Think of Rihanna as the anti- Dr. Dre: “Talk That Talk,” her sixth studio album, arrives exactly one year and five days after her last album, “Loud,” hit stores. That album is still going strong on the charts (No. 56 last week on the Billboard 200), as is its latest single, “Cheer (Drink To That)” (No. 58 on the Hot 100). Coming so soon after her last full-length, “Talk That Talk” feels like a special present for Rihanna’s navy of fans, and an oddly rushed-out release to the objective music fan. Why not wait a bit and let the buzz of “Loud” settle in?
Because, as a few listens of “Talk That Talk” proves, Rihanna just won’t let her reign let up. The Barbadian pop star came a little too close to a misfire with “Rated R,” her 2009 album and her first since her destructive relationship with Chris Brown ended. “Rated R” was fascinating but at times too dark, while “Loud” was the blissed-out antidote pop fans craved, a cavalcade of cheeky erotica and stunning production. After reclaiming her crown on “Loud” and proving her longevity, Rihanna is not about to take any sort of break to let her pop princess competitors catch up. Haters can “talk that talk,” but in the end, Rihanna’s going to do her thing, put out a new album and collect more No. 1 singles.
Rihanna is shooting for more crowd-pleasing music — and what’s more universal than the concept of love? “We Found Love,” “Drunk on Love,” “We All Want Love” and other “Talk” songs that don’t happen to have “Love” in the title all offer simple, gorgeous-sounding accounts of romance. And when she’s not needing love, she’s wanting sex; Rihanna coos, “I love it, I love it, I love it when you eat it,” on “Cockiness (Love It),” and we’re pretty sure she’s not talking about the chicken pot pie she left for dinner. Although the lyrics on “Talk That Talk” are broad, the soundscapes here are even more dance-floor-appropriate, with tracks like “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” barely masking their European pop influences. “Talk That Talk” often thrives when Rihanna is unafraid to step aside and let this nasty collections of beats do the talking.
As quickly as it’s being released after “Loud,” “Talk That Talk” is a fleshed-out statement that captures Rihanna’s relentless drive and will likely keep her on top. This album’s not a victory lap; it’s a whole new race.
Which songs on Rihanna’s “Talk That Talk” are among her best work? Here’s our Twitter-length track-by-track review.
1. You Da One — Not as heart-pounding as “We Found Love,” but second single’s reggae roots, earnest lyrics make for a nice curveball.
2. Where Have You Been — Electronic fury, with a beat that slices through Rihanna’s yearning and builds to “Sandstorm” insanity. Dance, fool!
3. We Found Love — Through a haze of glitter and bliss, Rihanna emerges to let us find a gorgeous hook in a hopeless place, and Calvin Harris becomes a household name.
4. Talk That Talk — The “Umbrella” duo reunites, with Jay-Z dropping more double entendres and Rih in cruise control over a descending beat.
5. Cockiness (Love It) — “Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion,” Rihanna sings with a knowing wink over this Bangladesh-helmed sequel to “S&M.” Filthy and fantastic, when it gets going.
6. Birthday Cake — Look, we’re all for birthday-themed naughtiness in pop music form (see: Jeremih). But only 78 seconds of “Birthday Cake” is just not enough of a celebration!
7. We All Want Love — “We all wanna be somebody’s one and only.” It’s a sentiment Rihanna expresses with aching seriousness over a grounded guitar riff on this affecting ballad.
8. Drunk on Love — Dynamic production. Killer sample of the xx. Rihanna displaying full range. It all comes together on “Drunk on Love.” Single, please?
9. Roc Me Out — More come-ons over a twinkling synth-pop instrumental. Enjoyably tawdry, but we’ve heard it more interestingly earlier in the album.
10. Watch N Learn — Rihanna professes to being a sexpert, and offers her guys a few tips. The balance between synths and percussion is taut and engaging here.
11. Farewell — A kiss-off anthem that’s structurally similar to Beyonce‘s “Halo” and gets a boost from a powerhouse bridge. Farewell until next November, Rihanna?