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Loud received generally positive reviews from music critics, who complimented its upbeat material and Rihanna's vocal performances, while others stated that although the songs were solid, they were unfocused to each other. The album was a commercial success; it debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart, with sales of 207,000 copies, the highest first-week sales of her career at the time. The album peaked at number one on the Canadian, Swiss and the UK album charts. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Loud was the eighth global best-selling album of 2011. Since its release, it has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.
Following a domestic violence case between Rihanna and her boyfriend American entertainer Chris Brown, media speculated as to whether any song featured on her fourth studio album would be about him. The album was released in November 2009, under the title Rated R. Primarily a pop and R&B album, it also incorporates musical elements of hip hop, rock, and dancehall.Rated R was commercially successful and spawned five singles, including the international hit, "Rude Boy". Six months after releasing the record, Rihanna began planning a fifth studio album, promising that her new material would be "more energetic" than her previous works.
StarGate's Tor Erik Hermansen, said "Rihanna came to us before we started recording "Only Girl (In the World)" and said 'I feel great about myself. I want to go back to having fun, I want to make happy and up-tempo records'."Sean Garrett compared the sound of the new tracks with her previous hit singles "Umbrella" and "Rude Boy". In an interview for MTV UK, the vice president of Def Jam Recordings compared the upcoming Rihanna album with Michael Jackson's Thriller saying, "Rihanna is coming along incredibly. I'm trying to push her to where every song will be a hit from one to 12. I'm talking about NO album fillers. Our bar for this album is Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'."
Recording and title
"I'm done recording the whole album. I made sure not to let you down with my music! You guys are always defending me, so now you've got some great songs to justify it. I didn't want to go backward and remake [2007's] Good Girl Gone Bad. I wanted the next step in the evolution of Rihanna, and it's perfect for us."
--Rihanna talking about the concept of Loud for Rihannadaily.com
Rihanna and Antonio "L.A." Reid assembled a group of songwriters and record producers at several recording studios in Los Angeles for two weeks to write songs for Rihanna; they wrote approximately 200 songs, eleven of which were included on the album.
Def Jam rented out nearly every recording studio in Los Angeles in order to create as many songs as possible. Ray Daniels, the manager of musical duo Rock City (brothers Theron and Timothy Thomas), was present during the sessions, and stated that a writing camp typically involves the label hiring ten recording studios for two weeks at the cost of $25,000 per day. Daniels revealed that it is where songwriters have lyrics but no music, and where producers have music but no lyrics.
Loud was recorded in various recording studios worldwide including the Larrabee Sound Studios, The Village and Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, Platinum Sound Recording Studios, and Roc the Mic Studios in New York City and The Bunker Studios in Paris. In September 2010, during a webchat with her fansite Rihannadaily.com, Rihanna announced that the album would be called Loud, saying "get Loud everybody, get crazy, get excited, because I'm pumped. I'm just gonna be me, because that's what you guys love the most, and that's what makes me feel best. Just being normal, normal for me is Loud! Sassy, fun, flirty, energetic." While Rihanna was filming Battleship, she explained in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, "Loud is, the word, the name of the album definitely reflects the attitude of it, it's really sassy and flirty and it grabs your attention and that's why I enjoy it. It takes you through a really really interesting ride. So colorful the album."
Influence and sound
Loud is a departure from the personal, melodramatic themes of Rated R. Stylistically, it is a return to the Caribbean-inspired dance-pop of Rihanna's earlier work. Ryan Burleson of Consequence of Sound described the album as "a dynamic R&B and dance-pop record". In an interview with MTV, Rihanna said "I wanted songs that were all Rihanna songs, that nobody else could do. I didn't want the generic pop record that Ke$ha or Lady Gaga or Katy Perry could just do and it'll work. I wanted a song, or songs, that were Rihanna songs, that only I could do, had that little West Indian vibe to it, had that certain tone, a certain sass and a certain energy." During the promotion of Loud, Rihanna said that much of the music was born out of frustration. She explained: "When you go to a club and have to listen to bad music you revert to the liquor, because you want to have a good time. I hate having to skip a track. I wanted to make an album you can just play."
"Only Girl (In the World)" features a "heavy whipping bass" with the chorus of the song incorporating a "strobing, dance club beat", which also been described as a "stronger, sexier version" of her 2007 single, "Don't Stop the Music".
S&M's lyrics have been noted by some critics as being "R-rated", although some critics considered "S&M" to be one of the better dance-pop songs from Loud, as it efficiently balanced "Rihanna's playful and sinister sides".
The album's second single, which features guest vocals by Drake, features an "island-pop" style and a backing track with "heavy reggae". Critics praised Rihanna's vocal performance in the song, as well as the romantic nature and its sexual tones.
Canadian rapper Drake provided vocals on "What's My Name?"
"What's My Name?", which features guest vocals by Canadian recording artist Drake, was released as the album's second single; it was sent to US mainstream and rhythmic radios on September 21, 2010. Music critics praised the song as some of Rihanna's best vocal work to date, noting the romantic nature of the song and its sexual tones. The song peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, giving Rihanna her eighth number-one on the chart, while "Only Girl (In the World)" became her ninth number-one song two weeks after "What's My Name?". It reached number one in the United Kingdom and became Rihanna's fifth UK number one single and Drake's first.
