Rihanna dropped her new album this week. She titled it Unapologetic, just in case you didn’t get the memo on how the non-stop working/partying pop megastar feels about her past dramas, present actions, and whatever future press it may generate (like this one, for instance)—a textural theme that’s all over every soaring ballad to harsh club groove.
A defiant album that indulges in money, clubs, hedonism without regrets, your enjoyment of Unapologetic will probably ultimately hinge on the following: How do you feel about Rihanna’s roller coaster relationship with Chris Brown?
That’s actually an apt representation of RiRi’s seventh album, which sonically and lyrically is a conflicted roller coaster of sounds and emotions, many of which probably allude to Chris Brown. True, Rihanna doesn’t really write any of her music—the secret to her never-ending success being she assembles a team of sought-after producers and songwriters. But the words penned are just too close for comfort to ignore, let alone be coincidence. At the end of the day, it is Rihanna who chooses what she sings, presumably because she connects to it.
Through the course of Unapologetic’s 15-song tracklist, there are (most likely) references to their “romance” that runs the spectrum of violence, car rides, That Night, haters, and life in the public eye.
We’ve gathered the most glaring mixed messages here and are just letting Rihanna speak for herself.
1. Felt like love struck me in the night / I pray that love don’t strike twice — “Love Without Tragedy”
2. Who knew the course of this one drive / Injured us fatally / You took the best years of my life / I took the best years of your life — “Love Without Tragedy”
3. Like a bullet your love hit me to the core / I was flying ‘til you knocked me to the floor — “No Love Allowed”
4. Funny, you’re the broken one / But I’m the only one who needed saving — “Stay”
5. Every lyric of the main event: the entirety of “Nobody’s Business,” the duet with Chris Brown.
Also telling is the way both singers enunciate “business” as “bidness”/“biz-ness.” In slang, “bidness” is a substitute for illegitimate business and it's no quiet secret the media finds the on-again-off-again liaison that's Rihanna and Chris Brown to be a shady venture (some are even accusing RiRi of exploiting the affair altogether).
Musically, in either a very specific or accidental nod, it’s a reference to “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” by Bessie Smith, a notorious 1923s blues ballad that straight up excuses domestic violence (“I swear I won’t call no copper / If I’m beat up by my poppa / If I’m beat up by my poppa / ‘Tain’t nobody’s bizness if I do” is a real lyric from an eras past song that’s still with us nearly 90 years later)
6. A wailing police siren in the final third of a track called “Numb”
7. 9-1-1 it’s a critical emergency, yeah / Better run run run / Come and charge him with a 1-4-3 — “No Love Allowed”
8. I choose to be happy – “Diamonds”
9. If I open up my eyes / I can see the storm / It may be wrong / But it feels right — “Lost in Paradise”
10. I’m prepared to die in the moment — “Mother Mary”