Clocking in at just over 37 minutes of music spread over essentially 10 1/2 tracks in the standard edition, Rihanna's sixth studio album is brief. That gives it a bit of an air of being rushed into the marketplace, but the songs that are here do feel finished, and, for the most part, are worth hearing. This album feels like Rihanna has sailed past the personal trauma that informed the Rated R period and is emerging out the other side as an artist that sounds like no one else. With a six year string of major hits, she is well established as one of the cornerstones of today's mainstream pop.
Rihanna Has Found Her Style...And It Is Rihanna
Following her experience being a victim of domestic violence, Rihanna's music headed into an icy, dark, and artistically powerful period represented by the album Rated R. She rebounded from that with the aggressive pop sounds of Loud which generated major hits but sounded a bit disjointed and like she was throwing noisy pop ideas against the wall to see which stuck. On Talk That Talk the overall impact is a breezy tour of the R&B laced dance pop sounds that define Rihanna as an artist. The self-conscious, wounded edginess is gone. In its place is the island girl who has grown into a woman occasionally showing off her carnal side, but most often believing in pop music's ability to endlessly express the joys and pleasures of romantic love.
Defining the Pop Mainstream
With more than 20 top 10 hits in the past six years, Rihanna is one of the sonic cornerstones of current pop music. Even though the musical style is eternally shifting and moving beneath her, Rihanna's voice is one of the most distinctive on the radio today. She has also moved the boundaries of what is acceptable to speak of on sexual matters in a top 40 pop hit. "S&M" is arguably the most obvious example, but she has a long line of hits pushing the sexual boundaries. "Cockiness (Love It)" follows in that tradition with the chorus line, "Suck my cockiness, eat my persuasion." It would be easy to dismiss as beyond pop radio if it wasn't for a powerful addictive beat structure.
In the first three songs of Talk That Talk, Rihanna, in the company of Dr. Luke and Scottish hitmaker Calvin Harris, throws us into a whirlwind of catchy dance pop that will leave many fans breathless. Two of the three are already hits, and it seems impossible that "Where Have You Been" will miss following suit. On "Where Have You Been" Dr. Luke collaborating directly with Calvin Harris results in a dizzyingly pleasurable visit to the dance club.
Top Tracks On 'Talk That Talk'
- "You Da One"
- "Where Have You Been"
- "We Found Love"
- "Cockiness (Love It)"
- "Watch n' Learn"
Rihanna Has Sailed Past the Rapids
Rihanna seems to have sailed past the rapids in her personal life and avoided getting caught up on the rocks. Talk That Talk sounds like the work of an established adult pop artist. There is nothing self-consciously artsy here, but the production and instrumental tracks are solid in both hooks and sonic density. Rihanna heads into dubstep territory on "You Da One" and edges into a harder, intoxicating beat structure on "Cockiness (Love It)." Perhaps the only real failure here is the Alex da Kid produced ballad "Farewell" that closes the album. It feels lost in bland lyrics and drowned in draggy, bombastic production. That is in opposition to the overall breezy feel of the rest of the album. However, one song doesn't sink an otherwise worthy addition to the Rihanna catalog.