Review - Rihanna - Talk That Talk
Rihanna’s latest LP, ‘Talk That Talk’ cements an idea which many of us have had about the pop star for years: she is a singles artist, not an albums artist.
So, what’s the difference? Let me explain. An album artist is someone who spends time crafting an entire CD’s worth of music, working just as hard on a song that will never make it to radio as on those that do. An album artist puts out a CD and you can really listen to the entire piece all the way through, usually skipping nothing. Now, often times these albums will still have large singles, but more often than not the entire CD is really a job well done. Take, for example, Lady Gaga’s ‘The Fame’ or Adele’s ‘21’ – both had huge hit singles that helped garner attention and sales, but every song on those albums were excellent.
Rihanna does not fit into such a category. It is arguable that she has had one CD which was almost entirely very good (remember her 2007 release ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’, which featured the singles “Umbrella (ft. Jay-Z)”, “Please Don’t Stop the Music”, “Shut Up and Drive”, “Hate That I Love You (ft. Ne-Yo)”, “Take A Bow”, “Disturbia”, and “Rehab” – all of that from one album says something), but all of the rest are very…well…single-centric, let’s just say that. Being a single artist is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to know what you are getting yourself into.
Rihanna is one of many pop stars who put out an album that has one or two large singles on it that will do well on radio, one or two secondary singles that will probably help the album’s sales drag out a little longer, and then a lot of empty space that gets filled with whatever songs these hit-maker songwriters came up with that wasn’t necessarily bad, but certainly is not very memorable (here’s looking at you, Ester Dean).
‘Talk That Talk’ is a perfect example of such an album. We have already been presented with the lead single “We Found Love (ft. Calvin Harris)” (which, though I didn’t love, I can accept everyone else loving), and second single “You Da One”. These are easily the two best cuts you are going to get from ‘TTT’, so enjoy them.
If I had to guess, I would say that RiRi probably has two real singles left from this 11-song long exercise. Look out for “Roc Me Out”, which is this CD’s version of her song “Hard”, and might serve as a good third single. Once that song performs marginally well, I anticipate her label bringing things back up with “Drunk On Love”, which isn’t all that bad, and I wouldn’t turn the radio off if it was playing. After that, I really don’t hope they try for more.
Other than those four, the rest of the album really is just a collection of letter grade C tracks that some of the biggest producers and songwriters probably cranked out in no time and with little regard to artistic merit. The theme of this album seems to be lazy songwriting, as the clever trick of repetition is used and abused here. You’ve all heard “We Found Love”, right? Well, you know how the chorus is just her saying the same thing over and over, and it kind of works? Literally half of this entire album is the same thing, only it doesn’t work. Not. At. All.
Sometimes filler tracks can be fine enough – even fun. On her last album, she tried to launch such songs as “California King Bed” and “Man Down” as real singles, but I am glad you were all smart enough to know better. While they never quite took off, they weren’t really all that bad. ‘Talk That Talk’ has no such redeeming qualities, wasting your time with songs like “Cockiness (I Love It)” and “Birthday Cake”, both of which are disgustingly sexual and incredibly stupid.
The one thing I really will give Rihanna is that she knows her place. Most of the other largest names in the pop world take years in between albums, even if they aren’t really involved in writing them, and there are only a few good songs on there. Rihanna may not be writing or producing or singing very well, and the CD might be 50% crap half the time, but at least she keeps pumping them out rapid fire and not pretending like she needs huge inspiration and all that BS.
Do it good, or do it fast and often – Rihanna chose her way, and I gotta say, she is doing it better than most.
Listen to: “You Da One” and “Drunk On Love” for the better half, “Birthday Cake” and “Cockiness (I Love It)” (and if you get the deluxe edition, “Red Lipstick”) for the abominable half.