Loud would not sound quite so slapdash if it did not follow Good Girl Gone Bad, one of the best pop albums of its decade, and Rated R, one of the most fascinating pop albums of the same time frame. This album, released less than a year after the latter, also has the misfortune of arriving with no fanfare; a dramatic intro proclaiming “The wait is ova,” à la Rated R's opening track, would be silly. Even without considering the weight of what it follows, there’s no getting past the notion that Loud is as uneven as Rihanna’s first two albums. It’s more an unfocused assortment of poor-to-solid songs than a unified set. The predatory StarGate/Sandy Vee-produced dance-pop (“S&M,” “Only Girl [In the World]”) is what works best here. Though neither one can touch “Rude Boy,” they do efficiently balance Rihanna’s playful and sinister sides. One song that sounds nothing like anything else in Rihanna’s past is “Skin,” a contender for anti-gravity slow jam of 2010 -- a match for Trey Songz's “Red Lipstick” and Usher’s “Mars vs Venus.” The low points -- the cluttered “Complicated,” the unfinished-sounding Nicki Minaj collaboration “Raining Men,” the overwrought rock weeper “California King Bed” -- weigh the album down, making it resemble a fourth-quarter stopgap as Rihanna prepares her next truly eventful release. There’s just enough quality content to maintain her visibility.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman