Rihanna continues to show improvement in the vocal department and silence naysayers at the same time.

Featured on the Start Trek: Beyond soundtrack (as well as in the most recent trailer), Sledgehammer is a track that is heavily dependent on the vocals performance of the singer to make it work.  While you can still hear the core of what has always been her vocal style on this one, Rihanna brings more of that Love On The Brain and Higher vocals to the party.  And while she still hasn’t quite mastered the upper register transitions (that is the only place where the tonal quality of her voice noticeably changes), she has brought the rest of her range under control so that she’s not blasting out like she was on Higher.

One thing that cannot be denied is that Sia, the writer of the song, was in fine form when she crafted the lyrics.  The sledgehammer metaphor makes sense and is never fully dropped, even when compounded with another metaphor.  The production is perfect for a sci-fi, action thriller, and has no hints of modern styling.  It varies between epically orchestral and minimalist to match each section of the track and never tries to be more than support for the vocals.  The total runtime on this one feels shorter than it actually is, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves the audience wanting more.

Sledgehammer is available for purchase from all digital outlets now.