Rihanna has managed to downplay the drama that’s come to define her while being remarkably matter of fact about it. The singer’s provocative album titles alone trace not only the arc of her career but her evolving attitude: Six years ago she confessed to being a Good Girl Gone Bad, a couple years later she stepped it up with Rated R, then things got Loud. She’s not one for subtlety. Her latest, Unapologetic, arrives after a single from her previous disc, Talk That Talk, announced to the world that she’d rekindled her notoriously troubled romance with Chris Brown.
Through it all she’s reinforced her ability as an unstoppable hit maker, with Talk proving she could top the charts no matter how taboo the subject matter. After that album’s “We Found Love” helped usher in the EDM era, she dropped a remix of the raunchy “Birthday Cake,” offering one of many clues that she and Brown weren’t over, stoking speculation that ultimately played to her advantage. And the Barbadian singer did it without appearing victimized: She was the one saying “I’mma make you my bitch,” to Brown, who played into the controversy, promising to “Give it to her in the worst way.”
The pop star is at her most direct on Unapologetic, as the name suggests. Brown returns on the oddly upbeat club bumper “Nobody’s Business,” yet she’s at her most unapologetic with the album-closing power ballad “Half of Me,” playing into the media perception of her with lines like “Everybody knows that I’m crazy” before delivering a final kiss-off at the song’s apex: “I’m the type that don’t give a fuck.” That defiant attitude has only helped the bad-girl diva and budding fashionista, and may go some way toward explaining the public’s fascination with a performer who seems to bury her demons beneath the surface with each new tattoo.