RIHANNA: TALK THAT TALK
IF LADY Gaga is an android from the future and Beyonce is a Sherman tank of bottomless ambition and great teeth, and Britney Spears is a human vacancy sign, what is Rihanna? She could be anyone. She’s a shape-shifter to be sure, a blur of hit singles and brightly coloured weaves. But what else? There isn’t another entertainer in the public eye who seems so remote.
“Take a peek at the girl I hide,” she sings on Roc Me Out, one of the lesser tracks on her formidable new album, Talk That Talk, “I’ll let you in on a dirty secret / I just wanna be loved.” For Rihanna, who rarely breaks the fourth wall, it’s a strategic concession to public curiosity, although the song might have had more meaning if the singer herself had been one of its multiple co-writers.
Rated R, the 2009 disc made after her assault by, and break-up, with Chris Brown, was a protracted revenge tale. Its conspicu- ously party- hearty follow- up, Loud, was an admission that Rated R had taken its joyless theme too far.
The impeccably assembled, 100 percent flyweight Talk That Talk positions Rihanna as an Everygirl in search of romance, sex and a good party.
Talk is thick with Rihanna’s usual, overly laboured double- and triple-entendres, her weird sort of affectless raunch. When, on the jittery, overlong- at- 78- seconds Birthday Cake she dispenses with the pleasantries with a devastatingly direct line (we can’t repeat it in a family newspaper, but it’s easily the bluntest thing we’ve ever heard from a mainstream pop singer), she says it with all the erotic charge of someone learning how to program her DVR.
The rest of the time Rihanna sounds better, more present, than she ever has. She pries a hook out of the aimless Watch n’ Learn using some kind of superdiva Jaws of Life. – Allison Stewart, Washington Post