Rihanna's voice isn't the reason she's racked up 20 Top 10 hits faster than any other solo artist; it's because of her ears.
No one can currently match her for hearing a musical trend and making it her own. "Talk That Talk" (Def Jam), her impressive sixth studio album in seven years, confirms it.
This time out, Rihanna takes on the new fascination -- mostly European, so far -- of dubstep, the club sound that is as much about atmospherics and melody as thudding beat. Her No. 1 smash "We Found Love" shows how the spare sound works best, but its impact is even more powerful when paired with the equally potent "Where Have You Been," which creates similar emotional peaks as "We Found Love" and should also easily top the charts.
After all, Rihanna is major enough that when she acts on her interests, radio follows her. She certainly has some new adventures planned -- from the breezy, island-tinged sing-along "You Da One" and the playful "Watch 'n' Learn" that feels like her answer to Janet Jackson's "Doesn't Really Matter." She also offers a new powerful ballad, "Farewell," that could grow into one of her signature songs.
With "Talk That Talk," Rihanna makes her mixture of experiments and surefire hits look much too easy.
"Talk That Talk"
THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE She found love (and near-perfect pop) in a hopeless place