An Anti-Climactic but Artistic Eighth Album
By Shantal Rowe
The Barbadian princess is back with her eighth studio album, ANTI, following a three-year hiatus. Though if you’re going by the album’s content, she’s vying for the spot of queen.
After 2012’s Unapologetic, fans and critics alike speculated on whether the artist would resort back to her early Caribbean roots or continue on the radio friendly path. With teasing tracks such as the critically acclaimed “FourFiveSeconds” featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney, many were at a loss for what R8, ANTI’s previous title, would entail.
Fast forward to the convenient leak of the album made by TIDAL on January 27. Thanks Jay-Z! Now, we have the most musically diverse album Rihanna has released yet.
The album opens with an eerie synthesized, almost 80’s inspired hip-hop, bass driven tune titled “Consideration.” You could simply skip to the chorus and get the point, as she sings, “I got to do things my own way darling / Will you ever respect me?” Singer-songwriter SZA also lends her vocals on the track, and we seem to get a promising start to a very different Rihanna album.
The second track gets slightly less sentimental with the opening line, “I’d rather be smoking weed whenever we breathe.” Though don’t let the lack of lyrical development deter you. “James Joint,” offers a pleasantly surprising, sultry, and almost jazz-driven beat which pairs cohesively with Rihanna’s nonchalant attitude towards love. You feel as if the track should be an interlude as it arrives way too soon.
“Kiss It Better,” takes a stab at 80’s guitar progressions while Rihanna interrogates a lover who’s probably not good for her anyway. While “Work,” is a Caribbean inspired tune reminiscent of the singer’s “Rude Boy” days. The addition of rapper Drake, seemed like a formula for success, just check out their previous tunes “What’s My Name,” and “Take Care.” Yet the song’s lack of lyrical progression is puzzling. Granted, it’s catchy; the beat is bound to inspire twerkers, but the vocal delivery comes off as inaudible, and somewhat lazy.
“Desperado” comes in with a heavy synth bass that screams drama.
“Woo” featuring Travis Scott, her rumored love interest, that takes on a genre best described as trap meets grunge. Distorted vocals echo throughout the song and once again, the lyrical content falls short despite the addition of A-list writers: The Weeknd and The Dream. The end of the track comes off as an experimental jam session.
DJ Mustard produced the track, “Needed Me,” which is one of the few songs on ANTI which has radio potential with a steadily crafted hip-pop beat. Simply stated, Rihanna doesn’t need anyone to save her, on the contrary, you’d do quite well with her by your side.
“Yeah, I Said It,” blends modern R&B and pop to express a level of confidence that Rihanna seems to own best.
As the album comes to a close, the ballads seem to come full force. First is the psychedelic “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” followed by the pop-folk “Never Ending,” and doo wop inspired ballad “Love on the Run,”
The albums last two tracks, “Higher,” and “Close to You,” seem to thread Rihanna’s artistic pursuit on a vulnerable note. “Higher,” could have been sculpted from a Motown classic. Though, the vocals tend to come off as stressed, the rasp in her tone fits perfectly for the sweet tune. “Close to You” is a sweet piano ballad which offers a clear emotional vocals accompanied by beautiful strings.
ANTI’s deluxe version also includes three additional tracks. “Good Night Gotham” is bass heavy and slightly repetitive. “Pose” is a little taste of trap, electro, and a hint of pop and “Sex with Me” is Rihanna’s ode to herself. She knows she’s hot and she wants to remind you.
While ANTI may not be as commercially crafted as Rihanna’s previous works, it’s artistic and refuses to conform to music’s expectations. ANTI is Rihanna’s first attempt at compiling a body of work, rather than a slew of hits. While it sacrifices the upbeat tunes of the past, it gains substance that transcends past radio.