Given the proliferation of young and beautiful urban dance-pop divas dominating the radio and music video airwaves in 2005, it initially was tempting to discount Rihanna as yet another Beyoncé-Ciara-Ashanti cash-in. But like her Def Jam labelmate Teairra Mari -- another young and beautiful urban dance-pop diva who emerged out of nowhere in 2005 -- Rihanna is winsome rather than wannabe, thanks in no small part to her producers. Just as Teairra Mari benefited greatly from irresistibly shrewd beat-making on her debut album, Rihanna benefits from the knowing production work of Syndicated Rhythm Productions, aka Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, who together produced a laundry list of contemporary teen pop sensations during the prior decade. What these guys do that's so irresistibly shrewd is synthesize Caribbean rhythms and beats with standard-issue urban dance-pop: Caribbean-inflected urban, if you will. So while a song like "Pon de Replay" -- to pick the most obvious exhibit -- is driven by booming dancehall-lite beats and a reggae vocal cadence (and title spelling), it's a simple dance-pop song at its core, with standard English-language singing as well as a can't-miss singalong hook (and a glitzy, urban-style MTV video to boot). The best songs on Music of the Sun follow this appealing template, including the similarly catchy few songs that follow the aforementioned album-opening smash hit: "Here I Go Again," "If It's Lovin' That You Want," and "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)." As with most albums of this ilk, Music of the Sun descends into faceless slow jams after a while, overall consistency not being among its attributes, but thankfully it picks up the pace toward the end of its 13-song run and concludes on a fun note, with a remix of "Pon de Replay" featuring Elephant Man. The result is one of the more engaging urban dance-pop albums of the year (and one of the most infectious summer jams, for sure), as well as a nice Caribbean primer for those not ready or willing to jump on the increasingly trendy dancehall and reggaeton bandwagons concurrently sweeping through America's more fashionable cities.
Music of the Sun Review
by Jason Birchmeier