Rihanna’s much-anticipated sixth studio album, Talk That Talk, hit stores this week and critics have lined up to shower the singer with praise. With good reason, right? Talk That Talk can already boast thanks to lead single and the #1 song in the country in “We Found Love” featuring Calvin Harris. So, why do I feel like Talk that Talk is so one-dimensional?
Music critics at publications I often look up to as the voice of reason (for the most part) in the industry have (arguably) declared Talk That Talk “the best pop album of 2011” and “the best effort of [Rihanna’s] career.” I’m talking about writers such as James Montgomery (MTV News) to those at the New York Times, Rolling Stone and Spin have all unanimously crowned Talk That Talk the best pop album of 2011 – which is a title that previously was destined for Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale.
If nothing else Rihanna has proved to be brazen in her career. A singer blessed with the midas touch who has bounced from confessional ballads to club bangers that resonate as a result of her uncanny ability to deliver a crazy melodic hook like no other. Think about it, she’s 23 years old and has eleven #1 singles (and counting!!) to her name surpassing the likes of Janet Jackson and Stevie Wonder while cementing herself in music history. And while I don’t believe Talk That Talk is her “best effort to date” or even “the best pop album of 2011” I have to admit – it’s chock full of singles ripe for the plucking and will dominate the charts for months to come.
My beef is the album seems half-baked and lacks focus, perhaps the result of rushing to get it out before year’s end. Yes, the web is buzzing about its more raunchy moments, which isn’t much of a surprise at this point. Remember, Rihanna just recently found a way to dominate charts, top 40 radio, and in essence every household with an ode to “S&M,” but this time she’s quite predictable and at times cheesy with her seemingly never-ending dessert metaphors. Take the cringe-worthy “Cockiness (I Love It)” in which Rihanna commands “suck my cockiness/lick my persuasion…I Love it, I love it, I love it when you eat,” which is only marginally saved by the sick beat courtesy of Bangledesh and of course Rihanna’s island inflections. Yes, own your sexuality, but I actually have nightmares of 12 year olds, 13 year olds, 14 year olds… hell females of any age walking around chanting this song, which is terrifying and clearly has me waving a feminist flag for the first time in my 30 years on this planet. Prefer to skip the overtly metaphors in favor of icing puns? Then try on the Dream produced “Birthday Cake,” which thankfully only lasts one minute and 18 seconds.
Before the Rihanna Navy attack. It’s not all bad. In fact, for me, Talk That Talk starts off incredibly strong with the island-inspired “You Da One” penned by Ester Dean and produced by Dr. Luke. It’s carefree and addictive with its reggae vibe and dubstep touch, which bleeds into club-bangers (read: Guetta inspired) “Where Have You Been” and the aforementioned “We Found Love.” All three songs shine bright before starting to relinquish some power in the title track “Talk That Talk,” which marks a reunion with mentor Jay-Z. And while it’s no hook-heavy “Umbrella” it features a catchy sample from The Notorious B.I.G’s “I Got A Story to Tell.” Lastly, there’s the trance-inspired “Drunk on Love” which features a love-infatuated Rihanna pining over writing synths and a sample of “Intro” by The xx.
Talk That Talk will no doubt bolster Rihanna’s already impressive (and growing) list of #1 singles – but for me, it lacks a certain thematic cohesiveness that she’s given us on previous efforts like Rated R, Loud, even Good Girl Gone Bad. For what it’s worth, my vote of pop album of 2011 still goes to Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale.