2 stars (out of 4)
Another year, another Rihanna album. “Talk That Talk” (Def Jam) is the 23-year-old Barbados native’s sixth album in seven years. It caps a year in which she released a series of hit singles from her previous album, the 2010 release “Loud,” staged an arena tour and appeared on tracks by Drake, Coldplay and Nicki Minaj.
Despite her commercial achievements – 20 million worldwide album sales, the youngest artist ever to achieve 10 No. 1 singles – her music is starting to sound thin and predictable. At 37 minutes, “Talk That Talk” is both skimpy in length and content. It’s also her friskiest album yet -- and that’s saying something. In comparison to the dark, disturbing film noir of her excellent 2009 album, “Rated R,” this is a chintzy soft-core porn movie.
Most of the songs turn on double or single entendres involving cake, icing, licking, eating, and doing it “on the bed, on the floor, on the couch.” The album rings up a lot of buzzy, burping electronics, especially on the rave-tastic “Where Have You Been” and “We Found Love.” Familiar Caribbean and Eastern touches from past Rihanna albums get recycled into bombastic dance tunes. The singer at times comes off as a bystander on her own album; she shares a writing credit on only four songs and she lets Jay-Z do all the heavy lifting on the title track.
Amid all the standard-issue booty calls and boisterous synthesizers, a couple of tracks show the kind of progression and depth that typified “Rated R”: the electro-acoustic, No I.D.-produced anthem “We All Want Love” and “Drunk on Love,” in which Rihanna lets a little vulnerability creep in over a haunting break beat from British minimalists the XX. Otherwise, “Talk That Talk” sounds like a rush job designed to keep Rihanna rolling through the holidays.