to what she does best – make music!

Critically Bionic her last full-length album project couldn’t have been more disappointing for the artist, who was releasing a techno-synth opus that had promised to deliver on high-voltage but barely had the wattage needed to light a candle. Aside from the premiere single “Not Myself Tonight” the album as a whole barely made a dent on the charts for Aguilera who had committed herself to a multi-city tour to promote Bionic.

An ambitious set of tracks, mostly all produced for the rousing commerciality of dance music that was largely inspired by the success of Lady Gaga, there was little Aguilera could do to escape the eclipse of the new music phenomenon that was challenging all conventions of popular music. Looking to challenge the critics that found joy in comparing the two, Aguilera teamed with electro-pop producers Tricky Stewart, Polow da Don and Samuel Dixon to give Bionic it uniquely synth-pop dimension.

When interest in the album fizzled, Bionic peaked at seventy-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, and not even appearances by a then relatively unknown Nicki Minaj could raise any additional eyebrows. The plug was soon pulled on the planned “2010 Bionic Tour” – boohoo!

Defiant and resilient Aguilera appeared determined that her next album project would remind everyone of just how formidable she is. On Lotus her seventh full-length album, Aguilera demonstrates just how far she’s blossomed, from pop-princess, to pop-icon.

The strength of this compilation of tracks isn’t solely linked to Aguilera’s dominating vocals, Lotus is powered on by some very accessible pop tracks – something that many argued was missing significantly from Bionic. From the smartly crafted lead single “Your Body” is Aguilera’s proof that she is carefully listening to how music now is responding to memorable hooks and electronic beats. She isn’t compromising on her voice either. The track’s arrangement takes full advantage of her masterful range.

Fortunately “Your Body” isn’ the only petal Lotus has to pluck. Linking to the popularity of singing competition show The Voice Aguilera teams up with her mates CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton, for two of the album’s most radio-friendly tracks. “Make the World Move” is powered by a memorable drum beat that is sharpened by CeeLo’s presence. Performing with country star Blake Shelton on “Just a Fool” reveals the powerful cross-over potential of a ballad that is narratively as winning as a Carrie Underwood hit.

Lotus continues to blossom with the dance floor ready “Let There Be Love” that will be a choice favorite for club crowd that found Bionic’s tedious track list too predictable and forced. “Sing For Me” is one of albums more powerful ballads, which there are in abundance this time. There’s no denying that Aguilera’s greatest gift is her natural instrument, which easily continues to brand her the voice of her generation.

On “Army of Me” she is quick to remind us that she’s still stronger; she’s still a fighter. “Circles” poignantly takes a jab at the haters, while “Empty Words” seems to be directed at anyone that’s felt defeated or invisible – it’s her newest anthem dedicated to empowerment.

Like the endurable flower that she’s named this album after, Aguilera has grown beyond any expectations, and will go on. Her image may continue to dominate and her persona may overshadow her artistry, but there is no escaping her musicality. Fans will appreciate Lotus for what it is, a reflection of Christina Aguilera’s present. Her abstract defiance intact she continues to thumb her nose at those that thought she’d never succeed. But here she shut up!

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on