By Keir Bristol
This post is part review, part love letter. If you don’t like the album though, you should totally keep reading. It may not convince you to like it, but at least to appreciate it for what it is.
One of the reasons why I love this album so much is because I can identify with it. As a 22-year-old girl figuring out what she likes and who she is, playing the field and trying to find someone who will understand her, be her partner, and… um, please her when necessary, this is a go-to album. It’s not an album where I’m forced to try to understand how someone else lives, without knowing first hand how it feels (Drake, I’m looking at you). But more than that, Rihanna is able to say what I’m thinking but may not have the courage to say.
Some of you may be familiar with the fiasco that went down at Slutwalk NYC where a white woman arrived with a sign that read: “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” and a woman of color had to ask her to take it down. To make matters worse, Slutwalk NYC did not exactly deal with the issue in the most graceful, apologetic way. This was aggravated by the fact that many people of color were already skeptical about Slutwalk because of the way people of color are labelled growing up. To be clear, many women of color (as well as people of other genders) are considered sluts, not because of how often they have sex, how many sexual partners they have, or how they dress- but because of the color of their skin. Historically speaking, women of color have been used as sex slaves for men in power, not to mention that women of color are more likely to be raped and are often considered hypersexual because of their body types. When these concerns were brought up while Slutwalk was still a newborn movement, they were not properly addressed. And then someone decided that since John Lennon gave them the go ahead, this sign was acceptable.
I digress. The reason why this is relevant, is because Rihanna could easily be called a slut or a whore for this album, if not for her often provocative dress and her skin color. The same way women of color are slut-shamed for these things, in addition to committing the crime of not being White. But listen to the album, and then ask yourself: does she care?
She doesn’t. She’s empowered, not belittled. And that’s why the album is great.
The first single, “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris, only fueled the singer’s claim that the Loud era was continuing. The song and video was allegedly a psychedelic look into her abusive relationship with Chris Brown, which ended shortly after he battered her after an awards show. The video features Rihanna and Dudley O’Shaughnessy in a passionate relationship, where the good is just as strong and influential as the bad, and leaving is the hardest of all. The lyrics of the song only reflect those feelings Rihanna croons desperately, “As your shadow crosses mine / what it takes to come alive / it’s just the way I’m feeling / I can’t deny / but I’ve got to let it go.” Watch the video here.
The second single, “You Da One,” is a bit of a return to Rihanna’s Carribbean roots. With an annoyingly-catchy sing-along chorus, she concludes, “My love is your love / your love is mine.” The next single is a mystery, because the album is chock-full of potential (eventual?) hits. A popular contender is “Cockiness (Love It),” in which Rihanna uses racy wordplay in her sexy Bajan accent. “Suck my cockiness, lick my puss-uasion,” she sings, before she chants, “I love it / I love it / I love it when you eat it.” She went there. On the subject of eating, my favourite off of the album would be “Birthday Cake,” produced by the-Dream, except that it’s cut off at 1:18. What a pity!
The only feature on the album is Rihanna’s mentor, Jay-Z on the title track “Talk That Talk,” but don’t worry: she didn’t need any more that that. This album is about her, and you won’t forget it. “Where Have You Been,” is a hyperactive dance track with a touch of dubstep, while the mellower “Drunk On Love,” samples “Intro” off of the Xx’s debut self-titled record. “Drunk on Love,” actually sums up what seems to be Rihanna’s view on love- intoxicating, powerful, stupifying, and a universal desire.
The extended version of Talk That Talk includes “Do Ya Thang”, “Fool In Love”, and “Red Lipstick.” The latter was recorded over Chase and Status’ “Saxon,” but has a totally different feeling than the song Nicki Minaj had written for her for her fourth studio album, Rated R. Rihanna trades her superstar braggadocio for a sexual anthem that fits so well into the rest of the album. In fact, this is definitely her most consistent album to date.
Rihanna’s sexuality and empowerment are evident in this album, and it’s simply inspiring. With every song, you see another part of her and another part of yourself. Talk That Talk is an album that what have you caught between saying, “Did she really just say that?” and “I know how that feels!”