Since some friends have told me that sometimes they’d rather just hear my opinion on albums instead of the entire track-by-track, this time I’ll be including both on my review of Bajan pop princess Rihanna’s sixth studio album, Talk That Talk.
Album: Talk That Talk
Released: November 18, 2011
Genre: R&B, dance-pop, pop
Label: Def Jam
The Quick & Dirty: While at first surprised that Rihanna was releasing a new album after Loud had been out just over year, I realized that she’s squeezed most every viable hit from that record already. With this new album, she takes her music in yet another new direction with sex-drenched lyrics and a mashup of electronic and West Indian styles. Like with many pop albums, I’m on the fence about purchasing this piece; there are obviously great songs mixed with what I feel isn’t much more than filler. Standout tracks are (1) “You da One,” (3) “We Found Love,” (5) “Cockiness,” (6) “Birthday Cake,” (8) “Drunk On Love,” and (11) “Farewell.” Check out the songs for yourself on Rihanna’s VEVO channel and head to the bottom for my final score.
1. “You da One”—The album opens with this sleepy yet seductive track, a song that is just catchy enough while still holding very sexual undertones. Slathered in Caribbean flavor, this song both relaxes you and keeps you interested—a stark contrast to the over-the-top opener, “S&M,” of her previous album.
2. “Where Have You Been”—To be perfectly frank, this song sounds like it’s already been remixed for the club, which can be both a good and bad thing. While I could definitely see myself getting entangled in the strong dance beat of this song on the dance floor, the actual song is devoid of lyrical content. This song takes the “pop” out of dance-pop, but is a good transition into the next song.
3. “We Found Love” feat. Calvin Harris—Most of us have already heard this song, and I must say that hearing this song was one of the reasons I decided to review this album. While I was a bit put-off by the “featuring” put for what was merely a producer, I’ve realized this song is a true collaboration between Rihanna’s vocals and Harris’s beat. The powerful chorus seems to actually battle against the hypnotic and changing beat, something that in my opinion makes this song so unique. This track manages to be as powerful as “Only Girl (In the World)” of Loud fame, but feels far more effortless on Rihanna’s part.
4. “Talk That Talk” feat. Jay-Z—The titular track on Rihanna’s album really failed to impress me. Despite being opened by a good (but not great) verse by Rihanna’s Roc-A-Fella mentor Hova, the rest of the song is rather humdrum and predictable. The relaxed tone of the first and third songs carries over here, but it fails to impress on this simple song.
5. “Cockiness (Love It)”—Producer Bangladesh has put together an captivating and oozing beat which, paired with Rihanna’s repetitiously hypnotic vocals, makes for an song that makes your want to “lick [her] persuasion,” all the while adding in the same Caribbean charm of “You da One.” Perhaps it is because this song clearly wasn’t designed for Top 40 radio like so much of Rihanna’s latest work, perhaps it is because she doesn’t actually “sing” in the traditional sense, or perhaps it is because Rihanna comes off as an underground R&B sex goddess in this song, but this track was definitely one of the standouts in my opinion.
6. “Birthday Cake”—Picking up where “Cockiness” left off, Rihanna glides in on some Arabian-inspired sounds and proceeds to plunge into a sex-crazed anthem comparing her body to a birthday cake. While definitely more pop than the previous track, this song keeps strong with the lusty feel of the last song and enflames the senses.
7. “We All Want Love”—This quirky track really doesn’t belong on this album, especially after “Birthday Cake.” While all the previous songs made me want multiple Rihannas at once, this track did just the opposite by having multiple Rihannas singing backup. Lackluster production and cheesy lyrics really put me off from this song, though it will doubtless be the anthem of both lonely high school girls and cat ladies alike.
8. “Drunk On Love”—After the soaring, animalistic highs of tracks six and seven, this song is the crashing of human emotion. I feel sincere regret in Rihanna’s belting vocals on this song, though I’m unsure about the moaning robots in the background.
9. “Roc Me Out”—While Ester Dean has written many hits for Rihanna in the past, this is her first work on Talk That Talk that I really felt her presence come through into a some very quality pop vocals. This song returns to the smuttiness of the earlier tracks and prepares you to take the rest of the album home.
10. “Watch n’ Learn”—This sex lesson put to R&B doesn’t have much to say, but is a relaxing kind of song that isn’t a standout but isn’t quite filler, either.
11. “Farewell”—Maybe I’ve put Rihanna into a box, but I was expecting a sentimental power ballad to close up this musical orgy, and damn—I was right. Like Loud’s “California King Bed,” Rihanna’s voice manages to wrench my heart, even though I know deep down she’s only singing a piece written and produced by a machine of people in “the industry.” And that what makes this Rihanna—it’s damn good because it’s done by the best people, including but not limited to Rihanna herself.
I’d be a fool to say this album doesn’t have some radio hits on it, and I’d be a fool to say this is a bad pop album. I applaud Rihanna for taking risks into new genres, they definitely paid off the most. While I don’t love every track, I will give Rihanna’s Talk That Talk a 70% for its beats and lyrics, both risqué and rewarding