Talk That Talk
Rihanna was no stranger to EDM by the time her sixth album, Talk That Talk, was in the works: “Don’t Stop the Music,” off 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad, quickly became a ubiquitous dance-floor standard; she dipped her toes into dubstep on 2009’s Rated R and collaborated with David Guetta for a track off his own 2009 album, One Love; and 2010’s “Only Girl (In the World),” Loud’s earth-shaking single, pulsed with the kind of shimmering, synthetic elements fit for the top of the charts and the clubs of Ibiza. But with “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been,” two of the tunes that kicked off her Talk That Talk era, she reached a new echelon of electronic alchemy while cementing her status as a fearless pop star who thrives in the experimental space between genres. Co-written and -helmed by prolific DJ/producer Calvin Harris, “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” not only set a new benchmark for Rihanna’s vocal performance, but they also gave the Navy two contrasting dance anthems—the former a euphoric ode to love itself, the latter a moody, urgent search for understanding and affection. Both would go on to be pillars in Rihanna and Harris’ respective setlists, but “We Found Love” remains their shared greatest hit: It spent 10 weeks at No. 1, and its video, filmed by renowned director (and frequent Ri collaborator) Melina Matsoukas, took home a Grammy and a VMA. Yet in spite of the dance largesse of “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been”—as well as “Drunk on Love,” which had Rihanna crooning over The xx’s “Intro”—Talk That Talk was as eclectic as her prior albums, in that these dance smashes were right at home next to power ballads (“We All Want Love,” “Farewell”), an appearance from longtime partner in rhyme JAY-Z (“Talk That Talk”), unfiltered, R-rated sexploits ebbing over heavy beats (“Cockiness [Love It],” “Red Lipstick”), and blissful flirtations (“You Da One,” “Do Ya Thang”). Each song throws back to a sound, aesthetic, or genre she’s experimented with before, from her dance inclinations to her Caribbean lilt and her omnivorous embrace of rock, rap, and every genre in between. And though it delivered an exceptional vocal showing from Rihanna and the hypnotizing, can’t-let-go choruses her fans have loved since her “Pon de Replay” days, she leveled up with Talk That Talk—and found the love of millions far beyond the dance floor.