Rated R is Rihanna's fourth studio album that was released on November 20, 2009 by Def Jam Recordings and SRP Records.
- Mad House
- Wait Your Turn
- Hard (featuring Young Jeezy)
- Stupid In Love
- Rockstar 101 (featuring Slash)
- Russian Roulette
- Fire Bomb
- Rude Boy
- Photographs (featuring will.i.am)
- Te Amo
- Cold Case Love
- The Last Song
Following the assault of Rihanna's then-boyfriend Chris Brown on her, there was much speculation as to whether any song featured on her upcoming album would be about him.
In an interview with MTV News, regular Rihanna collaborator Ne-Yo clarified that he wouldn't write a song for Rihanna about Brown, because he considered the idea unnecessary.
Producer Chuck Harmony mused that no matter what song Rihanna released as the lead single, it would immediately be looked at as a song about Brown.
During an interview with Marc Malkin at the MTV Video Music Awards, Ne-Yo stated that listeners should expect an edgier and angrier Rihanna on the album. He later told In Touch Weekly that the album is definitely more menacing than Rihanna's prior work, describing the album as "liberated".
Akon (on the other hand) stated that he was "going to lighten her up" and didn't want an angry Rihanna.
With the success of her last album, Rihanna wanted to make sure that she didn't fall into one sound or vibe.
At the "Justin Timberlake & Friends Concert in Las Vegas", Timberlake told MTV News that the Rated R is a whole new sound and that the new songs are not just a rehash of what fans heard on her last album.
Timberlake explained: "She broke onto the scene so hard with the last record — to have that many songs on the charts is impressive. I think that the smartest thing she's doing is not trying to emulate what she did but move forward."
After the release of the lead single, "Russian Roulette", Harmony was aware of the mixed reaction from fans who had heard the track. He assured fans that the song was not fully representative to the rest of the album, though it reflected Rihanna's growth as an artist.
In an interview with Rap-Up, Tricky Stewart announced that he had collaborated with The-Dream on the project. He described the album as a whole as "uptempo and edgy", stating that the album is different from her past works.
In February 2010, Rihanna expressed a positive opinion on the album, but commented that her future work would be less intense. She asserted, "I really like the bottom, the grime of it. But if I were to combine that with more energetic, up-tempo pop records, then I think that would be a happy marriage. And that's where we'll probably go next."
When asked what the most important song to her was, she stated that she doesn't have one, however, "Fire Bomb" and "Cold Case Love" were cited as her favorites.
Rihanna began recording songs for the album in April of 2009.
The recording sessions for "Rated R" took place at Milk Studios in Manhattan, New York, Metropolis Studios in London, England, Studios Davout in Paris, France and at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California.
Rihanna worked with several different songwriters and producers on the album, including Chuck Harmony, The-Dream, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Chase & Status, StarGate, Demo, and Justin Timberlake.
Rihanna wanted the album to be less influenced by synthpop, attempting to avoid the lighthearted commercial pop of her previous albums.
By doing so, she incorporated a production style with more bass, and utilized Gothic imagery. In the early stages of the production, she worked with Adonis Shropshire, who stated that she had brainstormed a large number of ideas over the course of a few weeks.
Rihanna also worked with Norwegian producer duo StarGate, who mused that the collaboration was "very rewarding" and "inspiring for us", commenting: "I don't think we should talk about titles just yet. We don't really know which songs are gonna make it, but it feels exciting."
It was later revealed that StarGate originally produced a collaboration between Rihanna and Canadian rapper Drake; however, the song did not make the final cut for the album.
Rihanna was involved with writing most of the lyrics on the album with the help of Timberlake and Ne-Yo, who helped the singer to translate her emotions into the songs. She worked with Ne-Yo on a number of songs although he was often unclear as to which songs would actually make the album.
While working together, he felt that Rihanna wasn't the same girl as the one that he worked with a few years before, complimenting her growth musically.
In terms of musical direction, Rihanna requested more somber songs for the album. Ne-Yo and Harmony co-wrote the lead single, "Russian Roulette", pushing a darker and more morbid aesthetic.
Rihanna responded positively to the darker style and lyrical content, wishing to replicate the style throughout the entire album.
After listening to the track "Saxon" (performed by Nicki Minaj and production duo Chase & Status), Rihanna got in contact with the latter and wanted to collaborate.
Chase & Status had a pair of sessions with Rihanna and worked together for a few weeks in an undisclosed location. The songs that they worked on had a dubstep vibe, although Rihanna had some disagreements with the duo.
In October 2009, she concluded recording sessions with Tricky Stewart and The-Dream. They flew out to Paris and played a few songs for Rihanna which included "Hard" and "Rockstar 101."
