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Rihanna

Talk That Talk

Talk That Talk cover

Despite sounding rushed to capitalize on fourth quarter sales, 2010’s Loud proved that Rihanna’s reign indeed would not let up. The album’s first three singles topped the Hot 100. A fourth one merely went Top Ten. Just as Loud was losing its grip, during the fourth quarter of 2011, Rihanna fired again with another number one single, “We Found Love” -- its success more likely due to the singer’s ecstatic vocal than Calvin Harris' shrill, plinky production. While Talk That Talk is built like another singles-chart-devouring machine, it’s both more rounded and less random than Loud. “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” -- the latter with a quote from Geoff Mack's “I’ve Been Everywhere” and echoes of the chorus from Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” -- function as place-holding dance tracks, and there are a couple empty anthems and ballads in the drippy “We All Want Love” and the bombastic “Farewell.” It’s the darker and dirty-minded material that tends to be most effective -- where Rihanna is more alive and believable, where her collaborators provide the most adventurous productions. In the Bangladesh-produced “Cockiness (Love It),” one of the most hypnotic and wicked beats of the last decade, Rihanna absolutely relishes the chance to sing-taunt “Suck my cockiness, swallow my persuasion.” Two of Stargate and Esther Dean's three contributions -- the desperate, xx-sampling “Drunk on Love“ (“Nothing can sober me up”) and the prowling “Roc Me Out” -- pack more sleek menace than Rated R's “G4L” and Loud’s “S&M.” The album’s best track, however, is the wholly sweet and flirtatious “Watch n’ Learn,” featuring a dizzying Hit-Boy beat -- rat-a-tat snares, swirling/swelling synthesizers, irresistible plucked melodies -- that is even more unique in the context of 2011 pop radio than his work on Kanye West and Jay-Z's “Ni**as in Paris.” Behind Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R, this is Rihanna's third best album to date. Minus the fluff, it's close to the latter's equal.

Review by Andy Kellman

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