Is there a harder-working pop star than Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty? This year alone, the 23-year-old Bajan singer has released five singles, collaborated with Coldplay, Nicki Minaj and Drake and embarked on a huge worldwide tour. On her off days, she’s recorded Talk That Talk, her sixth album in seven years, an adrenalised behemoth of a record which reasserts her position as one of pop’s most compulsive pleasures. It’s her most club-ready album to date, fizzing along in a blur of fast-moving electro beats, fearsome synths and lascivious lyrical taunts.
Confidence courses through the music: when she sings “I want you to be my sex slave” on the lustful, guttural Cockiness (Love It), it’s an order, not a request. The demons from her relationship with Chris Brown now sound fully exorcised – Rihanna sings as if she is in love with life, and wants to bring us along for the party. The singer only co-writes four songs on the album, yet each track becomes indelibly hers through the subtle Caribbean dancehall influences and her instantly recognisable vocals. Only a lone Jay-Z rap on the track Talk That Talk briefly bumps Rihanna from centre stage.
The whole album is essentially a collection of could-be singles. That might become overwhelming – but with hooks as irresistible as these, it’s difficult to care.