"Hard" stood out from all the songs because she felt that it had such an arrogance in it. In the song "Rockstar 101," guitarist Slash contributed a bass guitar on the track while "Photographs" is a duet with singer-songwriter will.i.am.
In addition, Ester Dean co-wrote the fourth single from the album, "Rude Boy".
"The Last Song" was one of the last tracks crafted for the album. Rihanna recorded the song within the final twelve hours of the album's conception; "when the label finally said we had 12 hours to turn in the album, I was like, Okay, I have to do it. I just drank some red wine, dimmed the lights, got in the booth and sang it", she explained.
"Rated R" features a darker and more foreboding tone than Rihanna's previous albums. Primarily a pop, hip hop and R&B album and also incorporates musical elements of hip hop, rock, and dancehall.
The album's production is typified by a sleek sound and incorporates ominous synthesizers, intertwining guitar licks, tense beats, minor-key melodies, and polyrhythmic vocal harmonies.
Songs such as "G4L", "Mad House", and "Wait Your Turn" incorporate elements of dubstep, including brooding synths and grumbling basslines.
The album also incorporates other musical genres, such as dancehall in the Jamaican inspired "Rude Boy" and Latin in "Te Amo".
Rihanna discussed the musical direction of the project in an interview for Glamour magazine, stating: "The songs are really personal. It's rock 'n' roll, but it's really hip-hop: If Lil Wayne and Kings of Leon like my album, then I'll feel good."
The lyrical content of the album features generally bleak views on love and boastful lyrics concerning perseverance and overcoming adversity.
Its lyrics are characterized by grim, raw & angry tones, and songs that contain boastful and persevering themes are characterized by images of violence and brutality.
While several music writers perceived its lyrics as allusions to Rihanna's assault by Chris Brown, journalist Jon Pareles wrote that the album "doesn't specifically address those events, but it hardly ignores them".
According to music writer Ann Powers, regret is a significant theme on the album: "The songs on 'Rated R' never have their singer apologize for the man who so seriously wronged her, but they do acknowledge the other emotions that come with separation, even from a partner who's also a perpetrator. Those feelings include regret, tenderness and deep sadness."
"Rated R" debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 181,000 copies in the United States, giving Rihanna her highest first-week sales in the US at that time.
It surpassed the first week sales of her previous album "Good Girl Gone Bad" (which debuted at number two on the chart in 2007, with sales of 162,000 copies sold).
It was also Rihanna's fourth top ten album in the country and her second highest album chart position.
The album topped the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, making it her first album to do so.
On March 26, 2018, the album was certified 2x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of more than 2,000,000 album-equivalent units, including sales of 1,130,000 copies in the US as of June 2015.
As of November 2010, "Rated R" has sold over three million copies worldwide.
"Rated R" received positive reviews from music critics.
At Metacritic, the album received an average score of 75, based on 21 reviews, making it Rihanna's highest rated album on the site to date.
Ed Potton of The Times viewed it as Rihanna's best album and Jody Rosen, writing in Rolling Stone, called it one of the year's best pop albums.
Allmusic's Andy Kellman said that Rated R is exaggerated, but "compelling" and performed convincingly by Rihanna, who sings "many memorably belligerent lines".
Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune called it "powerful and moving art" that Rihanna personalizes in a way that suggests she had more creative input than on her previous albums.
Jon Pareles of The New York Times, said that, although its personal subject matter is brave, it does not compromise the creativity of the music.
Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times called the album "a complex and fascinating portrait" of an abused woman's emotional range and resolve.
Alex Macpherson of Fact said that, apart from its interesting music, Rated R is important for how Rihanna has "seized back control of her public story" during "our current panoptic age."
Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe praised it as a brief look at both Rihanna's development as an artist and "the confluence of tabloid culture and pop art".
MSN Music's Robert Christgau gave the album a two-star honorable mention, indicating a "likable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well enjoy."
He cited "Hard" and "Rude Boy" as highlights and credited Rihanna for "concocting a persona of interest out of one dynamite musical trick and a bad patch I wouldn't wish on Lindsay Lohan."
In a mixed review, Sean Fennessey of Spin felt that the album does not suit Rihanna's ballad-based strengths and found her voice too flat and unexpressive to convey the anger of the songs.
Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal similarly said that her "artistic aspirations are currently loftier than her abilities".
Michaelangelo Matos of The A.V. Club viewed the music as bloated and compared its lyrics negatively to "excerpts from a therapy session".
Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, criticized the album's allusions to Chris Brown's assault of her and said that the album does not offer anything beyond "the public's prurient interest in her private life."
Rob Harvilla of The Village Voice found the subtext uncomfortable and commented that the album's highlights, "thrilling as they are, might make you feel even worse" than the low points.