Talk That Talk 3/5 Given that we were almost sold Loud part two, we should be grateful on at least one count. Bucking the long-lead pre-promo trend for major artists, Rihanna’s new album wasn’t even on the release schedule until two months ago. The 23-year-old superstar scrapped plans for a ‘RihRelease’ of her 2010 album, with extra songs, deciding that ‘Loud is its own body of work’, and that her fans deserved this batch of 10, box-fresh tunes instead. Or possibly that reprising the album’s frothy and upbeat pop wasn’t such a smart idea, given that Lady Gaga (still) bestrides the earth like a clam-shell-costumed colossus.
Rihanna’s manager, Jay Brown, stated at the album’s first playback that the aim with album number six was to make it ‘more aggressive and edgy’, but to keep the singer’s pop profile intact – mission mostly accomplished. Producers include Rihanna’s old mates Stargate, plus new hired hands Bangladesh, Dr Luke and Calvin Harris, who have each realigned her sound with the contemporary beats landscape, rather than revolutionising it. So, both ‘Do Your Thing’ (from the deluxe edition) and the terrific, Jay- Z-featuring title track recall the irresistible ‘Rude Boy’, but ‘Cockiness (Love It)’ is boomtastic reggae while the chopped rhythms of ‘Birthday Cake’ are so radically foregrounded as to throw the whole song into a brilliantly odd perspective.
Less happily, ‘We All Want Love’ is ersatz country rock (Lady G’s fault, surely), ‘Drunk on Love’ a tear-stained confessional pumped with Eurotrance synths, and ‘Farewell’ a swollen rock ballad made for all those who think Paulo Coehlo’s books are deep. A mixed bag is the technical term.