Rated R is the fourth studio album by Barbadian R&B singer Rihanna, released November 20, 2009, on Def Jam Recordings. Recording sessions for the album took place during March to November 2009 at several recording studios, and production was handled primarily by Chase & Status, StarGate, The-Dream, Ne-Yo, and Brian Kennedy. Conceived after Rihanna's assault by her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, Rated R features a prominently foreboding and angry tone, in terms of musical and lyrical direction; different to Rihanna's previous up-tempo pop tracks and ballads, and incorporates elements of pop, hip hop, rock, and dubstep.
The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 181,000 copies in its first week in the United States. It became her third consecutive platinum album in the US and produced five singles that achieved chart success, including Billboard hit "Hard", Dance/Club hit "Rockstar 101", and international hits "Russian Roulette", "Rude Boy", and "Te Amo". Upon its release, Rated R received positive reviews from most music critics. It was later certified 2x platinum in the US, and also in the UK.
Rihanna's previous album Good Girl Gone Bad (2007) was a commercial success and received generally favorable reviews from most music critics. The album featured five top ten hits—three US number one hit singles—including the international breakthrough single "Umbrella". With regards to the Rated R album, there was much speculation as to whether any of the songs on the album would be about former boyfriend Chris Brown. In an interview with MTV, Ne-Yo—who has written songs for Rihanna in the past—clarified that he would not write a song for Rihanna about Brown because he doesn't think that needs to be a song and because of his friendship with Brown. Producer Chuck Harmony felt that no matter what song Rihanna released as the lead single people would immediately think that the song is about Brown.
During an interview with Marc Malkin at the MTV Video Music Awards, Ne-Yo stated that people should expect an edgier and angrier Rihanna on the album. He later told In Touch Weekly that the album is definitely more edgy than the way we're used to seeing Rihanna while describing the album as "liberated". Akon, on the other hand, stated that he was "going to lighten her up" and didn't want an angry Rihanna. With the success of her last album, Rihanna wanted to make sure that she didn't fall into one sound or vibe. At the "Justin Timberlake & Friends Concert in Las Vegas", Timberlake told MTV that Rated R is a whole new sound and that the new songs are not just a rehash of what fans heard on her last album. "She broke onto the scene so hard with the last record — to have that many songs on the charts is impressive. I think that the smartest thing she's doing is not trying to emulate what she did but move forward", Timberlake explained.
After the release of the lead single, "Russian Roulette," Harmony was aware that the reaction was mixed from fans who've heard the track. He further clarified that the song is not relating to the rest of the album and that it is a reflection of Rihanna's growth as an artist. Tricky Stewart spoke to Rap-Up about the song he and The-Dream contributed to and about the album as a whole describing the song as an uptempo and edgy club banger while stating that the album is different than her past works. In February 2010, Rihanna said that she liked the album but her next would be much less intense: "I really like the bottom, the grime of it. But if I were to combine that with more energetic, up-tempo pop records, then I think that would be a happy marriage. And that's where we'll probably go next". When asked what the most important song to her was, she stated that she doesn't have one that is most important, however, "Fire Bomb" and "Cold Case Love" are some of her favorites. She also stated she does enjoy the "fun" songs on this album as well including "Rockstar 101", "Hard", and her hit single, "Rude Boy".
Rated R features a darker and foreboding tone than Rihanna's previous albums. Primarily an R&B and pop-oriented album, it also incorporates musical elements of hip hop, rock, and dancehall. The album's production is typified by a sleek sound and incorporates ominous synthesizers, intertwining guitar licks, tense beats, minor-key melodies, and polyrhythmic vocal harmonies. Songs such as "Mad House", "G4L", and "Wait Your Turn" incorporate elements of dubstep, including brooding synths and grumbling basslines. Rihanna discussed its musical direction in an interview for Glamour magazine, stating "The songs are really personal. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s really hip-hop: If Lil’ Wayne and Kings of Leon like my album, then I’ll feel good". On Rated R's musical style, music journalist Jim DeRogatis perceived that it only incorporates elements of rock, writing "Though there's nothing inherently rock 'n' roll or 'super-fearless' about lacing slick, synthesized dance-pop grooves with a little electric guitar, some of it courtesy of Slash, a quarter of a century after Thriller, there is a more insistent punch and electrifying energy in the 13 grooves on Rated R".