"Raining Men", was sent to urban radio on December 7, 2010 as an urban radio single and third track from Loud as a single in the US. The song featured rapper Nicki Minaj. It peaked at number 48 on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. "Raining Men" received mixed reviews from critics who praised the chemistry between Rihanna and Minaj but criticized the song for failing to create anything new or original.
"S&M", the album's fourth US single and third international single, was solicited to US mainstream radio on January 25, 2011. Reception of "S&M" was mixed; some reviewers criticized the overt use of sexual lyrics while others noted it as a stand-out track from Loud. A remix of the song which features guest vocals by Britney Spears, was digitally released on April 11, 2011. "S&M" reached the top ten in twenty-four countries and peaked at number one in Australia, Canada and the United States.
"Man Down" was released as the fifth international single in some European countries in July 2011. It received positive reviews from critics, who called it a return to Rihanna's Caribbean-tinged rhythm. "Man Down" reached a peak of 59 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. In France, it peaked at number one for five consecutive weeks.
"Cheers (Drink to That)" was announced by Rihanna as the seventh single from the album on July 24, 2011. The single was released to US mainstream and rhythmic radio on August 2, 2011. The song peaked at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number twelve on the US Pop Songs chart.
Release and promotion
Loud was released on November 12, 2010, in four separate editions: a standard edition; a deluxe edition, packaged in a digipak exclusively for the US and Australia, that features a 30-minute documentary Making of Loud DVD (Directed by Brian and Brad Palmer); a Couture Edition containing the deluxe edition of Loud with a deluxe cover art lithograph, a box set with enhanced clear couture cover and a full-size photo book. An Ultra Couture Edition was also produced, containing a copy of the Deluxe Edition of Loud signed by Rihanna, the MP3 download of Loud on street date and all the features of the Couture Edition. The Ultra Couture Edition sold out and is no longer available neither on Amazon or her online store. An explicit version of Loud was also released and features a Parental Advisory label due to some of the lyrical content. The Japanese edition of the album was released with two additional remixes of "Only Girl (In the World)". The piano version of "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)" was only available with the iTunes edition of the album. However, the version which features Eminem was available for purchase.
Rihanna performing "Only Girl (In the World)" on the Loud Tour.
On December 11, 2010, Rihanna returned to series seven of the UK's The X Factor, to perform "Unfaithful" with finalist Matt Cardle, as well as a solo of "What's My Name?". The finale was watched by fifteen million viewers; however, the episode generated thousands of complaints about Rihanna's choice of outfit and sexual performance. Rihanna performed the song with Drake for the first time at the 53rd Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011. Rihanna also appeared at the 2011 BRIT Awards on February 15, 2011, where she performed "S&M" for the first time, as a medley with "Only Girl (In the World)" and "What's My Name?". Rihanna was requested to "tone down" her performance of "S&M" by the show's producers, and she performed only one verse and chorus in between "Only Girl (In The World)" and "What's My Name?". The BRIT Awards corporation wanted to avoid receiving complaints similar to those received by the X-Factor. Rihanna was a special guest at the NBA All Star Game on February 20, 2011, where she performed a medley of "Umbrella", "Only Girl (In the World)", "Rude Boy", "What's My Name?" (with Drake) and "All of the Lights" (with Kanye West).
Rihanna performed "California King Bed" in the style of a country music song for the first time with Sugarland front woman Jennifer Nettles, during the ACM Awards held by the Academy of Country Music on April 3, 2011. She was a guest on the tenth season of the US series American Idol on April 14, 2011, where she performed "California King Bed". Rihanna promoted "California King Bed" with performances in Milan, Paris and Hamburg, because she was appointed ambassador for Nivea skincare. Rihanna opened the Billboard Music Awards on May 22, 2011, performing the remix of "S&M" with Britney Spears at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The performance attracted complaints about the overt sexual nature of the broadcast on a publicly owned television channel. Rihanna performed on NBC's Today show on May 27, 2011 as part of a Summer Concert Series. She performed "S&M", "Only Girl (In the World)", "What's My Name?" and "California King Bed".
Rihanna performing "What's My Name?" on the Loud Tour.
To further promote Loud, Rihanna embarked on her fourth concert tour, the Loud Tour, in June 2011, having announced it on February 9, 2011. The tour comprised 101 show dates, 32 in North America, 1 in Central America, 4 in South America and 64 in Europe. Tickets sold well in the United Kingdom and some additional shows were added. She performed ten shows at London's O2 Arena. Rihanna was interviewed by Ryan Seacrest on American Idol, and talked about the design of the stage, stating: "We've just designed the stage and we have a section that we are building ... where the fans can actually be in the show and in the stage and be closer than they've ever been. It's real VIP." The North American leg of the tour began on June 4, 2011 in Baltimore, United States. Originally, J. Cole and Cee Lo Green were planned as supporting acts for the North American leg. However, Green left the tour, citing schedule conflicts. Rappers Drake, Kanye West and Jay-Z made guest appearances on some dates to perform their collaborations "What's My Name?", "Run This Town", "All of the Lights" and "Umbrella", respectively. The tour was received positively by critics, with some calling it "Rihanna's best tour yet". Jane Stevenson of the Toronto Sun commented that "the two-hour, larger-than-life show lived up to the billing." Jon Brean of the Minneapolis "Star Tribune" remarked, "The Barbadian singer is more visually and vocally dynamic than she has ever been before."
