It’s the end of another year, and for those of you that are top-40 radio listeners, you know that means one thing: time for a new Rihanna album.
Her latest effort is “Talk That Talk,” a dance-heavy follow-up to 2010’s “Loud.” Unlike the more brooding themes explored previous efforts, “Talk That Talk” has a brighter, more playful sound, borrowing its musical themes from Rihanna’s 2004 debut “Music of the Sun,” and her third album “Good Girl Gone Bad.”
In fact, a lot of the songs on “Talk That Talk” come across as unabashed attempts at replicating the catchier elements of previous Rihanna hits in an attempt to generate sales and airplay for the singer’s new album. The result is an album that is both disappointing and gratifying at once, something that can probably be said about most of Rihanna’s music.
I would argue that “Talk That Talk” contains more hits than any of Rihanna’s albums to date. Songs like “You Da One,” “Where Have You Been,” “Drunk on Love,” and the album’s title track are all fun club songs featuring catchy synth and bass-heavy hooks.
On the other hand, there are a few problems with the album’s attempts at recreating the success of older Rihanna hits. Mainly, this problem arises when tracks end up being too similar to their already successful counterparts.
For example, the tempo and hook on the title track sound a little too much like the singer’s 2007 hit Jay-Z collaboration “Umbrella.” The musical similarity alone wouldn’t normally be a problem except that the song “Talk That Talk,” like “Umbrella,” also features Jay-Z.
Having two musically similar songs that both feature the same guest artists wouldn’t be an issue either if the newer song were an improvement over the first hit. The problem is that the new song isn’t any better. Imagine “Umbrella” without any of the “ella, ella, ella, ey-ey,” and you’ve got “Talk That Talk.”
Unfortunately, the disappointments don’t stop at Rihanna’s characteristic lack of creativity. Although lyrical sophistication has never been a strong suit for Rihanna, the lyrics on the new album seem emptier, cheaper and even sparser than what can be typically expected.
The latter is the case on “We Found Love,” a track that’s essentially made by the singer repeating the title phrase over dance track for the full three-minutes of the song. Beyond that, the “cheapness” of the lyrics comes from the fact that they’re even dirtier than usual. If the lyrics from her previous radio hit “S&M” were a little too dirty for you, you’ll want to steer clear of tracks like “Red Lipstick,” “Birthday Cake,” and “Cockiness (Love It),” all of which are bound to be playing soon in the kind of clubs where dancing usually involves a pole.
Given that “Talk That Talk” is still a Rihanna album, neither a lack of originality or lyrical quality should come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Rihanna’s music in the past. For anyone who is unfamiliar with her music, you can expect “Talk That Talk” to be a fun dance-pop album that will be totally forgotten the inevitable Rihanna release this time next year.
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