Rihanna, the pop world’s most prolific star, has released six full-length albums over the past seven years. Her most recent one, Talk That Talk, is an uneven, but cohesive collection of songs that center on love and sex: two topics that have been present throughout her discography.
Talk That Talk’s biggest and best single is “We Found Love,” an upbeat dance track featuring production from British DJ Calvin Harris. Though its lyrics eventually become repetitive, like many on this album, the combination of vocals and dance beat produces an irresistible, often thrilling composition.
Much of Talk That Talk aims for a naughty and suggestive tone, which occasionally veers into over-the-top territory. Songs like “Cockiness (Love It),” “Birthday Cake” and the title track, which features Jay-Z, rely on groan-worthy double entendres and word play to get Rihanna’s message across. In spite of their lyrics, the latter two are still worth a listen, boasting appealing vocals and compelling beats; Jay-Z’s verse, however, leaves something to be desired.
Other tracks are more downbeat, giving Rihanna more responsibility to carry the song on her vocals. On these tracks, Rihanna’s lack of vocal power is much more evident. While her voice provides a nice vehicle for the lyrics, she never truly comes into her own on any of Talk That Talk’s ballads, though she comes close on the album’s final song “Farewell.”
Perhaps what Talk That Talk is missing most obviously is a song that truly wows. “We Found Love” and “You Da One” are well-done pop songs, but rarely do they grab one’s attention in the same way as anything on, for example, Beyonce’s brilliant album 4, or even certain songs on Rihanna’s own, previously released album, Loud. Certain elements on Talk That Talk: the instrumentation on the title track, the blend of reggae and dance-pop on “You Da One”: are captivating, but as an album, it fails to deliver much of anything interesting or new to today’s pop scene.