A Girl Like Me (Bonus Track Version)
Released less than eight months after her debut, 2005’s Music of the Sun, Rihanna’s second album furthered the mainstreaming of her Caribbean influences while also revealing the full scope of her vocal and sonic range. She fused her reggae and dancehall credentials with pop and rock elements, revealing an artist with firm home-grown roots and massive global ambitions. Across its 13 tracks, A Girl Like Me tells the story of a woman coming into her own, displaying the Barbadian singer-songwriter’s vocal and lyrical maturity. Album opener “SOS” samples Soft Cell’s classic ’80s smash hit “Tainted Love” in both sound and mood, as Rihanna tells a story of being consumed by love. Here, Rihanna is equal parts dance floor queen and lovestruck teen, aware of the danger of losing herself in love—yet loving every minute of it. “SOS” was a bold statement of intent from a singer-songwriter who knew she could tackle any sound and make it her own, and it worked—the song topped Billboard’s Hot 100 and dance charts. As her first collaboration with Jamaican dancehall superstar Sean Paul, “Break It Off” channels the infectious energy of her debut single “Pon de Replay”. Recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, “Break It Off” is flirtatious and fun, and Rihanna balances the quick-stepping energy of the hook with a seductive, arresting verse. The laidback “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” takes cues from legends like Bob Marley and Dawn Penn, and incorporates the rock-reggae sounds of Jamaican group J-Status—the group’s second collaboration with Rihanna after “Here I Go Again” from Music of the Sun. Yet it was perhaps the haunting ballad “Unfaithful”—written by R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, her Def Jam labelmate—that catapulted the singer into pop/R&B superstardom. Instead of being cast in the traditional role of heartbroken victim of a love gone sour, she wrestles with the consequences of her own romantic infidelity. The stripped-back production crafted by Norweigan duo Stargate—punctuated only by piano, strings and light touches of percussion—allows her voice to take centre stage, and she uses this moment to reveal a level of depth, soulfulness and self-awareness that highlights her growth. Co-written by Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken—who, along with this album, also produced much of Music of the Sun—this album’s title track best encapsulates Rihanna’s journey of self-discovery. As she asserts in the hook, Rihanna’s “a little different from all the rest”, a declaration of independence from an artist who knows exactly where she’s from—and where she’s headed.