After the release of the Drake collaboration “Work,” a sub-par, promotional track for Rihanna’s eighth studio album Anti, the fate of the singer’s latest installment was nothing short of questionable.
The solo, lined with Jamaican Patois and sexual innuendos, utilizes constant repetition throughout the chorus, almost to the point of annoyance, with Rihanna singing, “[w]ork, work, work, work, work, work.” It’s no testament to the randomness of Anti, but its unique one part dancehall, one part reggae-feel accurately alludes to the album’s unique, unorthodox sound.
Thankfully, while “Work” was a sheer marketing failure, highlighting the worst of the record, Rihanna’s newfound aesthetic, not too far removed from her personal life, was the album’s saving grace.
The 16-track album, exploding with carefree content over pulsating, slow-paced sounds, is the most obscure effort the 27-year-old singer and songwriter has released to date – an agreeable surprise for some and a veritable disappointment for others. In general, it left long-time fans in the latter of the two stances.
Led by a melancholy “Consideration,” featuring neo soul singer SZA, consistent drumming and clapping carries the track, starting the record out on a less than powerful note. In essence though, the record targets an audience far removed from the world of airy pop tracks, making “Consideration” the ideal lead track for Anti.
Realistically, there’s a power to every successful album and here it comes from RiRi’s lack of concern about reputation; she sings what she thinks and nothing more, unapologetically.
Tracks “James Joint,” “Woo,” “Yeah, I Said It” and “Same Ol’ Mistakes” boast a similar aesthetic of relaxation-inducing tunes, all too obviously providing to a rougher audience.
“Kiss it Better,” “Needed Me” and “Never Ending” stay closer to the Rihanna we’ve known since her 2005 debut album Music of the Sun. It’s all about passion, sex and relationships, something Rihanna’s consistently made headlines for over her decade-long career.
Album outliers and, ironically, fan pleasers “Love on the Brain” and “Higher” show off the singer’s vocal talent, taking the focus off of hard-hitting beats and putting it onto thoughtful lyrics and impressive vocal range.
“Higher,” which boasts a raspy quality of voice, finds its place as the outstanding track on the installment as Rihanna sings, “You take me higher, higher than I’ve ever been, babe/Just come over, let’s pour a drink, babe.” It’s a possible double entendre, but the track is sustained by the Barbados native’s raw, imperfect and almost unedited-sounding vocals.
According to Huffington Post, critics are generally torn on Anti, with the Telegraph commending Riri for her depth and texture and The New York Times dubbing it a “…chaotic and scattershot album…”
For some, Anti establishes itself as an “Anti-pop” album, refusing to conform to the typical repetition and consistency of Rihanna’s past efforts. To some extent, the backlash is expected because of Rihanna’s clear lack of care about offending listeners or staying true to her roots.
Anti is a definite phase album, highlighting an artistic transition in the “Umbrella” singer’s career, rather than appealing to the masses. And so, Anti becomes highly subjected to listeners’ varying tastes.
Whether fans and critics side in favor or opposition to Anti, most can commend Rihanna on her audacious efforts. Its sound might not be tailored for the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s tailored for industry respect.