It's not exactly new. Sugary pop star of manufactured identity matures, collaborates with big names and gets all glossy-lipped and toned of thigh in her music videos.
After her young album A Girl Like Me, Rihanna ran the risk of disappearing into blank, R&B obscurity. But here she unleashes her inner wild girl with help from songwriting collaborators Neyo and Justin Timberlake, and stylish production from Timbaland. The transition is about as subtle as her synthy hit, Umbrella with Jay Z. This is an album designed to slam you over the head with hooks, innuendo and finger-wagging lines like "Now I'm hot and baby, you won't get it."
Unlike her insipid vocal efforts of the past, Rihanna mostly rises to the occasion on tracks like Breakin' Dishes, and Shut Up and Drive, an epic studio track built on New Order's Blue Monday. Although you do have to raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of a song called Rehab (about romance addiction), when the word comes loaded with so much bad-girl imagery.
Personality-wise, there's still an aching chasm between Rihanna and her listeners. To compensate, her vocals are stretched, layered and echo-chambered to shopping mall effect. But with enough teenpop hits to last a winter, who cares if you don't bond?
Verdict: R&B kid grows up, sells guilty pleasures