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Rihanna struggling to get back to ‘Umbrella’ level

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I hope Rihanna and Eminem at least had a game of rock-paper-scissors to decide who got which version of “Love The Way You Lie.” Rihanna apparently lost.

In all seriousness, the most noticeable title on Rihanna’s new album, “Loud,” is “Love The Way You Lie (Part II)” thanks to part one, a chart-topping single by Eminem featuring a beautiful hook sung by Rihanna. For the sake of her “Part II,” the same hook has been slowed down in an awkward way and features only one verse from Eminem. Both elements prevent the song from reaching the single-status of its sibling.

The album’s actual singles are a mixed bag. The first, “Only Girl in the World,” features the singer making demands of her significant other, demands fully deserved based on the still-recent Chris Brown fiasco. The second, “What’s My Name?” is a far cry from “Umbrella,” but it feeds the rumorsabout her relationship with guest Drake.

Rihanna’s 2009 release “Rated R” was an uncomfortable listen because of her seemingly self-degrading lyrics in the light of the aforementioned relationship fiasco. On the new album, Rihanna has plenty of dance numbers, but the darker songs are admittedly more appealing.

The opening track, “S&M,” is not as scary as it sounds, but it still reflects enough hurt on Rihanna’s behalf to produce a pretty, if sad, song.

On the other side of things, the poppy songs are less than impressive. “Cheers (Drink to That)” samples Avril Lavigne with unsatisfying results. “Raining Men” doesn’t live up to its namesake, although Nicki Minaj’s guest verse is entertaining.

It’s good to see that Rihanna is getting back to her roots as a fun musician. Perhaps taking more time between this and her next album might deliver results on par with her 2007 hit, “Good Girl Gone Bad.”

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