I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - I am not fond of Rihanna’s musical direction right now. I did however, experience a rush of hope in receiving an Advanced Copy of her Rated R: Remixed album featuring Remixes, or as producer Chew Fu would call them, Refixes of tracks found on that November 2009 album. I found Rated R, melodically weak and incoherent; the sound didn't fit her. I have always been of the mindset that an artist should release an album only when fully ready. True, Rihanna had her share of drama in 2009 but her brand has always been Cupcakes of Dance-Pop adorned lavishly with festive orange and yellow Island Sprinkles, a guilty pleasure for consumption by all. I’m all for artistic expression, but what was she expressing really on that patchy album other than a need to “flip her middle finger at the club” (Rockstar 101) or “take it take it take it take it love me love me” (Rude Boy)?
Alas, the album fails to deliver and quite simply I don’t see enough chemistry between brilliant Brooklyn-based Chew Fu, who produced all ten remixes on this set and Rihanna, to warrant this many collaborations. I’ll pin-point exactly what the problem is. Rihanna’s melodies, like those of Beyoncé, often are verbose and rhythmic and in their original incarnations, paired against mid-tempo beats. Thus, when a producer like Chew Fu is faced with the challenge of re-imagining these tunes for the Dance Floor, he can speed up the vocals which make her sound like a particular American cartoon character who feeds off Acorns and has two brothers. He also has the option of slowing down the vocals, drawing them out, which often sounds awkward as is the case with his remix of Rated R’s first single Russian Roulette which gets pitchy on her sustained notes. The one stand out on the disc is Photographs (ft. will.i.am) and in my honest opinion always should have been selected as a single.
I have always been more a fan of Wide Boys’ collaborations with Rihanna as they seem to have a better understanding of and vision for Rihanna’s melodies. Their remixes of Don’t Stop the Music and Rude Boy are outstanding and for me count among her best. I love Rihanna and I love Chew Fu. Together? Not so much. Rihanna's Rated R: Remixed is in stores May 25, 2010. Grade: C