REVIEW: Rihanna – Talk That Talk


Artist: Rihanna
Album: Talk That Talk
Genre: Pop
Label: Def Jam

Not that I’d ever hop on the ‘oh won’t someone please think of the children’ bandwagon, but Rihanna’s influence on the younger peeps actually concerns me. Even more so now I’ve had to listen to a whole album at once. When I was growing up, I had the Spice Girls to look at. The odd dodgy revealing outfit aside, they were perfectly respectable icons, preaching about girl power and loving your mum and even safe sex (a message fantastically buried in a Christmas song). The youth of today have Rihanna, who essentially wants to shag everything around her and, memorably, was asked the other month to put more clothes on by a Northern Irish farmer whose field she was using to shoot her latest video. I’m not prudish, but is there really something so bad about wanting your pop stars to wear some clothes? Really? Some corners of the internet (I’m looking at you tumblr) might call this thinking anti-feminist. But if that’s what feminism has become in this day and age, I’m horrified.

The gaudy sexuality Rihanna displays is, at this stage, so forceful as to be ludicrous. Is it some kind of empowerment kick after the whole Chris Brown saga, or are insiders really that desperate to sell records? Is it all an attempt to distract us from the fact her voice sounds like a blunt chainsaw in heat? Talk That Talk is a competent, if banal, offering from this most ubiquitous of pop stars, replete with all the lurid imagery and club beats you’d anticipate. Its catchier songs are decent, its explicit songs woeful, and her emphasis on disarming sex appeal actually devalues the odd song that’s just alright. It all gets lost in the X-rated mire.

“You Da One,” aside from inexplicably taking half an hour to play on my laptop (honestly), makes for a laborious start. It’s repetitious (shock horror) and has quite a dull, throbbing beat – quite possibly the aural equivalent of a migraine. It sets out to be menacing and falls spectacularly short, unaided by the fact that Rihanna’s voice is about as listenable as having Janice from Friends chortle in your ear at maximum volume for hours at a time.

However, “Where Have You Been” is much better. It’s overtly catchier, her voice is autotuned down to minimise annoyance, and all the instrumental trimmings have been filtered heavily through a prism of samples and programming for maximum club impact. This has all the ingredients to be a finely-wrought guilty pleasure for your nights out, so the album isn’t entirely unworthy of your time. “We Found Love” was markedly spiced up by Calvin Harris, and is also fairly enjoyable. Rihanna sings with some form of muted loving tone – this was, presumably, incepted as a ballad and then given the party time makeover. The verses add a softer side to what would otherwise be standard, ear-pillaging club noise, and the Harris touch ensures it never loses at least basic appeal.

Next is “Talk that Talk.” You know how Rihanna likes to talk about sex? That’s what she means here. The lyrics will undoubtedly be a joyful discovery for any elder who has to accompany a youngling to a show. Musically (I’m choking back a snigger in using that term), it comes down more on the r’n’b side of the fence, with a steady methodical rhythm. It’s not as immediately compelling as the club anthems which precede it but it does have something of an insidious effect, and its blanker palette actually makes it more accessible. “Cockiness (Love It)” is exactly as bad as you’d expect given the title. Rihanna succeeds remarkably well in crafting a magnificently awful song, full of graphic imagery that’ll either leave you giggling like a schoolgirl or rolling your eyes. Or just ignoring it all and dancing obliviously. Whichever.

“Birthday Cake” is also mind-bogglingly eloquent in its lyrical content; she says ‘cake’ repeatedly over a kaleidoscopic scrapheap of computer-generated sound. It has some vacant appeal but is entirely devoid of class and merit. “We All Want Love” is her first attempt to sound wholesome. A guitar, presumably wrestled kicking and screaming from its rightful place, lurks terrified in the background while heavy percussion and soporific singing steer the song through the motions. She sings longing about wanting someone to hold when it’s cold, which is frankly a little alarming when the prior song features requests that someone lick icing off her birthday cake.

“Rock Me Out” is one of those fashionable wannabe rock rip-offs occasionally popular with vacuous pop starlets, though in fairness, its slick beats and sparkly sound effects make it listenable club fodder. “Farewell” is a melting pot of genres – wayward synth-like sounds, an overpowering bassline, and melancholic poppier refrains all collide for a competent if uninspiring tune. The sound is big and intensive and she laments someone’s departure, warbling about how much she’ll miss them. Pity the same can’t be said of the album.