Loud received positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 given to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 67, based on 22 reviews.Jon Pareles of The New York Times perceived a "hermetic, cool calculation" on the album, writing that it "works the pop gizmos as neatly as any album this year, maintaining the Rihanna brand".Entertainment Weeklys Leah Greenblatt commented that Loud shows Rihanna "undefeated by her worst circumstances -- and finding redemption in exactly the kind of pop nirvana that made her famous in the first place". James Reed of The Boston Globe called the album "an unabashed return to where Rihanna belongs: the dance floor" and stated: "As if liberating herself from the depths, she's a force on these 11 songs". Stacey Anderson of Spin commended Rihanna's "full, healthy claim to her sexuality" and wrote that the album "offers a confident female ethos on par with the best of Shakira or Beyoncé".
Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club commended Rihanna for elevating the album's generic sound, writing that she "does sound invigorated, delivering charismatic vocal performances of material that doesn't always warrant them". Emily Mackay of NME felt that its "experiments feel more organic, its tone better paced" than Rated R. Thomas Conner of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that "the celebratory atmosphere of Rihanna's sassy new jams are seasoned with some of the darker flavors from Rated R".Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal complimented the album's "effervescent pop" and stated: "Her laissez-faire attitude toward hit-making on Loud can result in too-safe moves or semi-experiments that come off surprisingly great". Ed Power of Hot Press complimented its "unabashedly subtext-free" songs and found its hooks "way beyond addictive."
In a mixed review, Andy Kellman of Allmusic found the album's material "slapdash" and "uneven", and called it "more an unfocused assortment of poor-to-solid songs than a unified set". Andy Gill of The Independent felt that "the more interesting tracks are those with less salacious demands on her vulnerability".Slant Magazines Sal Cinquemani commended that "the subtle West Indian flavor with which Rihanna and company have smartly imbued" most of the album, although he noted some flaws in its production and wrote that "Rihanna has always had trouble fitting into one genre ... and for better or worse, Rihanna continues to stylistically branch out on Loud". Hugh Montgomery of The Observer commented that "sonically, it's fairly unremarkable ... but its strident buoyancy is difficult to resist".
Loud debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 207,000 copies in the United States, giving Rihanna her highest first-week sales in the US at that time. It also debuted at number one on Billboards R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In its second week, the album dropped to number six on the Billboard 200 and sold 141,000 copies. By its thirteenth week, the album returned to its peak at number three and sold 62,000 copies. However, in its fourteenth week, the album dipped to number ten on the Billboard 200 with 45,000 copies sold. In its fifteenth week, Loud rose to number eight, selling an additional 33,000 copies in the US. By July 3, 2011, Loud was the eleventh-best selling album of 2011 in the United States, selling 598,000 copies between January 1, 2011 and July 3, 2011.Loud ranked as Billboard magazine's ninth-most successful album of 2011 on their year-end charts. As of March 2018, Loud was certified 3x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of three million album-equivalent units in the United States, including pure album sales of 1.8 million copies in the US as of June 2015.
Loud was also a commercial success outside of the United States. In Canada, it debuted at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling 27,000 copies in its first week.Loud sold more than 80,000 units in Canada, achieving platinum status by the first week of December 2010. By September 8, 2011, Loud had sold more than 240,000 copies in Canada. In France, the album debuted at number three with first-week sales of 17,304 copies. By its sixth week on the French charts, Loud achieved platinum status, reaching the 100,000 copies mark. In France, the album has sold 355,000 copies as of April 2013. In its second week on the Australian Albums Chart, Loud was certified platinum for shipments of over 70,000 copies. In Italy, the album reached number eleven. It became Rihanna's highest charting album there until her sixth studio album Talk That Talk (2011) surpassed the record, peaking at number ten. Unapologetic (2012) did even better, peaking at number seven. Loud was her third consecutive number-one album in Switzerland.Loud debuted at number two on the German Albums Chart.
The album debuted at number two in the United Kingdom, with first week sales of 91,000 units. In its fifth week, the album sold 306,107 copies in the United Kingdom, giving the singer her first platinum-selling week in her career. In its seventh week on the chart, Loud reached number one, giving Rihanna her second UK number-one album. After seven weeks of sales, the album became the fourth best-selling album of 2010 in the UK. The album had sold 1,800,000 copies in the United Kingdom by September 4, 2011. By December 16, 2011, Loud was certified six-times platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), marking shipments of 1.8 million copies to retailers. It was the biggest selling R&B album of 2011 in the UK. As of August 2012, Loud is the fifth biggest selling digital album of all time. As of March 2015, Loud is the 45th best-selling album of the millennium in the United Kingdom. As of November 2011, the album has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.