It’s been a good three years since RiRi’s Unapologetic album in 2012. Come to think of it, it’s the longest break she’s had between releases in her career. Rihanna’s always known to be the sexy, notorious yet charismatic badgirl and her eighth full-length album, ANTI turns out to be exactly all of that and more. In retrospect, it’s actually something no one saw coming. If you’re expecting her usual radio hits, then I may have to be the bearer of bad news; it’s nothing like her past work.
Instead, ANTI seems to contain a lot of anti-POP tracks (that pun was too hard to pass up on), which is why it may have been difficult to find her songs on the radio. I think you notice the pattern here; Rihanna is going against the norm, hence ANTI. If you’ve listened to ANTI, it’s apparent that Rihanna’s goal isn’t airplay but it’s all about her wanting to be an artist in her own right, without being confined to the norms of pop. There’s no doubt about Rihanna’s vocal ability but this album seems to really shine the spotlight on her singing and her wayward personality. There’s a lot of depth and emotions; like an open book that lets us know how complicated her life has been, yet establishing the fact that she’s more than just that girl who sings.
I must admit though, I’m not the biggest fan of her fourth track ‘Work’, featuring Drake, which also happens to be the most radio friendly song off the album. It’s somewhat overly repetitive and I don’t find the lyrics any enticing either. Having said that, the album’s opening ‘Consideration’, joined by young female R&B singer SZA, was a pleasant surprise. It’s a fun, playful track yet wrapped up in sophistication. Perhaps only Rihanna can pull off singing “let me cover your sh*t in glitter, I can make it gold” with so much charisma. The mid tempo song outlines her worth as an independent, love-me-or-you-don’t artist. “Got to do things my own way, darling”, she sings; oh yes, we got you RiRi. You’re ready to be an ANTI and we’re fine with that.
The album continues with some slow and dreamy jams; ‘James Joint’ and ‘Kiss It Better’ are quite enjoyable especially the latter. One of the main reasons why her songs haven’t made it to commercial radio is because 9 out of 10 tracks were labeled explicit and RiRi mostly sings about love, drugs, sex and desire. She also talks about self-isolation in ‘Desperado’ where she sings “I’m not tryna go against yuh, I can be a lone wolf witcha”. Her nineth track, Needed Me has more than 110 million plays on Spotify and 45 million views on Youtube. It seems to me that her ability to seduce us with her sexy voice and body is working pretty well. Of course, Rihanna is more than just her badgirl persona. This girl has substance! The tail end of the album contains a few gems. ‘Love On The Brain’ is worth a listen. Her soulful voice in this track somehow reminds me of Beyonce’s ‘Superpower’ featuring Frank Ocean.
The songs in ANTI are atmospheric, provocative and mysterious with chilled mid tempos and twisted beats. It’s not everyone’s kind of music but it’s obvious why she named it ANTI. It’s a daring plunge by Rihanna after making hits after hits for the past decade. As for ANTI, you either love it or you don’t. It’s growing on me, that’s for sure.