A track by track album review of Rihanna’s latest.
1. You da One
Yeah! I’m super positive about this track to start Talk That Talk. I love the echo-y intro and I love the huge build ups and releases in between notes on the low bass line. This is Dr. Luke and Rihanna playing the “blend the West and the East” game that they love to play. There’s the slang of vague Caribbean origin put in command of soaring melodies; there’s the deep, off-beat bass set over pleasant, regular synth. What more could you ask for?
2. Where Have You Been
I appreciate the breakdown after the chorus drops out, for example at 2:45. But otherwise I’m bored. The part where she sings “I’ve been everywhere, man” sounds sort of like the country song of that title, which is weird. I don’t care about this song.
3. We Found Love ft Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris did a song with Dizzie Rascal, where in the video he plays the most unlikely bartender that I’ve ever seen in a music video. He is slightly more serious in “We Found Love.”
It’s good, this song. This might be controversial but I don’t think she’s done straightfaced, dramatic Rihanna this well since “Umbrella.” The chords she has to hit sound complicated enough that they would demand some intricacy on Rihanna’s part, which is something not always demanded of her. I like alot that Calvin Harris is made feature here, because it really does listen well as a duet between engineer and singer.
4. Talk That Talk ft Jay-Z
I don’t like when Jay-Z decides to sound bored and tired, like he does on his verse here. When he’s that laid back he can’t whip up the excitement that should be coming from a rapper’s opening verse on this sort of pop song (see, for good execution, Pitbull on “Give Me Everything”). The problem with this song is message clashes with energy. “I want it all now give it to me baby” should be a bold and provocative line; Rihanna delivers it in the languid pace of the tempo. I see what StarGate, the producers of “Rude Boy,” are trying to do here, but if you’re going for slow and sultry you always risk drifting into duller watters.
5. Cockiness (Love It)
Now we’ve got premier producers on two songs that are really short in length. The benefit of limiting a Bangladesh effort like this one to sub-3 minutes is that if the beat goes awry and gets too grating, well it’s over quickly. That’s basically what happens here. Rihanna plays with her voice but never finds anything engaging (to say nothing of the lyrics) and the listener just gets annoyed with Bangladesh. Sometimes he misses? Not everything can be “Lemonade.”
6. Birthday Cake
I like this better. The-Dream produces something really sleazy, but in an alluring, not sinister or gross way. I guess Rihanna is making euphemisms about cake, w/e.
7. We All Want Love
The beginning of this song tricks me into thinking I’m listening to “Scar Tissue” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Why do our brains do this? Maybe someone who knows chords can help out here.
No one can really help this song, however. It’s too bad, I think message-wise I’m pretty on board with the writing. I like that Rihanna tries to take a step back and translate her experience into a more universal concern. Her problems are not unique, “we all want the same thing.” It shows empathy, in my view. But the song isn’t that fun to listen to, it makes no interesting moves and doesn’t fit Rihanna’s skill set as a singer.
8. Drunk On Love
Often a sample does new, creative things with the original material. Sometimes it doesn’t. At all. :(
9. Roc Me Out
StarGate’s most successful effort on this album. Rihanna likes those low grumbling synth lines; her voice tramples them to bits. Probably the sexiest song on the album so far too. It sounds less corny and more desperate. I hope she makes a video.
10. Watch n’ Learn
I like how this song uses Rihanna. She’s adroit with all sorts of vocal schemes; the transition from rhythmic, bubbly chorus to slower, tone-shifting bridge attests to that. The way the bottom drops out of “on the couch, on the floor” is sublime Rihanna.
This is the last song of the album sans bonus tracks, which is a mean joke for whoever has that version. Okay, fine, a mass market album like this needs to follow formulas, including fulfilling ballad quota. But nothing stands out here, there’s a void of stand out material. This song was constructed to be ignored. You shouldn’t even be making Rihanna sing ballads anyway except in special occasions.
12. Red Lipstick
Chase-and-Status adds Rihanna to another song they wrote in a move that plays out differently from track 8 because… “Saxon” could benefit more from Rihanna than the xx’s “Intro.” Rihanna sounds good over dubstep, and that’s good news.
13. Do Ya Thang
Even though T Nash production is good in that independent, almost-quantifiable way that causes anyone to sound good over it, some singers do better work with his tracks than others. (The obvious truth, unfortunately largely ignored by pop radio trends, being that the best singer for a The-Dream track is often The-Dream himself). Rihanna is playing it too straight to make the best of the beat, but obviously that’s not to say she’s incapable of handling The-Dream. I do like the “do your thing” payoff though.
14. Fool In Love
Are we mimicking “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the beginning of this song? I’m honestly flabbergasted. This song is a little wacko and I’m on Rihanna overdrive. I recommend this song if you like being overwhelmed.
15. We Found Love (Calvin Harris Extended Mix)
There was one reason any of us wanted to listen to this album, and that was “We Found Love.” It makes perfect sense to round (the iTunes deluxe version of) the album out with a “We Found Love” extended mix.
For other writers on this site, “We Found Love” is the product a more independent Rihanna, transcendent inspiration to female artists trying to shape a public image. I like that idea, Rihanna if anything certainly feels edgy and daring on this track in a way she hasn’t in a while. I think this song is most powerful because it makes big statements that come from a grandiose attitude. I feel like part of an event when I hear “we found love in a hopeless place.” It’s the same apocalyptic lineage as songs like Britney’s “Till The World Ends” or “Give Me Everything.” I want to hear this song on New Years Eve.