This CD cover image shows the latest release by Rihanna, "Unapologetic." (AP Photo/Island Def Jam Music Group)
This CD cover image provided by RCA Records shows the latest release by Alicia Keys, "Girl on Fire." It's her first release after her marriage to producer-rapper Swizz Beatz and the birth of their son Egypt. (AP Photo/RCA Records)
PHOTO COURTESY OF IHEG
PHOTO COURTESY OF IHEG
The Sweetback Sisters
PHOTO BY AMY DICKERSON
Island Def Jam Music Group, $15.99
There’s something about Rihanna. And her producers.
The singer’s new album — her seventh in seven years — is like many of her other releases, full of songs that are catchy, fun and addictive. Her albums are almost like listening to a “NOW” compilation disc.
“Unapologetic” is no different. It’s full of future hits, and not a single miss.
“Phresh Out the Runaway,” which kicks off the album, does so with a bang. And there are more: “Pour It Up,” which has Rihanna sounding like a female version of The-Dream, is appealing; “Jump” samples Ginuwine’s “Pony” — and it’s surprisingly good; and the David Guetta-helmed “Right Now” is European-flavored and upbeat.
Even Rihanna’s duet with her ex Chris Brown on “Nobody’s Business,” which samples Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” will make you move your feet. Lyrically though, the song is somewhat dismissive. “Ain’t nobody’s business,” she sings. OK, then stop tweeting one another.
When Rihanna slows it down, she’s still on point: Her duet with singer Mikky Ekko on the piano-tune “Stay” is touching; the mid-tempo first single, the Sia-penned “Diamonds,” is enjoyable; and “What Now” builds nicely from its calming verse to its electrified hook.
Girl on Fire
RCA Records, $9.99
Alicia Keys doesn’t do half-measures. Her fifth studio album, “Girl on Fire,” comes on hard and fast, seemingly stripped but rich in sound, triumphant to the point of a cinematic epic scope. It’s her first release since marrying producer-rapper Swizz Beatz and the birth of their son, Egypt.
Keys’ name pops up buoyantly on all writing and producing credits of this 13-track record, a perfect mirroring of its title. But that’s no surprise. She does, however, collaborate with some new folks — including Bruno Mars, Frank Ocean, Jamie xx and Emeli Sande — and that helps make the album eclectic, while maintaining Keys’ signature — and stunning — sound.
The Grammy winner’s voice feels unstoppable and free, channeling the martial pop of Beyonce on “New Day,” the romantic flourishes of Toni Braxton on the Maxwell-assisted “Fire We Make” and the bewitching auditory imagery of Tori Amos on the album’s grand finale, “101.” Nicki Minaj adds her brand of edge to the title track and lead single, while Keys’ toddler, Egypt, pulls an adorable coda on the jazzy industrial “When It’s All Over.”
“Girl on Fire” feels organically fed with inspiration, from the drops of light of “Listen to Your Heart” to the weird urban sounds of “Tears Always Win” to the funky reggae riffs of “Limitless.” Keys is on fire, and burning all the competition. Pun intended.
Terrible Records, $6.93
Solange’s new 7-track EP is a fine collection of smooth songs that will continue to help the singer find her spot in the music world outside of sister Beyonce’s immense shadow.
The EP is the follow-up to 2008’s “Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams,” a wonderfully crafted retro-soul adventure. Solange continues with that sound on “True,” collaborating with British musician Devonte Hynes, who has also worked with The Chemical Brothers and Diana Vickers.
The album finds the 26-year-old singing about a relationship that hasn’t really worked out. The lead single and opening track, “Losing You,” kicks off things terrifically with its odd (but amazing) beat and Solange’s dreamy vocals. Each song flows easily into the next, making the EP easy listening and addictive.
At times, Solange is a vocal tease: She starts songs lightly and often adds enjoyable riffs near the end of the tracks. That’s especially on “Lovers In the Parking Lot,” and it’s a voice worth listening to.