- - Monday, November 21, 2011

Talk That Talk

Rihanna

Def Jam

★★★


If it seems like there’s been a new Rihanna album every year since 2005, that’s because there has been a new Rihanna album every year since 2005. She’s the Energizer Bunny of R&B, releasing so much music that it’s hard to tell which hit came from which record.

The hits continue with “Talk That Talk,” an album that has already produced one chart-topper, “We Found Love,” and promises to do more before 2012 rolls around, likely bringing another record with it. Sticking to that sort of busy schedule doesn’t give Rihanna much time to revise her sound, meaning she runs the risk of maintaining her momentum without ever really thinking about where she’s going. “Talk That Talk” manages to change direction significantly, though, steering clear of the darker themes that filled her last two albums, “Rated R” and “Loud,” while favoring a mix of sweeping electro-pop ballads, neon-bright club anthems and carnal, risque R&B tunes.

Since being assaulted by her former boyfriend, Chris Brown, in early 2009, Rihanna has tended to equate love with violence. “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn; that’s alright because I like the way it hurts” she sang on last year’s “Love the Way You Lie,” a haunting duet with Eminem that echoed her history of domestic abuse. “Talk That Talk” arrives just 15 months later, but one glance at the tracklist with its optimistic, giddy song titles like “We Found Love,” “You Da One” and “Drunk on Love” shows how she’s grown in the interim.

Of course, this isn’t the sort of love that Justin Bieber sings about. Rihanna’s lyrics are bawdy and strongly suggestive, depicting love as less of an emotion and more of an animalistic, purely physical act. “I’ll show you my dirty secrets,” she promises during one song.

Pay attention to the actual music, though, and “Talk That Talk” proves to be a breeze of an album, from the tropical swagger of the leadoff track - a nod to Rihanna’s Barbadian roots - to the dramatic, power ballad closer. The sexual innuendo may be knee-deep throughout, but right now, it’s enough to hear Rihanna sounding happy again, dispelling the clouds that enveloped her for years. A Caribbean Queen needs a little sunshine once in awhile.

Break the Spell

Daughtry

RCA/19

★★★

Few “American Idol” veterans have distanced themselves from the show as well as Chris Daughtry, whose career as a brooding, grungy rocker has more in common with Eddie Vedder than Simon Cowell.

On his third album with Daughtry, the five-piece band that bears his name, he delivers a familiar mix of guitar-driven epics, mid-tempo rock songs and tough-guy ballads. “Break the Spell” feels like a continuation of the same sound Mr. Daughtry has been creating since his 2006 debut, but there’s plenty of life left in the band’s sonic attack.

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