I have mixed feelings about Rihanna, an artist whose lyrics seem to literally straddle the borderline between female empowerment with the intent to liberate and vulgar sexuality for shock value. For example, Rihanna‘s most recent album, Loud, sported one of her biggest singles of all time: S&M, a song that sometimes makes me dance but usually just makes me think “we get it Rihanna, you like sex.”
My feelings about Talk That Talk are remarkably similar. A lot of the tracks uncomfortably push the limit, but the ones that don’t even try to usually fall short. There isn’t much of a balance.
The album starts out strong with You Da One, one of the few tracks on the album that isn’t sex-obssessed, where Rihanna is expressing her feelings for someone who is “the one.” It’s a pretty cute song, but the lyrics aren’t particularly inventive. They’re kind of reminiscent of a Justin Bieber track; the words are cute without being too clever. Lastly, You Da One has a slightly annoying chorus which brings down the fun of the cool sounding verses.
The second track, Where Have You Been, is a step up from You Da One, and it boasts a seriously catchy dance-floor rhythm. The song has a recurring rave-like, hyper theme that makes it memorable and stand out amongst other songs on Talk That Talk and most of Rihanna‘s songs in general. Where Have You Been might even be the best song on the album.
We Found Love is definitely another dance floor kind of song, but it’s not as hard-hitting as Where Have You Been, and the whole song sounds the same. The lyrics are hard to decipher, and they blend right into the lackluster, repetitive chorus. We Found Love seems like it has so much potential, but it’s just not as effective as it should be.
Next up, we have Talk That Talk (featuring Jay-Z), bringing Rihanna back to her overtly sexual roots. Thanks to Jay-Z, this song is one of the most lyrically diverse songs on the album, and Rihanna‘s chorus is pretty catchy: “one and two and three and four, come on let me know if you want some more.” Talk That Talk sounds like classic Rihanna but it has the bonus content of a collaborating while maintaining her raw and rhythmic feel.
After Talk That Talk, there’s a far more experimental track, called Cockiness (Love It). The first verse starts out with the line “I want you to be my sex slave” and Rihanna asks this theoretical person to “set my whole body on fire.” The chorus of Cockiness (Love It)? “I love it, I love it, I love it when you eat it.” Ridiculously vulgar lyrics aside, Cockiness (Love It) has a refreshingly different sound to it and unique pacing. It’s worth a listen, if you can get past the lyrics.
Following Cockiness (Love It) is shockingly, an even more graphic song, Birthday Cake. All you need to know about the lyrics and the title are that the whole song uses the icing on a birthday cake as a metaphor for something Rihanna is insisting that “you know you wanna lick.” The song is even quite aggressive, saying “Imma make you my bitch.” Thankfully, the awkwardness is short-lived, as the track is rather short.
The main problem with We All Want Love, the next song on the album, is that it feels misplaced among Rihanna‘s other songs detailing her sexscapades. It even comes right after Birthday Cake, the most shameless song on the album. The song opens with “I can pretend that I’m not lonely, but I’ll be constantly fooling myself,” which would be an easily relatable lyric, if we didn’t have such a vivid of Rihanna‘s sex life already. We All Want Love is a pretty song, but it doesn’t have that much of an impact.
The next track is called Drunk on Love, and it’s a happy medium between the rest of the songs on the album. It’s not too sweet and boring like We All Want Love, but it doesn’t approach the harshness of Cockiness (Love It). Most importantly – Drunk on Love has some of the best lyrics on the album, and, like Talk That Talk, it sounds like a Rihanna song in that it’s a unique, but solid, mainstream pop song. (The idea of being “drunk on love” is pretty reminiscent of the metaphor in Ke$ha‘s Your Love is My Drug, but that’s okay. I liked that song too.)
Roc Me Out is one of the more rough songs on the album, and it has a lot of similarities to Rihanna‘s previous song Rude Boy, lyrically and musically. With lyrics like, “come over boy, I’m so ready, you’re taking too long to get my head on the ground and my feet in the clouds,” Roc Me Out is just one of the other jarringly sensual songs on Talk That Talk. Basically, people will either embrace this song because it sounds like megahit Rude Boy, or people will condemn this song because it sounds like megahit Rude Boy.
Watch n’ Learn is another song all about sex. It’s a little bit catchier than some of the other songs, but at this point, it’s hard to even pay attention to the song after the first repetitively sexual lyric, “imma do it, do it, do it till you can’t take no more, till my lipstick ain’t on my face no more.”
Farewell should be a sad song. Something about it is lacking the punch necessary to make it too painful, and it doesn’t seem as honest as it could be. Rihanna is way better at opening up about her bedroom behavior than her real feelings, and that’s what makes this song ineffective, just like We All Want Love.
Overall, Rihanna‘s Talk That Talk has a few great tracks, namely, Where Have You Been and the album’s namesake, Talk That Talk. A few other songs are worth a listen as well, and maybe even a download, like You Da One, We Found Love, and We All Want Love. As for the rest of the tracks, they’re mostly too similar in sexual content to stand out from one another. Each of them is somewhat interesting as an individual song, like Cockiness (Love It), but they all wash each other out.
Talk That Talk may not be Rihanna‘s greatest album, but it will undoubtably produce a few hits and it maintains Rihanna‘s style, personality, and refusal to let her gender keep her down.