The lyrical content of Rated R features generally bleak views on love and boastful lyrics concerning perseverance and overcoming adversity. The album's lyrics are characterized by grim, raw and angry tones, and songs that contain boastful and persevering themes are characterized by images of violence and brutality. Its lyrics are also distinguished by prominent profanity. While several music writers perceived its lyrics as allusions to Rihanna's assault by Chris Brown, journalist Jon Pareles wrote that the album "doesn't specifically address those events, but it hardly ignores them". According to music writer Ann Powers, regret is a significant theme on the album: "The songs on 'Rated R' never have their singer apologize for the man who so seriously wronged her, but they do acknowledge the other emotions that come with separation, even from a partner who's also a perpetrator. Those feelings include regret, tenderness and deep sadness".
On October 8, 2009, Rihanna was shooting pictures in Berlin in a nude body suit and white fur coat. The photos were thought to be on the front cover or booklet of the album. The final image from the photoshoot for the album was shot by fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth who stated that "Rihanna was looking to create something a bit new for the look of the album." von Unwerth, who has also shot other album covers such as, The Velvet Rope (1997) by Janet Jackson, Back to Basics (2006) by Christina Aguilera, and Blackout (2007) by Britney Spears, went on to say that Rihanna was involved in every aspect of the shoot and was ready to push the boundaries. The album cover was released on October 27, 2009, which features Rihanna in a moody, contemplative pose wearing a leather top with her hand covering her right eye and each finger wrapped in an intricate set of rings. The black-and-white cover was compared to the outrageous 1980s album covers by singer Grace Jones.
The brand and styling of Rated R was conceived by British artist and director Simon Henwood, the creative director of the campaign. "We talked extensively for months before the album's release, and looked at every aspect of the campaign—from styling to stage ideas and visuals," Henwood revealed in an interview with ArjanWrites.com. "Everything comes from the music, and this is her most personal album to date—so everything draws from it in one way or another." He designed the "R" logo seen on the album cover, which "is a two edge sword [...] One side symbolizes strength and the other vulnerability. I designed it as a 3D object first that changes form in rotation as an animation—It forms the logo shape at the end of the loop." He took inspiration from the songs and the film The Omega Man. Henwood also conceived the look and feel of the album's artwork, videos and TV spots, and will also contribute to Rihanna's forthcoming tour, including the show's stage design, costumes and background visuals.
"Russian Roulette" was sent to US radio stations as the lead single from Rated R on October 27, 2009. It was released digitally a few days later. The pop ballad, which contains elemental of R&B, garnered positive reviews from critics, praising Rihanna's vocal performance and its emotional lyrics. The song peaked at #9 in the US, and #2 in the UK. It had already premiered on worldwide radio on October 20, 2009. The song debuted at number 100 in the United States and peaked at number nine, giving Rihanna her twelfth top ten single of her career. The song reached the top ten in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, France and Ireland. On January 12, 2010, the single was certified silver in the United Kingdom.
"Hard" was released as the second single in the US. It officially impacted US radio on November 10, 2009. The song features American rapper Young Jeezy and contains elements of hip-hop. It reached a peak position of number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Rihanna her thirteenth top ten. The song also reached number 42 in the United Kingdom.
"Wait Your Turn" was initially released as a promo single on November 3, 2009. It was then sent to radio as the second international single, and third overall, in Australia, Brazil and some European countries on November 13, 2009. The single contains elements of dubstep and hip-hop. On October 16, 2009, Rihanna shot the music video for the song. The song reached number 45 in the United Kingdom, number 32 in Ireland, and number 82 in Australia due to strong digital downloads following the album's release. "Russian Roulette" was released as the album's official lead single on November 3, 2009 along with the promotional single "Wait Your Turn".
The album's fourth single was revealed to be "Rude Boy" and was released as the third US and second international single from the album on February 19, 2010. The song was acclaimed as it is different to most of the other songs on Rated R; being an upbeat dancehall song, with elements of R&B, it was very radio-friendly and was a commercial success. It peaked at number one in the United States, becoming Rihanna's sixth number-one single on the Hot 100 and fourteenth top ten hit of her career. It was also the album's third consecutive top-ten single and highest charting. In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number 52, eventually peaking at number two. It also reached number-one in Australia, making it Rihanna's fourth number one single in the country.
