Rating:

* * * *

As Rihanna sings, the wait is over - her fourth, and most difficult album

Rated R

Advertisement

, has arrived. And she makes no secret of the fact that it's been a mighty tough one in the making.

This is Rihanna, or Robyn Rihanna Fenty's, outlet. The angst, humiliation and despair of being at the centre of a high-profile domestic violence case has been channelled into her craft, to produce an album that is dark, sharp and deeply evocative.

Rihanna emerged on the American music scene as a striking 15-year-old from Barbados with a booming voice and a penchant for a boogie. Under the guidance of Jay-Z she quickly grew into the

Good Girl Gone Bad

of album three.

Now the 21-year-old is more like the Bad Girl gone tough - and if the thick bass doesn't give it away the lyrics will: "I'm so hard," she sings in her third track.

Rated R

features a team of her believers, including One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Soulja Boy, Shontelle, Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams.

It makes for a diverse album that not only shows off her strength in vocal range but also her strength in character.

Rihanna may be associated with a whingey voice more than an angelic one, but her delicate side comes through in tracks like

Photographs

, featuring the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am, a beautiful melody that transforms into a pulsing dance track.

This album may be the product of heartbreak, but it still delivers Rihanna's talent for singing songs to shake to - the best track for that is

Rude Boy

.

Don't expect any cutesy "ella ella ella"'s here. She's a big city girl now - a Rock Star - and she knows weakness will not get anyone anywhere. Sure, there may be provocative near-nudity all over the album cover, but this is Rihanna, and she has never been one to hide herself away.

Jacqueline Smith