No. 7: “Farewell”
Sounds Like: A closer.
Pros: As a big ballad, it’s a lot better-written and more interesting than “We All Want Love,” the album’s other potential big live encore. It’s produced by Alex da Kid and Ester Dean, but it’s got that kind of Ryan Tedder mid-tempo shuffle to it, with the big booming drums and the piano and the heavy diva vocals. The sound fits Rihanna surprisingly well, as she sings about saying goodbye to a man who’s leaving on a jet plane and don’t know when he’ll be back again. “Farewell / somebody’s gonna miss you” goes the chorus, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that at the end of Talk the Talk.
Cons: Though it fits Rihanna, it may have been a better (or at least more obvious) fit for someone like Beyoncé instead, with a more powerful voice that could really be cranked up to 11. And we’re still undecided about the “That somebody’s me” at the end of each of the choruses is, explaining who the “somebody” is that’s “gonna miss you.” We’re pretty sure we could’ve used context clues on that one, Rihanna.
Hard “R” Lyric: Rihanna keeps it tasteful for her big closing number. There is a reference to her being a “big girl” now late in the song, though, and again, in a post-”S&M” world, that can’t help sounding the tiniest bit dirty.
Single-Worthy?: Not really. Should make for a nice fan favorite, though, and you gotta have a couple of those per album anyway.
6. “Birthday Cake”
Sounds Like: Well, first it must be noted that it sounds like less than one minute and a half. The fade-out isn’t exactly graceful; it happens mid-verse, mid-lyric. We’re going to call this an incomplete leak and call the suspense our due punishment for hearing this “version.” What we do have, however, is pretty enticing: Hoover synths on the intro, synth handclaps that work for once, sinuous and/or Eastern-ish instrumental touches and lots of chanting. There’s also a hard-to-ignore, hard-R extended metaphor–which makes sense, considering this is Talk That Talk‘s one The-Dream track.
Pros: “Birthday Cake” is certainly one of the more hypnotic tracks on Talk That Talk, and Rihanna’s delivery is more playful than blaring, a good sound for her. The harmonies on the second verse also sound promising, at least from the handful of seconds we’ve heard. We’re pretty sure the full track might bump this up a half-star; that’s a good sign.
Cons: You will absolutely need headphones when you listen to this, unless you have an extremely high threshold for embarrassment and/or an inability to blush. The lyrics are… unsubtle. How unsubtle?
Hard-R Lyric: Well. There are two ways to interpret this. The obvious one, because cursing makes everything obvious, is “I wanna fuck you right now” or possibly “I’m gonna make you my bitch.” The one that sinks in five minutes later is “come and put your name on it.” Just… trust us on that, OK?
Single-Worthy? We’d say we’d need more than 1:18 to make that call, but uh, there’s no way in hell this is going out to radio. Case study: Katy Perry’s “Peacock,” which has the exact entendre you’d expect but compared to this is a Disney ballad. She released “The One That Got Away” over it, which says it all.
5. “You Da One”
Sounds Like: A song that should have been released four or five months ago, the perfect soundtrack to summer-camp romances between 12 and 13-year-olds. “You Da One” is a bubbly little pop song, an obvious retreat from Rihanna’s harder-hitting stuff of late. “You da one that I dream about all day / You da one that I think about always,” sings Rihanna on the chorus, before concluding with the even gooier sentinment “My love is your love, your love is mine.” There’s still a dubstep breakdown section, of course—this is a Dr. Luke production, after all—but that doesn’t really mean that much anymore.
Pros: Everyone loves summer love, yeah? Rihanna coveys an entire young relationship’s worth of unassuming, naive sweetness in each one of her “ay-ay-ay” lyrics on the chorus, and it’s hard not be transported a little to that time and feeling when you hear her. Plus, we love the filtered-chorus intro—one of the neater tricks that Rihanna (slash Dr. Luke) has picked up from UK house of late.
Cons: It’s a sort of slight song for Rihanna in these days of her pushing towards provocateur status, but perhaps that’s something of the point. It certainly makes for a red herring as an album opener, but once again, perhaps an intentional move on Ri’s part. It’s a grower, in any event.
Hard “R” Lyric: The most overtly freaky is definitely “You shouldn’t have give it to me good like that / Shouldn’t have hit it like that / Had me yellin’ like that,” but we’re gonna go with the chorus lyric of “You da one / So I’ll make sure I behave.” After “S&M,” the word “behave” is sort of a nasty trump card for Rihanna.
Single-Worthy?: No doubt, but again, it would’ve sounded a lot better before the leaves had even gotten the idea to start falling from the trees and whatnot. Maybe it’ll be huge in Australia or something.
4. “Where Have You Been”
Sounds Like: The Dr. Luke / Calvin Harris team-up that it is: a rave template courtesy of Calvin Harris, with synth-and-lasers freakery provided by Luke, who’s clearly been paying attention to the Peas. In Rihanna terms, this means it sounds like “Only Girl (in the World)” in a different key.
Pros: Said rave template got to be one because it’s proven: it lets the track build, slowly, flings its emotions out in one big strobe-lit chorus, then dances them until they subside. It’s a bunch of emotional manipulation, but it’s manipulation that works. Rihanna does three major things, all of which work equally well: dropping in the flat monotone “yeah”s that she must’ve patented by now, letting her voice be chopped up, looped, clipped or otherwise turned into a sample, and letting some quaver slip in the beginning and end that almost sounds vulnerable. These pros will be even more promising in the club, the track’s natural home.
Cons: A template that works is still a template, and even if you’ve heard only one trance song in your life, you can practically hear the stage directions beneath every section: “be quiet on the intro,” “soar your vocals over the chorus, leaving no percussion beneath,” “ratchet up the drums,” “insert drop here,” “pull back to build back up,” “close a cappella.” That budget handclap preset could also stand to go.
Single-Worthy? Yes; “We Found Love” is this but perkier, and it didn’t exactly flop. Clubs will always need club music, so we’re gonna go ahead and call this as single three or four.
Hard-R Lyric: “You can have me all you want, anywhere, any day.” OK, maybe a hard PG-13. It’s the second track; you’ve got to pace yourself.
For the top three songs off Talk That Talk, click NEXT.