Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on the logic that just because a lot of the music on the radio is crap doesn't mean all the music on the radio is crap.
The hit: "We Found Love," Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris (off the forthcoming Talk That Talk, out November 18).
Current chart position: #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, #5 on iTunes.
The team: 27-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter/producer/DJ Calvin Harris made his mark (mostly in the UK) with two solo electropop albums, 2007's I Created Disco ("The Girls," "Acceptable in the 80s") and 2009's Ready for the Weekend. He's collaborated with Kelis, Dizzee Rascal, Tiesto, and LMFAO, and has worked as a producer for records by Kylie Minogue (X, Aphrodite) and Katy Perry ("Waking Up in Vegas"). Earlier this year, Harris opened for Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth tour, which is how the two met and "We Found Love" came to be.
Breakdown: I'm not really a Rihanna fan. I haven't liked anything she's done since "Umbrella," and that's mostly because her songs, from "Rude Boy" to "S&M," seem to keep getting progressively raunchier--in my eyes, and ears, some of her stuff hurdles over the line from sensual down to overly crass. I like my pop stars sexy, not vulgar. But none of that uncomfortable aggression makes it onto "We Found Love," and in terms of simple finesse and elegance, the track represents a maturation for both Rihanna and Harris. Harris' repetitive loops of beats, blips, and claps give off a bright trance vibe--sounding similar to his 2009 single "I'm Not Alone." Rihanna's voice, endlessly repeating the ultra-romantic line, "We found love in a hopeless place," flutters, soars, and sounds like it never has before--airy and light as a butterfly. It's a basic, clean and easy song--it doesn't even really have a bridge--but that also means that it's not overwrought, and its simplicity is refreshing. Rihanna's an R&B princess, but this Euro-trance thing may work even better for her.