With nary a genuine dance club trend in sight, hip-hop has become the new dance music, and Rihanna’s ubiquitous “Pon De Replay” is only the latest example (just take a look at the Best Dance Video category from this year’s VMAs: Ciara, Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliott, etc.—a list the Barbados-born Rihanna will undoubtedly join next year). Her single has been one of this summer’s most enduring anthems, a dancehall-pop mixture that owes plenty of its sweat and shimmy to Beyoncé‘s “Baby Boy.” (In fact, the former Destiny’s Child frontwoman’s influence on modern R&B is quickly elevating her to the level of superstars like Janet and Mariah.) The recent glut of teen R&B chanteuses is not unlike the steady stream of faceless Latinas who rode the freestyle wave of the ‘80s—further magnified by Full Force’s recent renaissance in more urban territory. The freestyle production team is behind Rihanna’s “That La, La, La,” a track that pays homage to the singer’s executive producer—and, incidentally, Beyoncé‘s main squeeze—Jay-Z. And Rihanna’s debut, Music From The Sun, is yet another diamond on Hova’s wristwatch. Despite the formulaic nature of the album, it thankfully features the always refreshing touch of pop veterans Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken of Syndicated Rhythm Productions. Music From The Sun gets off to an aptly breezy start with the sunshiny “Here I Go Again” and “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” (co-produced by Poke & Tone), but while most of the album coasts atop its lite Caribbean influence, the middle stretch of the record sinks like a Janet album. “Willing To Wait” is Rihanna’s own “Let’s Wait Awhile,” replete with unfortunate lyrics like “You know you had me from ‘hello’” and “Baby boy, can’t you see the stop signs/You’ve moving much too fast,” and the album’s final track, “Now I Know,” is a too-mature, outdated, and string-laden affair for such a young, seemingly “hip” artist. Still, if inconsistency is Music Of The Sun‘s biggest flaw, Rihanna is doing quite well by today’s paint-by-numbers R&B standards.
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