Words: Elaine Buckley
I often wonder - does Rihanna ever sleep? Seriously. Here we have her at the grand old age of 23, releasing her 6th studio album in as many years, which was recorded and released whilst still very much in the throes of the world tour in support of her LAST album. How does she do it?! Certainly not quietly, anyway...
Lead single 'We Found Love' (along with its much-lauded accompanying video) proved a phenomenal global success as an advance single, landing Rihanna her 11th #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and her 20th placing within the Top 10 – beating Madonna into 3rd place to become the fastest ever solo act to do so, second overall only to The Beatles. She's only the 5th female artist in music history to achieve this feat – her peers being Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and the afore-mentioned Madge. Not bad company.
But, facts and figures aside – is Talk That Talk any good? The not-so-simple answer is – kind of. There are some killer pop songs within, as tends to be the case with any Rihanna album release - but there's nothing dramatically different, and it just feels a bit thrown together. Whilst the horribly under-appreciated Rated R was not for everyone, it showed a welcome new depth to the talents of Ms. Fenty; before Loud signalled a triumphant return to her brilliantly sassy and vivacious Pop Princess self. It's the sex-obsessed side of Rihanna which is very much the main focus Talk That Talk... In fact it's difficult to comprehend how she even managed to find the time to record it considering the amount of sex she is apparently having. This is of course not a new development – it's just a LOT more prominent this time around. Ranging from the almost farcical innuendo of the Bangladesh-produced 'Cockiness (Love It)' (“Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion”) to the downright blatant 'Birthday Cake' (“I wanna f*ck you right now”), it's a theme which permeates majority of the album to the point where it becomes a distraction.
In contrast, tracks such as 'We All Want Love' and 'Farewell' show her more tender side – she can churn out a dam good ballad when she wants to, can Rihanna - but these efforts fall short of the standard she has set for herself. No stranger to working some collaborative magic with hip-hop royalty either, Rihanna reunites with Jay Z for the album's title track - and again the result is, quite frankly, underwhelming. There are some moments of brilliance, however – not content with writing and producing the album's all-conquering lead single, Calvin Harris also lends his talents to 'Where Have You Been', a stomping tune reminiscent of a 90s dance anthem which will be a sure-fire hit on airwaves and dance-floors alike. 'Drunk On Love' too is a highlight - The xx's formidable 'Intro' given a Stargate makeover, with Ms. Fenty's impassioned soaring vocals blending perfectly. And of course 'We Found Love', which we can expect to see floating around the charts for quite some time.
Perhaps we've come to expect too much of Rihanna based on the calibre of her impressive back catalogue to date – but overall, Talk That Talk is just good, not great. Regardless, it'll still sell millions... Probably best to refrain from buying it for the little 'uns as a Christmas pressie though, no matter how much they plead – it could lead to some awkward quotations over the holidays!