Album review: Rihanna - Talk that talk

Rihanna - Talk that talk | Album review

Talk that talk for the most part is about sex. Just as Loud was top heavy with songs One has to give it to the Bajan pigeon though. She manages to sell an album full of un-subtle double entrendres about being penetrated by dick and having a guy eat her vagina better than Britney did on Femme fatale. Rihanna at least sounds like she really wants it and is as much of a freak as she claims to be. And the one ingredient which was completely void from Britney's set which Talk that talk has by the bucket loads, is fun.

Talk that talk makes no attempts at crafting new wheels for bandwagons on which peers can jump on, but it does a good job of reaffirming Rihanna's place within the pop landscape: registering her as a force to be reckoned with. You may not want to admit that Rihanna has the staying power of some of your faves and that she's en route to become an inductee of pop royalty, but it's already happening. A whopping 11 number 1's and 6 albums in as many years? Rihanna switching her Ronald McDonald look for one much akin to vintage Madonna may be the sign. It's already happened.

Rihanna's gambit is being able to dip in and out of varied musical styles and style, whilst retaining that distinct twang to her vocals and sounding current without sounding like she's following any particular trend. Over the course of her last 3 albums it wouldn't be so far fetched to say that she's been a part of starting some of the current chart trends. These seeds were all planted very early on with Good girl gone bad - which saw Rihanna dip into rock ("Shut up and drive"), dance ("Don't stop the music"), guitar twangy tales of love ("Rehab"), swaggered out club bangers ("Let me get that" and "Sell me candy") and pussy pop anthems about sex ("Push up on me"). She pushed herself further into these genre pigeon holes for Loud and it worked a treat for securing her the hits that Rated R failed to. So Talk that talk is pretty much Rihanna and her team (much of whom were along for the ride of Loud and are back again) building on that and honing it into dead certs for number one contenders - there in making this album a case of business as usual. Rihanna's team have managed to hone this down so well that it's hitting a point where you're asking What genre's can this Bajan Kling-on not do? Because at this point, she's truly done it all and done them better than most. Christina Aguilera tried to do this album and well...we all know how that went.

Talk that talk is a collection of what has made Rihanna. Her island roots separated her from every other girl in pop. A trait which was strong in her first two releases and then zoned back on every album after in favour of a more European friendly sound. But after striking the perfect balance between worldwide chart friendly and down 'n dirty Caribbean grind fare for "Rude boy" (the staple song which would go on to tipify Rihanna's overall image and sound) it was only natural this would be carried over to Loud and then permeate much of Talk that talk. Rihanna's island origins are subtle here, as opposed to the here's Rihanna going island and yardie style on you arrow which hung above songs on Rihanna's past albums. Album opener "You da one" flows with its Caribbean guitar licks and swinging on a hammock paced BPM's. Bangladesh produced "Cockiness (I love it)" has Rihanna drop the pre-chorus in a reggae style chant, with Hitboy's "Watch 'n learn" kicking off with a steel pan roll and a set of chords that the rub-a-dub lovers of the early 90's will appreciate. The embracing of Rihanna's roots do a great job of giving her an edge, allowing the songwriters and producers to put twists on her songs that no over female could pull of without it sounding gimmicky and forced. We all remember how Mariah tried to hop in this lane for "Cruise control" and how we made those nightly prayers to Jebus for her to never attempt sing in patwa again.

The man who signed Rihanna and featured on her biggest hit to date "Umbrella" returns into the fold on the album title track "Talk that talk". The song itself isn't much of an event and Jay-Z adds nothing to the song. But it's a cool nod to the man who gave this ho her big shot. Rihanna ain't stupid. She probably hollered at Jay-Z at this precise moment because she knew Beyoncé would be too fat ,emotional and pregnant to do anything about it.

