Come and put your name on it… Well, who doesn’t know the lyrics to Rihanna’s interlude from Talk That Talk (2011) album? She totally slayed Birthday Cake and now it was named The Greatest Interlude of All Time by Billboard. The magazine wrote:
To be fair, Rihanna did release an (arguably unnecessary) full-length remixed version of Birthday Cake in 2012. But it’s the barely-a-minute original interlude from the year before that really endures. By that point, Rih had graduated from a singer whose musical identity hadn’t been entirely formed, to one audibly growing more confident with each release. Sixth LP Talk That Talk dropped in 2011 as her most assured to date: Here was an artist openly embracing her sexuality, and remaining, well, unapologetic for it — long gone were the days of sampling Soft Cell for kitschy dancefloor bangers and delivering hard-edged vocals about second-guessing her infidelity.
Birthday Cake came at a time where she felt like she was still coming into herself, but it was the baddest, fullest version of Rihanna yet. Talk That Talk was as varied as Loud and Rated R, and the songs felt more assured and experimental — We Found Love was exuberant, EDM-heralded megapop, while further down the tracklist, Watch n’ Learn incorporated island riddim into an R&B-lite hip-swinger. And in the middle of the fray, Birthday Cake, all guts and glory.
At 1:18, the interlude is cocky, overtly sexual and entirely hinged on innuendo — “It’s not even my birthday, but he wanna lick the icing off,” she offers with a knowing grin. For one of the first times, Bad Gal RiRi was in full display, unabashedly who she was without a single fuck given, all set to an aggressive, handclapped intermezzo on a whopper of an album. She hasn’t strayed too far from that Rihanna since, and the world is better for it. — S.J.H.
Birthday Cake on Saturday Night Live in 2012
James Joint made it to number 24!
It felt almost defiant for Rihanna to stick an interlude directly after the first song of ANTI — especially since its predecessor was the SZA-featuring, stop-and-start rhythm of Consideration and it’s followed by the wailing guitar riff of Kiss It Better. But ANTI wasn’t about the conventional wisdom Rihanna had followed in her hits-studded first few records, and it was nice to see Shea Taylor and Kuk Harrell’s gorgeous, synth-led production and Rih’s syrupy weed-smoking daydreams get a deserved starring role so early on. — KEVIN RUTHERFORD