Then it was announced that "Rockstar 101" featuring Slash would serve as the album's fifth single, only to be released in the United States. It is a grunge-crunk song with elements of hip-hop. It received mixed responses from critics, criticising the rock influences and the feature of Slash, but praising the catchy composition and lyrics of the song. It officially impacted both Mainstream and Rhythmic radio on June 1, 2010. The song was performed on American Idol on April 7, 2010. The music video premiered on May 25, 2010 on VEVO. It debuted at number 39 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart for the week ending June 19, 2010, and later peaked at 2. For the chart week of August 14, 2010, it entered the Hot 100 at number 99 and peaked 64 in two weeks. It entered the Australian Singles Chart at number 50 for the week of August 16, 2010 and peaked at number 24.
"Te Amo", was released album's sixth overall single though it serves as the album's third international single. It was the last release from the album, hitting digital retailers on June 11, 2010. It was acclaimed for being different to most of the other tracks on the album, being a Latin-pop mid-tempo ballad, however, it was under promoted, yet it was still a moderate hit. Prior to its release as a single, it had debuted on the Swedish Singles Chart in 2009, reaching number 52. On April 18, 2010, the song debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 94. and number 29 on the R&B chart. It reached a peak of number 14 on the singles chart and five on the R&B chart. The music video premiered on May 28, 2010.
In the United States, Rated R debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 181,000 units in its first week, beating her previous album Good Girl Gone Bad's first week sales of 168,000, and making it her highest selling week ever at the time. The album was also Rihanna's fourth top ten album in the country and her second highest album chart position. It also topped Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, becoming her first album to top the chart. On January 8, 2010, Rated R was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) with an estimated 1,000,000 copies shipped to date. The album had sold more than 1,017,000 units in the US as of December 2010.
In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number sixteen and was certified gold in just four days. The album has so far shipped at least 300,000 copies and has been certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on January 25, 2010. It is Rihanna's joint-second most successful album in the country, above her first album, Music of the Sun which sold 200,000 copies and joint with her second album, A Girl like Me which sold at least 300,000. On the issue dated January 24, 2010, the album rose to number thirty having been at thirty-four the previous week. The following week, it rose again from number thirty to twenty-seven. On February 21, 2010, the album rose from number thirty-one to number twenty-six, and then climbed even further the following week to its debut and peak of number sixteen. It was also the highest climber that week. On the issue dated March 7, 2010, the album broke into the top ten, landing at number nine in its fifteenth week. The following week, the album rose to number two on the R&B chart. It is Rihanna's fastest selling album of her career in the United Kingdom, receiving a platinum certification in just over two months of its release. This beats her previous album, Good Girl Gone Bad, which went platinum in just over three months. As of August 1 the album had been on the UK Albums Chart for 36 weeks.
Despite debuting at only number fifteen in Australia, the album was certified gold its second week on the chart. In August, the album was certified Platinum after shipping 70,000 units. With the release of the album's third single, "Rude Boy", Rated R set a new high of twelve on March 7, 2010. In Poland, the album peaked at number five and received a gold certification, selling 20,000 copies in just one month, beating Good Girl Gone Bad's sales of 20,000 in two years. In Sweden, Rated R rose dramatically to a peak position of number nineteen on the issue dated January 29, 2010, after being at thirty-four its previous week. In New Zealand, the album debuted at number fourteen and in Finland it debuted at number twenty-eight eventually climbing to number fifteen. In April 2010, the album soared from number fifty-nine to its new peak of eighteen on the Dutch Albums Chart. In June 2010, the album re-entered the Greek Albums Chart to reach a new peak of number six. As of May 2010, Rated R had sold almost three million copies worldwide, according to Rihanna's label, SRP Music Group. In addition to the studio release, a remix album, Rated R: Remixed, was released in May 2010. It managed to chart at number 158 on the Billboard 200. In the same week it also debuted at number six on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart. It also made its debut on the Canadian Albums Chart at number 84, making it Rihanna's first remixed album to appear on the chart. In June 2010, the remix album debuted at number eleven on the Greek Albums Chart. The following week it climbed to number four giving Rihanna her first top ten remix album.
- Mad House
- Wait Your Turn
- Hard (feat. Jeezy)
- Stupid In Love
- Rockstar 101 (feat. Slash)
- Russian Roulette
- Fire Bomb
- Rude Boy
- Photographs (feat. will.i.am)
- Te Amo
- Cold Case Love
- The Last Song