In spite of Rihanna's relatively brief amount of time in the mainstream (starting with 2005's Music of the Sun), it seems somehow like she has been a fixture on the music scene for far longer. Perhaps it has been her yearly release of a new album (save for her apocalyptic hiatus in 2008) ever since her debut that has made her such a firm and fast icon, or the consistency of Top Ten singles and collaborations with Jay-Z. Regardless of what it is that gives Rihanna so much staying power, it's safe to say, based on the themes and content of Unapologetic, that not giving a fuck is the key to at least half of her success.
"Phresh Out the Runway" sets the tone for Rihanna's usual brand of pop ferocity as she confirms, "Walk up in this bitch like we own this hoe." If you've ever seen any of Rihanna's stage performances, then you know the assertion is completely true. "Diamonds," the first single from Unapologetic, is something of a departure from Rihanna's typical pattern in that she never tends to release a ballad before a more danceable option. On the whole, "Diamonds" is actually one of the weaker tracks on the album, immediately trumped by the similarly tempoed "Numb" featuring Eminem. After teaming up on 2010's "Love the Way You Lie," the collaborative chemistry between the two is only enhanced on the dreamlike, drug-addled beats of "Numb."
"Pour It Up" is one of the more forgettable songs of Unapologetic, with Rihanna chanting "pour it up" for most of the track, while "Loveeeeee Song" featuring Future is a much more innovative track, with an ambient sound as Rihanna echoes the sentiments of Beyonce by urging, "If I'm your girl say my name." The succinctly titled "Jump" is the most overt nod to dubstep, with lyrical samples from Ginuwine's "Pony" (immortalized by Channing Tatum in Magic Mike). "Right Now" featuring David Guetta continues an obvious fondness for dubstep and Rihanna's love of exploring themes of embracing the present and not worrying about the future: "It can't be wrong, not if it feels this right/We're young right now, we got right now."
The pace slows down again with "What Now," the stronger ballad of the album when compared to "Diamonds." Expressing the loss of love in a pure and honest way, Rihanna laments in a stream of consciousness sort of way, noting, "I just wanna scream, 'What now?' I just can't figure it out." The balladry continues with "Stay" (another song on the album named after a Madonna one) featuring Mikky Ekko. Heavily piano-based, the beauty of "Stay" is in its earnestness of pleading for a loved one not to go. The complementing vocals of Ekko make it one of Rihanna's best slow tracks, even including a subtle reference to The Beatles as Rihanna says there's "something in the way you move."
Next up is perhaps the most controversial collaboration of Rihanna's career, a remake of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" with Chris Brown. Although the two worked on a remix of "Birthday Cake" from 2011's Talk That Talk, this song is much more tailored to the illustriousness of their relationship. Renamed to the more apropos "Ain't Nobody's Business," Brown and Rihanna deliberately thumb their noses at anyone who has ever condemned their relationship in the wake of Brown's 2009 smackdown of Rihanna (a scandal made worse after the photos from the police report were released). Track 11 on Unapologetic is a hybrid song called "Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary," seamlessly contrasting the themes of tragedy and the lightness of redemption. And, of course, there's also a nod to Marilyn Monroe, who seems to be a constant source of inspiration of late in the world of pop culture (see: Nicki Minaj).
"Get It Over With" eloquently uses weather conditions as a metaphor during which Rihanna begs, "You keep thunderin, thunderin, won't you just rain/And get it over with?" As one of the most R&B-tinged songs of Unapologetic, "Get It Over With" clearly refers to waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop in terms of expecting to be disappointed in a relationship. Building upon the notion of not wasting time on getting your heart broken, "No Love Allowed" is almost like a follow up to "Man Down," both aurally and lyrically as Rihanna mourns, "Now he's done, done, done and his love is no more for me/Like a bullet, your love hit me to the core/I was flyin' till you knocked me to the floor/It's so foolish how you keep me wanting more.
"Lost in Paradise," the second to last song on the album, perpetuates the idea that Rihanna is constantly struggling between her good and her bad side. Grappling with why it has to feel wrong to pursue pleasure, Rihanna concedes, "Maybe I'm wrong but it feels so right to be lost in paradise." It's the perfect song to round out an album centered around a discourse of not being sorry. The concluding song, "Half of Me," is a somewhat flaccid conclusion with lyrics like, "You saw me on the television, but that's just the half of it." Nonetheless, Unapologetic is a collection that proves an artist can be prolific while still putting out quality music.