A few nights ago I saw Rihanna in concert. Her performances were fiery, angry. She was believable as a whip-toting badass, strutting onstage in thigh-high hooker boots and chain-mail hosiery, a vision of 21st Century femininity: I'm sexy, but don't touch me. It was a drastic change from her opening show for Kanye West in 2008, which I was also lucky enough to witness.

When I saw her at Kanye's Glow In The Dark Tour, I wrote, "No amount of costume changes or stage dancers can make up for [Rihanna's] obvious lack of hip-hop credibility." How amazing, then, that she arrives onstage in 2010 riding on the barrel of a hot-pink tank blaring lyrics about how hard the game has transformed her.

I'm a huge fan of her last album. Looking back on her ranking on my Happiest Albums of the decade list last December, I should have added Rated R to the top ten; with it's perfectly coalesced emotional ingredients--defiant anger, scorned-girl brattiness, heart-wrenching sadness and reverse-cowgirl sexuality--and admittedly addictive singles (namely "Rude Boy," easily among my favorite songs by Rihanna), Rated R was a near-perfect mainstream pop album.

Somehow, though, a lot of listeners find Rihanna phony and her lyrics empty. Even Pitchfork, the only music review website with any credibility, called her new direction "expected" and unoriginal. See, that's just sad. Christina Aguilera may have released a defiant second album, and Janet may have The Velvet Rope, but to say Rihanna's bitter verses are expected is offensive to female musicians everywhere. Drake just recently released an album full of self-conscious admittances and crumbling-ego confessions, yet no one pointed out the obvious comparisons to every single Kanye West album. Do you want a full album of "Pon De Replays?" Because I will choose "Rockstar 101" over anything on A Girl Like Me or Music of the Sun.

Oh, and there's this.

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