Rihanna's much-anticipated Talk That Talk hit stores Monday on a wave of near-universal praise from critics. The album, which can already claim the #1 song in the country, "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris, is earning the Barbadian pop superstar the best reviews of her commercially massive career.
MTV News' James Montgomery already declared Talk That Talk "not only the best effort of her career, but arguably the best pop album of 2011," an assessment echoed by the New York Times, People, Rolling Stone and SPIN.
"The best songs on this lively and often great album sound synth-perfect for that time [the early 1990s]. 'We Found Love' almost criminally recalls the swinging Crystal Waters singles, with triumphant percussion somewhere between church and seventh-inning stretch," the Times writes. " 'Where Have You Been' is even better, with hard, chilly synths, snares from the poppier side of house music, and Rihanna moving in and out of a curled Siouxsie Sioux tone."
In a three-and-a-half -star review (out of four), People calls Talk That Talk "one of 2011's best pop-diva statements," while Spin awards the set an 8 out of 10, complimenting the "occasionally perfect pop" songs on the record and noting the set is easily Rihanna's most cohesive to date.
Rolling Stone also notes that Talk is far more than a collection of singles. "Rihanna's sixth album is her tightest, most assured yet — a relentlessly catchy and danceable pop album, with first-rate contributions from top songwriter-producers," the magazine writes.
Many critics also seem pleased that the pop star is moving away from the darker, brooding material that marked her last two records, Rated R and Loud. Those albums appeared to be heavily influenced by her troubled relationship with Chris Brown, and, as noted in Entertainment Weekly's B-plus review, often "equated falling for someone with feeling tortured."
On Talk, RiRi instead approaches the topics of love and sex — the album's principal themes — with a less-heavy hand, even admitting on "Roc Me Out": "I'll let you in on a dirty secret/ I just want to be loved."
While the album is mostly earning raves, Pitchfork had a few complaints — mostly that the brief set (the 11-track album clocks in at a mere 38 minutes) never fully realizes its potential.
In its summation of the album, Billboard calls Talk "a fleshed-out statement that captures Rihanna's relentless drive and will likely keep her on top. This album's not a victory lap; it's a whole new race."
Whether the mostly stellar reviews will translate into strong sales for Rihanna, who set a Billboard chart record by racking up 20 Top-10 singles faster than any solo artist, with "We Found Love," remains to be seen.
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