This is repugnant, turgid nonsense. Cannon fodder for the charts. Insert sentence about dismay at actual artists having no money to tour while she’s ferried around like a princess etc. etc. here.

SCORE: 3/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Guest

    This was a pretty awful review… Cockiness is a really hot track. I don’t know what genre of music you listen to but I think this is the best POP album I heard this year hands down. Especially Birthday Cake, where have you been, and Watch N’ Learn. Those are going to be HUGE club tracks. You shouldn’t review Pop/R&B albums anymore. Its painfully obvious you dont know what your talking about. 

  • Grace

    Sticks and stones, friend. Whatever floats your boat. However, if you feel better equipped to offer insights on pop/r’n’b albums, kindly see our ‘jobs’ tab up above. You may wish to address your grammar first. Sample sentence: “It’s painfully obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Spot the difference?

  • Guest

    I agree with everything in this article. Rihanna sure has catchy music, but the overt sexuality is tasteless. Even the Gagas and Britneys of the world are a bit less blunt.

    Sexuality is not a bad thing. Especially here in the US, sexuality is perceived to be a hush-hush topic. However, there are ways to make the topic of sexually tasteful. Rihanna doesn’t do it here.

    She’s about as generic as Britney’s music.

  • Sara

    Sorry to say I disagree. This album is one hot track after the next! Defintiely some nice evolution in her sound here, and her voice just keeps getting stronger. Would probably get an 8 out of 10 from me. 

  • Markaramo

    It also looks like you should address your grammar. You wrote, “She sings longing about wanting someone to hold,” when you should have used the word “longingly” instead. Also, I don’t know why you are so concerned about Rihanna’s influence. I am a teenager, and although I am a fan and will probably have this album on replay for a long time, it won’t influence me much. Contrary to common belief, most “younglings” really aren’t affected too much by pop stars. As with most people here, I think the album is worth much more than 3 out of 10, even if it isn’t Rihanna’s best.

  • Scottc202

    this is a terribly, biased and actually mean review.  It is clear that Grace approached this with the desire to hate the album before even hearing it.  While I agree that both “Cockiness” & “Birthday Cake” are not stellar tracks, the rest of the songs are fantastic and all potential smash hits.  While she gave credit to 2 of the great songs, she failed to mention the best song – “Drunk On Love” –  at all.  The songs all have great production, terrific hooks and RiRi sounds fantastic throughout

    Don’t believe this review.  The album is a 9/10 and if they had omitted “Cockiness” and “Birthday Cake” and added the “Fool In Love” track form the Deluxe version (an obvious tribute to Queen) it would have scored 11.

  • pyem

    yea, this review is complete nonsense. there is a difference between giving an album a bad rating and coming of as biased. i understand not liking the album (even though i love it) but by no means is it a 3/10. clearly the reviewer is bad at his job. also the rihanna song with Circuit to the Moon was cut from the album. that’s a damn shame

  • bryan

    Don’t compare her to Britney Spears. Britney doesn’t LITERALLY sing about SEX SEX SEX during an entire album. She has a lot more diversity. And listening to her album doesn’t sound like nails on a chalkboard, like Rihanna’s album. Xoxo.

  • bryan

    Screaming louder does not mean her voice is getting stronger. FYI.

    In terms of vocals, this is actually Rihanna’s worst album. You will get a serious headache if you listen to this entire album without a break.

  • Archery7879

    is this an album review? or just some sort of “diss”to rihanna’s? pity much i think. 
    The Talk That Talk album is probably the mist POP album so far this year. BTW and FEMME Fatale have nothing to say on the album. and hey you author of this Review, just F the EFFING word. i think you only review albums only for the reason to popularize your site, i think? guess what? that ain’t happening! FFFFFF

  • bryan

    There are only about 4 decent tracks on Talk That Talk. 4 out of 11. So 3/10 seems pretty fair to me. This is what happens when you rush-release an album just for the sake of Black Friday sales. You end up with tons of filler and your best songs aren’t THAT good. This has got to be the most repetitive album I’ve ever heard.

  • Epicsyngates

    fuck off, bryan. are you just another angry britney stan, trolling the web? bye. use this time you’re wasting to go listen to the flop of an album called Femme Craptale.. xo