Rihanna: Trying too "Hard"?

(Disclaimer: These are solely my opinions. I am in no way a music critic nor am i a professional of any kind in the music business. But i sure as hell know what i think sounds good and what doesn't. Read on if you'd like, or don't. Screw it.)

I was on my way to pick up my sister earlier and as i turned on my car, Rihanna's "Hard" featuring Jeezy popped on. I listened for a few seconds, then i had to change the station. The song on the other station ended, and there was Rihanna again. So i decided to try and listen to the whole song. I couldn't. And this goes for everything i've heard off of her new album, "Rated R". I am in no way a Rihanna hater, i actually really like (or liked?) the girl. Even back in the 'Pon De Replay' long blonde hair days. "We Ride" was my jam. And then of course songs like "S.O.S" and "Umbrella" or even "Shut Up and Drive" were definitely on my playlists at the time. But with this new album, i feel like she is definitely just coasting on her fame. And dare i say, trying too 'hard'?? Vocals are not on point, a lot of it sounds very lazy. She's done better and sounded better. Trying to go for that 'bad girl' thing a little too much, i think. All the barely clothed promo shots and crazy outfits have steered a lot of people away from actually paying attention to the music. Take "Hard" for example. Her voice sounds whiney and the song itself is actually just pretty average. Everyone wants to be on her side after the whole Chris Brown ordeal and that's fine. But from what i've heard of his album, i can actually say I'm more of a fan of his musically right now than hers. I'm all about image changes and not staying the same album to album, but i really think Rihanna is almost pulling a Christina Aguilera here with this one. This is her "Dirty". Almost a "Fuck you, America. I may have gotten beat by my boyfriend but I'm a bad bitch!" And that may sound harsh, but i'm in no way condoning what happened or anything. I have no opinion on that matter. I've heard producers, critics and everyone's mom come out and say they think this is her best yet. Personally, not so much. I'm much more of a fan of the asymmetrical haircut Rihanna. Which she needs to bring back, by the way.