RiRi’s ‘Talk That Talk’ doesn’t walk that walk

In this Aug. 21, file photo, U.S. singer Rihanna performs on stage at the V Music Festival in Hylands Park, London.

Jessica Cabe

There’s no doubt that Rihanna is a superstar, but she sells herself short time and again by releasing mediocre pop music that is indistinguishable from anything else on top 40 radio.

Talk That Talk, Rihanna’s sixth studio album, which dropped Monday, is no exception.

While the combination of pop, dubstep and reggae makes for a great soundtrack to a dance party, the moments of greatness are few and far between. Rihanna insists on teasing her listeners with standout tracks and following them up with second-rate, run-of-the-mill filler.

The album opens with “You Da One.” Rihanna’s beautiful Barbadian accent complements the reggae style dance music. The song is more of an introduction to the album than a stand-alone track, much like No Doubt’s Rock Steady opener “(Intro) Rock Steady.” While “You Da One” is long enough to be its own song, it is more of an overview of what’s to come.

“Where Have You Been” follows. Here is one of those aforementioned moments of greatness. The ominous music paired with Rihanna’s alluring vocals draw images of a darkly clad witch on the hunt for a lover. The song is very sexy without trying too hard, unlike half of the songs on this album. Her vocals are full to the brim with feelings of longing. This is dark house music at its finest. I dare you not to dance.

Next is the lead single “We Found Love.” The song shows a lighter side to the album while maintaining the house party energy. Rihanna’s vocals, with the perfect amount of reverb, soar over catchy synths. The song has an element of nostalgia that makes it one of the best on the album. It reminds me of long drives with my high school boyfriend and that naive, beautiful feeling of young love. “We found love in a hopeless place” – that sure sounds like high school to me.

“Talk That Talk (feat. Jay Z)” is the beginning of the downward spiral for this record. First, Jay Z’s part is nothing to get excited about, though I don’t suppose it’s a Rihanna album until she has someone rap for a verse or two. The reason this song is so bad is because it’s just more of the same radio-friendly, overtly sexual mumbo jumbo that any halfway decent singer could pull off. Rihanna has a voice that could become legendary if she would just realize she’s better than most pop singers and doesn’t need to resort to cheap songs.

With that said, “Cockiness (Love It)” takes the embarrassing innuendos one step further. There is nothing clever here, and Rihanna is not doing anything for the strong, independent woman cause. “She may be the queen of hearts/But I’m gonna be the queen of your body parts.” Really, RiRi?

“Birthday Cake” is a sleazy rip-off of Beyonce’s “Videophone,” and Beyonce did it better.

“We All Want Love” is a breath of fresh air amid blatant sex songs. Although it may not be a true highlight, it won’t make listeners turn red with embarrassment. It starts off with a pretty guitar riff and transforms into a sprawling pop track with layered vocals reminiscent of a children’s choir. It is a song of hope and could be beautiful if performed live and acoustic.

“Drunk on Love” sticks with the love song theme. This mid-tempo dance song boasts Rihanna’s ever-lovely vocals with hopelessly romantic lyrics like, “I’m drunk on love/Nothing can sober me up/It’s all that I need.”

“Roc Me Out” is next. One can always tell when a song is going to be extra hardcore by the misspelling of a word in the title. This song sounds just as forced as its painfully uncool name. Once again, Rihanna is demanding sex in an unpoetic way. Pop music can be shallow and get away with it, but Rihanna could be in a league of her own. She needs to give herself a little more credit.

“Watch n’ Learn” is just outright annoying. I have no clue what is going on here. Her voice, the melody, the lyrics and the music make no sense, and the song serves absolutely no purpose.

The closing track, “Farewell,” is the closest thing to a ballad on this album. Rihanna’s voice is so full of feeling that it sounds as though it may crack at any moment, but, as the lyrics promise, she stays strong. This track provides an unexpectedly sad ending to an album singing the praises of love and lust. Its mere existence changes the meaning of the album by shedding a melancholy light on the rest of the songs. She spends 40 minutes searching for love, and, even though she’s obviously found it, she has to let it go in the end. Who hasn’t loved and lost? This is by far the most relatable song on the album.

While Rihanna’s voice carries the album and makes it good, Talk That Talk follows suit with the rest of her work and is not great. This wouldn’t be so frustrating if there weren’t moments of beauty among the mediocrity. Perhaps someday Rihanna will realize her full potential and release an album worthy of herself.

Rating: 2/5 stars