Versatile urban dance-pop singer Rihanna gracefully avoids the sophomore slump with A Girl Like Me, a less tropical-flavored, more urban effort than her sun-and-fun debut. Then again, it's hard to be an effervescent island goddess 24-7 when your love life has suffered a crushing blow, something inferred by the numerous heartbreaking ballads included, all of them elegant, mature, and displaying artistic growth. Fans of her brilliant single "Pon de Replay" need not worry, though, as the album kicks off with its equal. Bursting out of the speakers, "SOS" is a sexy club tune that bites the bleepy riff from Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" in a very modern, very exciting mash-up fashion. The crunchy reggae of "Kisses Don't Lie" offers a less revolutionary alternative to Damien Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock." Then the album gets bolder and seamlessly bounces from genre to genre. Attempting things that would make lesser artists crumble, Rihanna goes from a film noir song that elegantly uses murder as a metaphor for cheating ("Unfaithful") to an easy-flowing weekend cruiser ("We Ride"). Even more stunning is the jump from the 2006 prom-song candidate "Final Goodbye" to the totally juiced "Break It Off," where she gives guest star and dancehall king Sean Paul some serious competition. The good but not great redo of "If It's Lovin' That You Want" with Corey Gunz is the only track approaching filler, but it's clearly marked "bonus," so it's a wash. Executive produced by Jay-Z, A Girl Like Me is unsurprisingly polished, yet a richer experience than you'd expect from a singer responsible for the summer jam of 2005, arguably 2006.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries