rihanna_web.jpgIt has been five years since Rihanna released her debut CD and now she is putting out her fifth album.

But Rihanna is not typically an albums artist. Her first two discs, Music of the Sun and A Girl Like Me, had hits that dominated the dance floor but to call them well-rounded albums would be a bit of an overstatement.

Then the Barbadian beauty brought forth Good Girl Gone Bad, a nicely crafted pop CD that was groovy and showcased the singer's edge, both in style and sound.

Rihanna somewhat lost that spark on Rated R. Though it was a decent album that contained the gem Rude Boy, the performer tried to take her edge to the next level and went too far.

Thankfully, she is back on track with Loud, an 11-track set that is top-notch from its opener, the jamming fetish-revealer S&M to the closing number, the sequel to the riveting abuse tale Love the Way You Lie, where Eminem this time takes a back seat to Rihanna's emotional roller coaster ride. And what's in between is equally as fulfilling or better.

Cheers (Drink to That), which samples Avril Lavigne's I'm With You, is a certified frat party anthem that already sounds like a monster hit. And collaborations with Drake and Nicki Minaj on What's My Name? and Raining Men, respectively, are enjoyable uptempo jams.

Rihanna knows how to sing a song about leaving a man. She did it beautifully on the pop tune Take a Bow and does it again on the exceptional Fading, produced by Polow da Don and co-written by Ester Dean.

But, on the reggae track Man Down, the 22-year-old is truly at her best. It is a compelling song about Rihanna shooting her lover in public and calling her mother to detail the news. “Run, bum, bum, run, bum, bum,” a terrified Rihanna says in her homeland accent, while singing falsetto breakdowns, over a fire-alarm beat.