Album Review: Rihanna x Anti

(Released January 28th, 2016 – Tidal Exclusive) 

It’s been three years since Pop star Rihanna released her seventh studio album Unapologetic, since then the Bajan beauty has been the cover girl of various magazines, became the face of Dior and has seemingly taken over the fashion world; but unfortunately for her fans those endeavors halted her music career; even though she was able to start her own label and publishing company. But her hiatus is now over and she’s returned with her latest effort Anti.

She’s been working on this project for more than two years on and off and has delivered one of the messiest and confusing album rollouts that I’ve ever seen. Constant speculation about when the album would come put fans into a frenzy. Upon the albums promotional campaign, sponsored by Samsung, Rihanna launched Anti Diary to hold the public over as they decoded the meaning behind the interactive rooms. The release of said rooms were spread apart, sometimes very far apart, so the release date was uncertain and often fabricated by media outlets. But now it’s finally here!

Before pressing play I was beyond skeptical on the direction and sound of this album. Rihanna is known for making Pop music to appeal to the masses but after releasing three “buzz” singles ( FourFiveSeconds, Anerican Oxygen and Bitch Better Have My Money) which are all noticeably absent from Anti, judging by the direction of those singles the album was destined to be a disaster. But the star has seemingly proven everyone wrong.

The album opens up with Consideration, a record that features TDE singer/songwriter SZA, and immediately my attention was grabbed by the production and Rihanna’s accent being put front and center. The opener was written by SZA and there’s a nice and subtle back and forth between the pair that altogether make up a great start to a what some thought would be a rocky experience.

Attention grabbers and surprises are throughout Anti as the singer showcases some musical growth. The majority of the production is dark and not quite radio friendly, but it works. Songs like Yeah, I Said It, Woo and Needed Me are great examples of this. Along with the darker approach there are also moments that should prove that if Rihanna actually took the proper time to  develop vocally she’d be able to do a broader spectrum of music.

Higher and Love On The Brain both have a throwback sound that reminds me of the Etta James era of music. Now while she’s not a powerhouse vocalist by any means, these two tracks in particular showcased her ability to go against what is expected of her and push the envelope a bit. Anti also features ballads Never Ending and Close To You, which closes the standard edition, Never Ending is a cute song while Close To You is reminiscent of the songs from the Home soundtrack. The new “first” single Work has a bubbly Caribbean vibe but falls short when it comes to knowing exactly what Rihanna is saying (where’s Rap Genius when you need them?). There is also Same Ol Mistake, this song takes the cake for being an unexpected and odd favorite. The overall production and vocal stylings are mesmerizing and take things to a different level when it comes to sound.

With all that being said there are some pros and comes with Rihanna’s eighth studio album. The pros for me were the fact that it’s out of the box from what you would expect a Rihanna album to sound like. She was able to surround herself with people who helped her craft a sound that might not be completely new but definitely new for the singer. The cons are that even though Anti isn’t filled with records that could give her numerous number one hits, there doesn’t seem to be a clear direction or concept.

Anti Diary gave the illusion that this would be a journey, which to some it was, but not on the level expected; especially after waiting three years to take it. To me the songs seemed impersonal, whether they actually are or not I don’t know, but it didn’t give me the genuine feeling that Rated R did. But to others that might be a completely different story.

Some will view Anti as Rihanna’s magnum opus, some will not. But what can’t be disregarded is the singers ability to take chances. If she keeps this up she’ll truly blossom musically without feeling like she has to succumb to what mainstream media wants her to do.

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