Rihanna: Good Girl Gone Bad

Somewhere at this very moment, an otherwise intelligent person is going about her daily business with the words “something something um-ba-rella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay” repeating over and over in the background of her mind. Even if only once, she heard the lead single from Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad (Def Jam) and since then, has been powerless to stop the song’s hook from dominating her thoughts. After enough time, she’ll probably convince herself to buy the album. Luckily for her, the bad taste it leaves in her mouth might be the wake-up call she needs to help lock “ella, ella, ay” in the same dark corner of her brain as “my humps, my humps, my humps,” and “oops, I did it again.”Now on her third album in as many years, Rihanna’s challenge is proving that she’s more than just a pretty girl being used to sell “Urban” flavored bubblegum. Sadly for her, this album will do nothing to help her plight. While most of the songs on Good Girl Gone Bad are mildly enjoyable, Rihanna herself is the least important factor. “Don’t Stop the Music” is a fun dance number, but mostly because of clever effects that simulate the sound of a bass-heavy song heard from outside the club. Rihanna’s vocals are incidental. Pop music has always been full of poor singers who make up for it in personality, but any personality Rihanna shows here is borrowed from a more talented songwriter.“Rehab,” written by Justin Timberlake, comes off as something that didn’t make the cut for his own album and was therefore sold to Rihanna; the same goes for Ne-Yo’s “Hate That I Love You.” Rihanna doesn’t bring anything to either song that any other mediocre singer wouldn’t. Even with an arsenal of Pro-Tools vocal sweeteners, she doesn’t deliver on the few lower-key arrangements (“Question Existing”) where her best efforts still amount to flat, unremarkable singing.With all that said, believe it or not, Good Girl Gone Bad is still fairly enjoyable up to a point. That point will likely come after three or four plays, but even after that, at least one or two tracks will probably make it to that playlist you turn on while you’re getting ready to hit the club. Still, “not a complete waste of time” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement and Rihanna doesn’t deserve one.Cute, at best.