It seems as if the soul music community has a love/hate relationship with Rihanna. They criticize her underwhelming vocals, gripe about her electro-pop cadence and mock her questionable moral system on message boards. Yet, they sneakily download her songs behind their peers’ backs and champion her club-ready songs in the nightlife as if she’s the Donna Summer of the Twitter age.
Rihanna’s sixth studio disc, Talk That Talk, continues her quest for radio domination, as she grows more attached to the swarm of slinky, layered Eurodisco production now being attached to her. On this chapter, RiRi hangs up the the whips and chains of “S&M” in exchange for Romeo & Juliet romance, something she adorns for on the breezy island R&B opener, “You Da One,” (“You know how to love me hard/I won’t lie I’m falling hard”) and on “Roc Me Out” (“I’ll let you in on a dirty secret…I just want to be loved”). Of course, she hasn’t gone cold turkey on the naughty sex, evidenced best on kinky hip-hop bangers like “Birthday Cake” and “Cockiness (Love It),” but she seems to have abandoned the dark context of Rated R and the post-Chris Brown scars of Loud while worshipping the current hand Cupid has dealt her. She also abounds more comfortably on the 4/4 rhythms that have earned her top billing at the discos. Dr. Luke and Calvin Harris sweep Rihanna into a club trance on “Where Have You Been,” while Harris supplies her most ambitious arena-ready party anthem to date with “We Found Love.” The power of love doesn’t stop there: “We All Want Love” feels like R&B’s “Give Peace a Chance,” “Drunk on Love” has RiRi belting for a love overdose and “Fool in Love” puts her front-and-center on a manageable Beyonce’-esque ballad.
Some of the silly album filler, particularly the X-rated “Red Lipstick,” diminishes all hopes of the disc’s pop-savvy perfection, but Rihanna comes out in the lead amongst her fellow peers, landing RiRi her most-improved congealed album to-date.
Notable Songs: “Where Have You Been,” “We Found Love, and “Do Ya Thang.”
Vocals: 2.0 stars
Lyrics: 2.5 stars
Music: 3.0 stars
Production: 3.0 stars
SoulTracks Call: Recommended
By J. Matthew Cobb