Let's get this out of the way first: Yes, “We Found Love” is a stellar track. Calvin Harris and Rihanna kind of make a dynamic duo, their powers united for world something-or-another. It's magical and anthemic and blah blah blah. We know! Let's move on, shall we?
Six albums in six years
Talk That Talk is Rihanna's 6th (sixth!) studio album since her debut in as many years. Her debut album, Music Of The Sun, was released in 2005. And she's never really seemed overly pushy about her music, instead happy being a constant thought in people's mind. You're probably not even aware of exactly how many singles she's released. Just from Loud alone, she released 7 tracks. Not Just “Only Girl,” “What's My Name,” and “S&M.” She's also released “California King Bed,” “Raining Men,” “Man Down,” and “Cheers (Drink To That).” And four of them enjoyed Top 10 chart performances. So Rihanna slips under the radar. Sort of like that humming noise you initially find kind of annoying but then get used to and only notice it was still going when it stops. What I'm trying to say is that Rihanna has carved her face into Mount Rushmore, musically speaking, and it doesn't seem she's going anywhere. “We Found Love” certainly solidified that. And Talk That Talk, while mostly trying to ignore that “We Found Love” exists (save for the other Harris production, “Where Have You Been”), promises to keep her around even longer.
A little more urban
Overall, Talk That Talk embraces more of an urban feeling than Loud did. It also focuses even more on sex than her previous efforts have, going as far as to say love IS sex. In the album opener and potential future single, “You Da One,” she equates falling in love with the way her partner made love to her. On “Watch n' Learn,” strictly an r&b slow jam, she may or may not be instructing another female in how to pleasure a man. Then again, I may be reading too much into the lyrics. “Talk That Talk,” featuring Jay-Z (mind you, this is no “Umbrella”), focuses more on how her lover talks dirty and boasts. On “Cockiness (Love It)”, the lyrics focus around sexual verbs surrounding words that just sound dirty but aren't. “Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion” she tries to sing with integrity, but for the most part it just sounds silly. I won't even talk about the bass-heavy “Birthday Cake.”
It may be that the shift to more urban beats and themes loses Rihanna her strong house base, but I doubt it. People will remix what they want to remix, whether it's necessary or not. “We Found Love,” obviously, and “Where Have You Been” will enjoy long lives on the dance floor, but what else on Talk That Talk could find a home there? “Drunk On Love” seems a likely candidate, the original BPM lending itself to clever versions with the lyrics being either sped-up or slowed-down. “You Da One,” due to the catchy nature of the vocal delivery, also seems likely to have club-ready mixes provided. And the anthemic quality of “Farewell” (which really sounds like a Ryan Tedder track, right?) can easily translate into club mixes.
Face it, people will love Rihanna no matter what she puts out. There won't be a lot of testing that theory on Talk That Talk. It's less dancy, sure, but it also plays it relatively safe. It may not have the super-hits of “Only Girl” and “S&M,” but it may spark a couple more “What's My Name” hits once the wonder of “We Found Love” fades away. Is it great? No, but Rihanna has never been accused of that before. She toes the line, and will remain humming for years to come.
Released November 2011 on Island / Def Jam records.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the record label. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.