Then there's Ester Dean. Ester was the mastermind behind "Rude boy". A song which went on to be such a hit that it's no wonder Def Jam brought her back into the fold for the Rated R follow up Loud - which spawned the Ester penned smashes "What's my name?" and "S&M". So why not make third time the charm and bring her back again to write half of the songs on the album and co-produce them too?! And we're all familiar with Stargate. Although their work on this album is dreadful in comparison to what they've crafted for Rihanna in the past. Talk that talk could be the first album since Good girl gone bad where Stargate do not get the top 10 single. "Talk that talk" sounds like a radio friendlier version of "Wait your turn". And "Drunk on love" sounds like a "Te amo" knock off, whilst "Roc me out" sounds like Keri Hilson's "Lose control", which sounded like Rihanna's "What's my name?" in the first place. Stargate are no one trick ponies, so it's baffling why they seemed incessant on recycling old sounds here. Especially when they're usually the one's you can rely on to come new for Rihanna.

It's difficult to deduce whether these elements potentially make Talk that talk Rihanna's best album. But it's sure to please the fans, as its the best we're going to get of what Rihanna's done up unto this point without having a greatest hits collection.

The track listing for the album isn't great and causes the album to feel as though you're listening to left overs from Rated R and Loud, padded out with a few new additions - which may not be too far from the truth given that these sessions were originally intended for a re-release of Loud. Odes to sex and Rihanna wanting "to f**k you right now" are slotted in right before a Bob Marley inspired call out for peace and love. Whilst a shout out to her man to kiss her vagina comes in before the Adele "Someone like you" knock off that is "Farewell". The album feels clumsily put together and often random. Killing the sense of cohesion that the album could have had if somebody bothered to care about the track order a little more. And then there are the bonus tracks on the Deluxe edition which sound completely separate from the original track-list altogether and are all try hard pieces of utter crap.

Rated R was an inconsistent and depressing mess. Whilst Loud felt occasionally by numbers and as though Rihanna wasn't in full control of the songs. Talk that talk has Rihanna taking the reigns for more of the set - even though the results aren't always electric and some of the songs are cringe-worthy.

Rihanna's transformation into the bad chick seemed premature on Rated R. But it feels more believable here and Rihanna has a solid handful of songs to back the bravado. The brashness and beat bangin' of "Cockiness (Love it) and the whine and pussy pop fest that is "Watch 'n learn" are destined to be singles or at the very least receive copious amounts of airplay on urban radio and in the clubs.

Talk that talk is not perfect and provides a case point for what many have said for years. This album will not be remembered years from now and in comparison to her past 3 albums, there is very little musical growth. What we have here is yet another album which will defined by one of its singles as opposed to being a solid body of work and be followed up by something else which will sound a lot like it in a year's time.

Talk that talk won't do much to please those who were never sold on Rihanna before, but the album isn't trying to. It's a love letter to the fans - fusing the better moments of Rated R with the accessibility of Loud and smattering of the albums which came before and helped get her to this point. I wouldn't say it's her best album to date, but it's on par with her past few efforts. Not brilliant. Not utter shit. But decent with a couple of killer songs.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Album highlights:
■ You da one
■ Cockiness (I love it)
■ Birthday cake
■ We all want love
■ Watch 'n learn J's fave


  1. I can't believe she is tied with number ones with Whitney Houston, say what you will about that crack laden whore now, but in her prime she was like no other. If she surpasses MJ in number ones I will lose faith in humanity. That large forehead of hers must have hypnotizing powers or something; that's the only way I can explain her success.

  2. IMO, I think of this album, like you said, as a direct extension to "Loud", and you might even call it Loud Part 2. What I am really loving about this album though most, and about Rihanna, is how robust and aggresive and unique her voice as become from what was largely unimpressive during her songs like "Pon De Replay" and "If it's Lovin' That You Want". I LIVE for how she belts out notes like she did during "Where have you been". This album isn't without flaw, and I kind of wish she could have just dedicated this to being a vocally aggressive sex romp with more songs akin to "Birthday Cake" and "Where have you Been", but I know few divas are comfortable releasing an album without at least ONE ballad. I agree with your rating though and good review!

  3. @Melvin R

    Amen to that.

  4. You're never gonna give her anything higher than a 6, huh? LOL JK.

    I actually would've given her something lower. This is her worst work yet. :(


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