3. “Drunk on Love”
Sounds Like: The Talk That Talk track that samples the xx’s “Intro.” (Tangent: Anyone wanna take on the task of wading through the YouTube comments to see whether there are more angry xx fans or angry Rihanna fans? This track makes everyone so mad! It shouldn’t!) Anyway, one of the lyrics is “I wear my heart on my sleeve,” and so does this; the xx’s brief intro is turned here into a huge power ballad. The percussion is huge, the atmospherics are heavy, and everything’s more-than-slightly emo.
Pros: “Drunk On Love” is basically one big slab of melodrama, but damn it, it works. Sure, the xx sample does most of the heavy drifting here, but it’s well-used–notice how the vocals of the original become backing vocals for Rihanna with almost no adulteration.
Cons: This track doesn’t start quiet and build to its bombast; it starts out medium and ends up past bombast. Not much on Talk That Talk is subtle, but you could call this overblown even by the album’s standards. Also: Rihanna doesn’t sound drunk. Neither of these detract much.
Hard-R Lyric: “I love the way you taste on my lips when we kiss.” That’s a PG-13 lyric at best, but you can either have lovelorn drama or filth, not both. That is to say, you can have both (c.f. JoJo’s “Marvin’s Room“), but that requires the sort of finesse “Drunk on Love” has already blasted to pieces.
Single-Worthy? This is probably going to be relegated to “interesting album track”–as much of an album track as Rihanna’s ever made, that is. Rihanna isn’t remembered for the likes of “Unfaithful” or “Take a Bow.” It’s still good.
2. “We Found Love”
Sounds Like: The most popular song in America, apparently. Like Loud‘s lead single “Only Girl (In the World),” Rihanna went the Euro dance-pop route for Talk That Talk‘s first transmission, even going so far as to enlist the help of UK super-producer/songwriter Calvin Harris (and giving him the featured-artist credit he so richly deserves). Harris takes her deeper into the clubs than she’s ever been—even compared to “Only Girl” and 2007′s “Don’t Stop the Music,” neither of which were songs that would be often described as “restrained,” “We Found Love” is complete release, totally giving of mind, body and spirit over to the spirit of dance music. The video helps.
Pros: The main hook is divine, and the escalating synth-alarm build-up that ends up exploding into that unforgettable riff is the best reason to throw your hands in the air as if you did not fear the consequences that we’ve heard so far this year. Meanwhile, Rihanna meets Calvin’s instrumental exuberance without hesitation, and some of the song’s finest moments come even before the pre-chorus build up, with Rihanna ecstatically rhapsodizing “It’s the way I’m feeling, I just can’t deny.” Again—the video helps.
Cons: The one thing holding the song back from being one of Rihanna’s finest moments—a single to match “Umbrella,” “S.O.S.” and “Disturbia” and to absolutely kick the crap out of “Rude Boy” and “Only Girl”—is the chorus. “We found love in a hopeless place” is just kind of a weird statement, one that cries out for further elaboration, but Rihanna’s not giving—the lyric is the chorus entire, and nothing in the verses shines any further light on it. It’s still celebratory-sounding enough that you can sort of get the idea if you divest yourself from the actual words, but it makes for kind of a hollow singalong.
Hard “R” Lyric: Actually, despite the craziness of the video, the lyrics here are innocent enough for even the 13 and unders. “Turn away cause I need you more / Feel the heartbeat in my mind,” feels uncomfortably intense, possibly.
Single-Worthy?: Nah, it’ll never sell.
1. “Cockiness (Love It)”
Sounds Like: A Bangladesh production a la “6 Foot 7 Foot” and “A Milli,” with an endlessly repeating vocal sample in the background. This one takes an even more minimal approach than ol’ Banger usually does, though—it’s almost Diplo-esque in its austerity and incredibly subtle hook construction. Most notably, the song pauses from its beat (constructed out of a booming low-end and an unintelligible rhythmic vocal sample) a couple times, for Rihanna to belt out “No one can do you the way that I do / Boy I wa-a-a-ant…,” at which point the voice from the repeating sample re-enters to scream “YOUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!” It’s striking, to say the least.
Pros: Your opinion of the song will likely be perfectly encapsulated by your feelings on the “Boy I want / YOUUUUU!!!” sections. For us, we absolutely adore them, as well as the beat in general, and Rihanna’s double-tracked vocals on the chorus, and the way the verses basically feature her singing a call-and-response hook with herself as her own backing vocalist. The thing clocks in at a scant 2:58, but we could probably go for another five minutes on this thing, easy. It should make as a great backing track for some rap freestyles in the last two months of 2011.
Cons: The other immediately striking thing about “Cockiness” beyond the beat would have to be the song’s eye-opening chorus (“Suck my cockiness, Lick my persuasion”) and similarly less-than-subtle refrain of “I love it, I love it, I love it when you eat it.” Not necessarily a bad thing—you certainly couldn’t say that Rihanna didn’t go hard over this wacky-ass beat—but it can be, uh, a little distracting.
Hard “R” Lyric: Take your pick, really, but we’re quite fond of “She may be the queen of hearts / But I’m gonna be the queen of your body parts.”
Single-Worthy?: A conundrum for sure. Like “Countdown” off Beyoncé’s 4, it might be a song that’s too good not to release as a single, but too crazy to get ever much traction once promoted. (And even “Countdown” didn’t have the added hindrance of a chorus and refrain that are going to call for a whole lot of creative censoring.)
Agree with our rankings? Disagree? Think early reviews might have overplayed the sex factor? Heard the entirety of “Birthday Cake”? Leave a comment..