Rihanna's been through a lot since she released her last album, and the excellent Rated R is all the better for it, writes Greg Kot. After the much-publicized Chris Brown incident, her music has become darker and more serious than the airy pop of "Umbrella" and "SOS." Most of the tracks feel deeply personal, Kot writes, suggesting that "she had a much greater voice in this album than any of her previous efforts, recorded when she was a teenager."
The characteristic Caribbean accents are there, but they are now offset by rock guitar and references to new wave and Goth. On songs like “Russian Roulette” and “Hard," "it’s impossible not to hear the anger and hurt in her voice," Kot writes for the Chicago Tribune. Thankfully for us, Rihanna has channeled her “regret into powerful and moving art.”