Make no mistake. "Talk That Talk" was supposed to be Rihanna's ticket to the very pinnacle of pop. Despite all her number one hits, the rich man's Shontelle was still dismissed as an embarrassing Beyoncé-wannabe as recently as the "Rated R" era. But then everything came together. She threw all credibility out the window, jumped on the urban-dance bandwagon and worked with the hottest names in the game. It was all very desperate but RiRi's manufactured bad-girl persona struck a chord and "Loud" established her as arguably the hottest pop-star on the planet. But instead of building on that by retreating from the spotlight to come up with something fresh and exciting, Rihanna just covered her well-endowed forehead with a new wig and shat out more of the same. The result is "Bionic" on Viagra - only without the Sia-penned power ballads and ridiculous RedOne knock-offs that made Christina's opus bearable.
Here is my track by track review:
1. You Da One
RiRi has always been a label puppet but at least her team usually hooks up interesting collaborators to give her some edge. However, this time around they just called all the usual suspects. Seriously, Dr Luke? I'm surprised there's no Max Martin or Rico Love. But back to the good Doctor. I love his work with Katy Perry and Ke$ha but "You Da One" is the weakest jam the super-producer has put his name to in years. Disturbingly, the sloppy, faux-reggae album-opener is one of the better songs on "Talk That Talk". It's perfect radio-fodder and should be massive. The fact that it's a lame re-hash of "What's My Name?" is the only stumbling block on its way to the top of the charts.
2. Where Have You Been
I love Calvin Harris but he clearly kept all the good stuff for himself. This is no "Feel So Close" or "Bounce". Hell, it's not even another "Ready For The Weekend". The meaningless lyrics hover over generic dance-beats that sound like they've been rescued from 1997. The most galling aspect is the limp dub-step twist. I never thought I'd say this - but Britney did this shit way back in 2007! It's tired and boring now. Rihanna's transformation into this generation's throwaway dance-pop diva is almost complete.
3. We Found Love
Rihanna repeatedly wailing the same cheesy line over a Euro-trash instrumental still fails to excite me. Dressing it up with an "edgy" (if you're 12 and watch a lot of Nickelodeon) video doesn't change the fact that "We Found Love" is disposable rubbish that will one day stand next to LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" in a museum exhibit called 2011 - The Year The Music Died.
4. Talk That Talk (Feat. Jay-Z)
Urban RiRi is not a good fit, as "Rated R" proved once and for all. Which makes the album's title track something of a surprise. Maybe it's just the bouncy Stargate production and Hova's killer intro but I like this. The chorus is cute and it's a relief to hear something a bit different in this sea of bad dance-music and shitty ballads. I'm not sure it's single material but this is definitely a standout for me.
5. Cockiness (Love It)
I probably would have enjoyed lyrics like "suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion" when I was 12 but I'll take a pass now. Who does Rihanna think she's shocking? She sings about her pussy more often than Janet in the '90s. And we all know how well that worked out for Damita. On the bright side, "Get 'Em Girls" is no longer the lamest song in Bangladesh's discography. Jessica Mauboy is holed up somewhere in Darwin crying tears of relief! This is a new low for Rih-cycle.
6. Birthday Cake
The-Dream gave Beyoncé "Single Ladies", "1+1" and "End Of Time". Rihanna got a 1:30 minute sex-interlude with not-so-brilliant lyrics like "cake, cake, cake". That pretty much sums up the Barbadian's current status in the pop hierarchy. Better luck next time.
7. We All Want Love
Nothing makes my blood run cold like a Rihanna ballad. With the exception of "Take A Bow" because that was genuinely amazing. Produced by frequent Jay-Z collaborator No I.D., "We All Want Love" is relatively inoffensive. The mid-tempo slow jam lacks the kind of big hook needed to take it to the next level and suffers from a bad case of Hallmark Card lyric-itis but at least it deals with feelings and emotions instead of RiRi's nuclear-powered pussy. My biggest problem with this track is its mediocrity. There's no way "We All Want Love" would have made the cut for "Loud". So why is it being rolled out here?
8. Drunk On Love
The first 20 seconds of "Drunk On Love" is breathtaking because it reminds me of the Dolly Parton of forehead's finest moment - her lesbian-stalker anthem "Te Amo". Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. This dreary Stargate ballad gets my vote for the worst song on "Talk That Talk". Deleting it from my iTunes will be a pleasure.
9. Roc Me Out
Oh look, it's another Rihanna song about fucking! Whatever will she do next? Let's be real for a moment. This is getting old. Madonna did it first. Janet did it second and now Jay-Z's moneymaker is the stuck between the sheets. The whole sex kitten routine works for a while but it inevitably backfires. People joke about Beyoncé's female empowerment anthems but at least she's trying to tell women they have more to offer the world than a moist orifice. RiRi is beyond basic. As for "Roc Me Out", I forced myself to listen to it twice but there's nothing to distinguish the track from any of the diva's other sex jams. Gift it to your favourite prostitute.
10. Watch N' Learn
It's my own fault. I asked what Rihanna would do next. The answer is a mid-tempo groove about cunnilingus. Purse those lips and get busy if that's your thing. Personally, I'm going to pretend this never happened. It's a shame because Hit-Boy's production is easily the most innovative on the album.
RiRi must be a closet Vanessa Williams fan because she kept the best for last. Now I know what I said about her eardrum-injuring ballads but this overwrought "Halo" rip-off works for me. Alex Da Kid announced himself as producer of merit when he helmed Tenitra's "Hello Heartbreak", before moving on to more obscure songs like "Love The Way You Lie" and "Airplanes". He gives Rihanna a lush orchestra of synths to bleat over and she does her best with that limited vocal range. The lyrics are cute and I could hear this in public without feeling like my civil liberties were being been violated. It's a nice song but definitely a case of too little, too late.