Rihanna - Good Girl Gone Bad

Rihanna's first 2 albums seemed at times to be musical hodgepodges. A wide range of styles were thrown against the wall to see what stuck. When they did stick we got huge pop hits like "Pon De Replay," "SOS," and "Unfaithful." However, when it didn't work we simply got album filler. This time around the image is tightened and the sound is primarily dance floor heat with few throwaways. Familiar collaborators Stargate and Ne-Yo help provide continuity and cohesiveness while Timbaland tries out some futuristic beats. For summer pop heat in your CD or digital player, you can't do much better.

2 years ago, the song "Hate That I Love You," a duet between Rihanna and Ne-Yo would have been simply a ballad by two unknown aspiring young soul artists. Today it carries the weight of a superstar duet with the songwriting and production talents of one of the hottest creative pop-soul pairs working today, Stargate.

On Rihanna's second album A Girl Like Me, the Stargate produced and Ne-Yo written hit "Unfaithful" was startling and new, but on Good Girl Gone Bad, the slick pop-soul, driven by the sound of strummed guitar, is one of the most familiar sounds on this collection. Both "Hate That I Love You," and the album's title song are enveloped in the same gorgeous atmosphere that drove Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" to the top of the charts. What is new here from Stargate is they prove they can take their sound to the club with the thumping house workout of "Don't Stop the Music." Incorporating Michael Jackson's inimitable "Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, Ma Ma Coo Sa" from "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," it is one of the album's highlights.

Three songs here include the production touch of Timbaland. "Rehab" where Justin Timberlake joins the party. "Rehab" sounds somewhat like "What Goes Around..." However, on "Lemme Get That," Timbland creates another masterpiece. In visual terms, the song seems to employ a sort of Cubist representation of Caribbean horns to hook the listener. There are more audio edges and angles here than one could imagine in a 3-minute pop song. Rihanna's confident vocals are the icing on the cake.

It may not have been needed, but Good Girl Gone Bad cements Rihanna's status at the top level of today's pop stars. The album has already delivered "Umbrella," her 2nd #1 pop single and 5th top 10 hit. There are plenty of worthy tracks here waiting in the wings to add to that total. Take Rihanna with you this summer either to the beach party or the after dark cruise around town and you won't be disappointed.