At just 23 years of age, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has been through a hell of a lot. The Barbadian singer, upon her initial arrival on the pop music scene, was bound by comparisons to Beyoncé and other similar vocals. She was cute and innocent, everyone’s girl from the Caribbean. But sometimes life gets in the way of even the best intentions and Rihanna’s conversion took place not so much by design but by inevitability.
A domestic violence incident involving her and Chris Brown, who astonishingly still has a career and pathetic platoons of fans, was explicably life-altering for Rihanna. Suffering through such a thing in the public eye was demanding, but it was also like to being forged in iron. Everyone’s Good Girl Gone Band emerged Rated R, with an unforgiving image and and a violent lead single in “Russian Roulette.”
From Rated R, with its darker fare, Rihanna released Loud. The album, her fifth, was released slightly a year after her previous album and featured livelier songs. The storm wasn’t over, but at least the sun had begun to shine.
Now, with her sixth record entitled Talk That Talk, Rihanna is ready to dance again.
This album is heavy on the dance pop and electronica, with some of the roughness exposed and stripped away. Rihanna is ready to fall in love again and the luminous, upbeat tones provoke apparitions of blinding neon and ecstasy even in despair.
The lead single, “We Found Love,” features production from Calvin Harris and lively synth. The song’s druggy wind-up is magnificent and the build to a full-grown flame is right on target for dance floors around the world.
“Where Have You Been” features interpolations of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” the Geoff Mack tune popularized by Lucky Starr. Rihanna doesn’t list off a bunch of city names, but the track is handled with a rock-hard measure of vocal distortions, club beats and throbbing keys. It’s fun to be in love again, isn’t it?
Talk That Talk’s love motif carries on with tracks like “We All Want Love” and “Drunk on Love.” “I feel like I’m a hopeless romantic,” Rihanna sings on the latter. “Take me away, I wear my heart on my sleeve. Always let love take the lead. I may be a little naïve.”
There’s also the sexually-charged “Cockiness,” in which she delivers one of the most cunningly naughty lines I’ve heard in a while: “Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion, eat my poison, and swallow your pride down.” Rihanna’s gambit for a sex slave features a dancehall buzz and a lot of reverberation, but, as she says, “There’s nothing above my pleasure.”
A cheeky, lively dance pop album with a number of standout moments, Talk That Talk is a refreshing step into the sun for Rihanna. The record surely doesn’t complete her journey, but it does embody some headway on both the musical and spiritual level for this young performer.