Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain is the 2005 debut album Music Of The Sun by Barbadian singer Rihanna. Will this album shine brightly, or will you prefer the shade. Read on…
This 14 track CD opens with lead single Pon De Replay and we’re straight into some really catchy bass drum and handclaps that really sets you off to a nice pacy, fun, and playful song as Rihanna arrives on the microphone. Songs about music are usually really catchy, and this is no exception, with plenty of requests to the ‘Mister DJ‘ to ‘turn the music up‘, and I’d have to agree – it’s a simple song but a brilliant start to the album. The single rightfully gave her UK success, reaching #2.
Next is Here I Go Again. This time, we’re into swaggering reggae, that plods nicely along, lured by Rihanna’s soft vocal harmonies whilst J-Status gives us some contrasting male vocals. Later, Rihanna gives us a glimpse of those big notes that we’re familiar in later songs like Umbrella, but for now, she’s letting the track unfold, and it’s a nice chilled track.
The album’s second and final single If It’s Lovin’ That You Want follows that, and we’re treated some skittery beats, record scratches, but Rihanna cuts right over the top with some relaxed and rich vocals and harmonies. It’s again laden with reggae echoes, but it remains a bit empty, and needs a little more direction. The single still gave her a hit, reaching #11 in the UK.
You Don’t Love Me (No No No) is next, and this is a cover of the other brilliant Jamaican singer, Dawn Penn’s reggae track, which was a hit in the 1960s and. also later in the 1990s. Here, Rihanna takes the track and gives us a faithful cover version, and she’s flanked here by a mischievous male boyfriend vocalised by Vybz Kartel, who she seems to be ejecting. The melody is dreamy, as Rihanna sings perfectly over the top. Why this didn’t make it as a single, I don’t understand.
That’s followed by That La, La, La, and the playfulness of the vocal ‘la’ and the brass stabs really works well, although you could almost imagine Beyonce or even Britney covering this track. It’s unfortunate to have plots of ‘say ho, ho, ho’ from the male singers. That aside, again, its beauty is in the simplicty, and there’s a wonderful gurgling synth nestled in the background that just breaks from the percussive/a cappella style.
The Last Time is next, and this time we’re treated to acoustic guitars, cello, violin, and viola, and it gives us a different sound to Rihanna. Here, Rihanna gets to show off her voice, which is very much centre stage with reflective and heartfelt lyrics, a-wash with some wonderfully warm music behind her. A really nice contrasting track to the album so far.
Then it’s Willing To Wait, and you need to put the lights on low, as this bass and soft beat, has Rihanna singing directly into your heart. Her vocals are rich, strong, and given plenty of powerful and broad realms into which to wander. It’s a loved-up song, and it works a treat, with tender little dreamy tinkling synths in the background, and nice vocal harmonies.
Titular track Music Of The Sun is next, and this time we have songwriting royalty Diane Warren on the credits due to the interpolations of her Rhythm Of The Night (a hit for DeBarge). The acoustic guitar returns, alongside an upbeat tempo. The guitars give us a pseudo-flamenco moment, as the bass and snare drop in. Rihanna’s soft vocals cut through with great ease. It’s another catchy little song, guided expertly by the bass that retains some of that Latin style, that aptly is the music of the sun.
Let Me is next and this is another wonderfully catchy song that has lots of vocal call and response between Rihanna and the brass section. Handclaps and steel drums are joined by a flute, and the whole thing sounds playful but very Beyonce or Christina Aguilera, and that works an absolute treat here.
Then it’s time for Rush, which bursts in with a crowd of male rappers including Kardinal Offishall taking the mic, as they introduce Rihanna. The beats thud here, synths stab and gurgle, as Rihanna’s vocals cut through it all. The contrast between Rihanna and Kardinal’s voices and style works well, in some kind of ‘rough with the smooth’ way. Kardinal also mostly keeps out of her way, and this allows both to shine.
That leads on to There’s A Thug In My Life, which sees J-Status return briefly, whilst Rihanna takes the mic to show off her vocals. Minimal keyboard pizzicato lurks in the background, as a nice thick bass guitar and handclap-led tempo meanders along nicely. I bet Mariah would cover this if she know about it.
Next is Now I Know, which gives us a piano and swooping string section. This gives us some beautiful vocals from Rihanna – they’re soft, tender, and utterly flawless. This style doesn’t sound like Rihanna, if you’re listening to this based on the hits she’s had, and it demonstrates with great ease that she really has incredible vocal talent. It truly is remarkable. The album would have been great to end there but…
…we’re on to a contrasting shift ‘guess who is back up in ya corner?‘ with Pon De Replay (Remix). The bass drum thuds, the male vocalists are going crazy for her and that DJ (perhaps a little too much), and Rihanna doesn’t fail to deliver this remix. This gives the song a bit more of a booming mix, and remains catchy as hell.
The album closes with the UK bonus track Should I?, which musically takes a similar sound to the Pon De Replay (Remix), with thudding bass, male accomplices, and vocals that can cut through it all with great ease. Synths chatter away in the background under the thud of the bass drum.
Over all, this album is a great debut from someone who rightly became a superstar, and has dominated music since.
There’s little here on this album to dislike, but the peaks are Pon De Replay, You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No), and the magnificent orchestral ballad Now I Know, with all being the finest they can be.
The weakest point here is probably the second single If It’s Lovin’ That You Want, which just feels a bit mundane and empty alongside the rest of the tracks, which whilst many are quite musically simple, the combination with Rihanna’s flawless vocals, and often with the contrast of her guest vocalists, makes them feel enriched.
The album truly is music of the sun – it shines, and the musical styles echo those from the Caribbean, but how the Hell did it only get to #35 in the UK album chart? That aside, it was at least certified Gold, and what was lurking just round the corner for Rihanna would soon to take us all by storm….
- POP RESCUE 2023 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2005 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #35, certified Gold by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.31 from an eBay seller.