Finally regaining her crown with Loud (2010), Rihanna’s not letting anyone usurp her again by releasing her 6th studio album Talk That Talk (2011), with barely a year between albums. Talk That Talk focuses on two very universal themes – Love and Sex – and the Barbadian star has certainly pushed the boundaries on the latter, with Mark Graham of VH1 calling the album “the dirtiest “pop” record we have ever heard”.

The album starts off with a mid-tempo reggae-inspired number, You Da One. The track sets a low start for the album, with generic love-themed lyrics and her excessive use of her signature staccato vocal hooks, which come off as annoying rather than catchy. Furthermore, an unnecessary dubstep breakdown had been forcibly added in a weak attempt to follow 2011’s pop trends. The song reminisces of What’s My Name? and Man Down from Rihanna’s back catalogue, with both singles featuring reggae compositions, but failing to capture the relaxed feel that those two tracks beautifully encapsulated.

The following two tracks from Talk That Talk take it up a notch with UK-club king, Calvin Harris, manning production duties. Both songs have all the elements to become great dance hits, with Where Have You Been being the most upbeat song on the album. Composition-wise, the song has spots perfectly timed build-ups as well as drops in a track that otherwise has a constant tempo. Showcasing a strong, pulsating bass drum beat with catchy synth overtones that will make you move your feet involuntarily, it makes one feel that Rihanna is doing tons more than just repeating the phrase “Where have you been, all my life” throughout the chorus. The 23-year-old songbird emits an immense amount of energy in this song, especially in the pre-chorus when she intensely shouts the phrase “Are you hiding from me/Somewhere in the crowd”.

Calvin Harris not only produces the first single, We Found Love, but features him as well, guaranteeing us with a dance hit, no doubt. Similar to Where Have You Been, it showcases a catchy synth layer accompanied with a grooving drum and bass beat, but also boasts intense electro buildups and breakdowns. Despite the song being a hit and achieving Number One on the US Billboard Hot 100 Charts amongst many other international charts, Harris’s work strongly overshadows Rihanna’s vocals, which seemingly feel more as fillers to what Harris does next in the track.

For the third single of the album, also titled Talk That Talk, features Jay-Z on his second appearance on a Rihanna track since Umbrella. Unfortunately, neither the song nor Mr. Z were memorable this time. Jay-Z’s rap segment spotting lyrics such as “I be trying to chill, b**ches wanna f**k me/Every little city I go, f**k me” and “Everything that I do is big/We’ll talk big money, I talk big homes/I sell out arenas, I call that getting dome”, seemed more like a distasteful attempt to boast his wealth and that the whole world would like to sleep with him. Rihanna’s contributions were just as colourful with “One and two and a three and four/Come on let me know if you want some more/ You know what I Like, now get right/ Boy talk that talk to me all night”, and yes, in case you were wondering, she isn’t really talking about talking.

4 years since Good Girl Gone Bad and Rihanna hasn’t turned back.

Photos courtesy of Universal Music Singapore and Focka.

This spillover effect from S&M carries over to many of her songs, with the lyrics getting raunchier and raunchier to a point where it becomes unpleasant and unimaginative. Cockiness (Love it), insinuates much about coitus, with lyrics such as “Suck my cockiness/Lick my persuasion” and comes off as a poor attempt to imitate Britney Spears’ hit, If You Seek Amy. This continues with many of the other tracks in the album, such as in Birthday Cake, where she uses food to create sexual innuendos such as “It’s not even my birthday but they want to lick the icing off” and “Can’t wait to blow my candles out/He want that cake cake cake…” and in Watch N’ Learn, which is basically a lyrical guide to intercourse.

The album although largely themed on sex, does have a few songs about falling in love, such as Drunk On Love, which samples The xx’ssong, Intro. The song talks about how Rihanna is “Drunk on love…/Nothing can sober me up” and asks to “Take me away, I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve”. While We All Want Love, comes off as a love anthem that is also the only song in the album to take an acoustic approach. “I can pretend that I’m not lonely but I’ll be constantly fooling myself/I can pretend that it don’t matter but I’ll be sitting there lying to myself” tells us how the singer seeks companionship and love amongst all. The song provides a nice change from the sex-driven tracks and sounds eerily similar, vocally, to something that Beyonce would whip up.

The standard edition closes off with Farewell, which shows collaboration once again with Alex Da Kid, who helped produce one of Rihanna’s biggest hit to date, Love the Way You Lie. The song, unlike the other tracks, has Rihanna singing along a soft piano track, accompanied with a reverberating drum track. Her voice in Farewell’s chorus is easily the most definitive piece of vocal work she does for this album and once again she shows much resemblance to Beyonce’s hit single, Halo, and definitely sends the album off to a much stronger end than how it started.

In entirety, with mediocre and often tasteless lyrics, Talk That Talk comes off as a very weak effort, being unable to catch the defining essence that albums such as Rated R and Loud had, be it for a slow, acoustic piece or a full-blown dance hit. Furthermore, majority of her vocal efforts seem lethargic and emotionless in many of the tracks, especially the raunchier ones such as Cockiness (Like It) and Watch N’ Learn. Also, the extreme contrast in themes shows a very schizophrenic personality to the album and even perhaps on the singer, with it seemingly like a teenage love story at one moment, and a full-blown sexual encounter the next. This formula definitely does not bode well for the album. Unfortunately for Rihanna, the highlights of the album were either when Calvin Harris produced them or when she sounded similar to Beyonce. It would have most probably worked better if she had let Loud set in for the fans before dropping Talk This Talk on them.


Album Details

  • Artiste: Rihanna
  • Album Name: Talk That Talk
  • Rating (out of 5): 2/5
  • Language: English
  • Genre: R&B
  • Record Label: Def Jam Records
  • Release date: Nov 21


  1. You Da One
  2. Where Have You Been
  3. We Found Love feat. Calvin Harris
  4. Talk That Talk feat. Jay-Z
  5. Cockiness (Love It)
  6. Birthday Cake
  7. We All Want Love
  8. Drunk On Love
  9. Roc Me Out
  10. Watch N’ Learn
  11. Farewell
  12. Red Lipstick (Bonus Track)
  13. Do Ya Than (Bonus Track)
  14. Fool In Love (Bonus Track)