NEW YORK — If the formula isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Call it the Def Jam way.
Take Mariah Carey: Four years after her Glitter flop, she officially bounced back with the label’s The Emancipation of Mimi, one of the last decade’s best albums, and she followed that with E(equals)MC2, which had the same musical plot.
Rihanna’s latest, Talk That Talk, is her version of E(equals)MC2, and it’s the follow-up to last year’s Loud, a top-notch effort from the pop singer.
Talk that Talk is just as good as Loud, full of upbeat jams and some slower ones (albeit those are the weaker tracks), all helmed by today’s top hitmakers.
Calvin Harris, a singer and DJ from London, produced the album’s best track and lead single, We Found Love. He works with mega-hitmaker Dr. Luke on the danceable Where Have You Been, and Dr. Luke also composed the album opener You Da One, another hit on the charts. More than the producers, Rihanna’s secret weapon is Ester Dean, one of the best songwriters in contemporary music. Dean co-wrote seven of the 11 tracks.
Rihanna is raunchy throughout the new disc — her sixth effort in six years — and it works. She’s downright nasty and demanding on the addictive Birthday Cake, produced by The-Dream and Tricky, and she’s schooling her man in the bedroom on the fun Watch N’ Learn. Though sexually charged, Rihanna can get away with having these played on radio, and we’re not sure if anyone else could. She did it with S&M, and will surely do it again.
Rihanna may have mastered the upbeat sound, but her slower songs need work: We All Want Love, produced by No ID (Kanye West, Common), drags, as does the album closer Farewell, helmed the Alex da Kid, who also produced Rihanna’s hit with Eminem, Love the Way You Lie.