Westbury Road / Roc Nation
It was late last Wednesday night when I somehow ended up with Rihanna’s newest album for free. Anti, the singer’s eighth studio album, was released for free through Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal. I was just clicking around on Twitter and a few links later, her entire album was downloading to my computer. I was already excited for Rihanna’s new project…but this put the cherry on top. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, since the idea of a “surprise album release” is now commonplace in a music industry that is changing every day. Rihanna always strives to be different from everybody else and in true Rihanna fashion, Anti is supremely different from her previous work.
Gone are the high-octane hip-hop beats and fiery pop sound. Anti is more of a slow-chopped R&B affair and it also happens to be one of Rihanna’s most personal records yet. This creative freedom might be the result of RiRi’s label change, moving from Def Jam to Roc Nation. The album consists of songs of reflection on relationships of the past. In fact, most of the album gets personal about her love life, including her highly public (and probably abusive) relationship with Chris Brown.
The album opens up with “Consideration,” featuring singer SZA. The song is about Rihanna’s music career and how there should be a bigger emphasis on being an artist rather than an entertainer. Rihanna has writing credits on the song, as well as all the other songs that appear on the album, which is a big deal for her. This is one of her first forays into songwriting and it pays off in big ways. To give context, Rihanna’s album Loud featured zero writing credits from the artist. She’s come a long way in terms of being an artist, which is what the song is all about. It’s a strong opening for an album.
Anti then continues to get deeper and deeper. The desperate “Kiss It Better” dives into the emotions of someone who just got out of a relationship but want’s their lover back, laced with some nice guitar riffs in the background. “Work,” the lone single from the album featuring, teams up with Drake to deliver a lust-filled narrative of two lovers. There’s an exotic reggae beat that goes along with the track that gives it it’s laid-back quality. The album is incredibly diverse in terms of sound, dipping it’s toes into genres like dancehall and soul.
Taking a break from the moody offerings on the album, “Desperado” is an energized and powerful track about being in a relationship with someone “on the run.” There’s also “Woo,” a collaboration with rapper Travis Scott, Rihanna’s first track with her esteemed lover. It’s a pointed track that delves into Rihanna’s feelings about an old flame. However, the best track on the album is not even Rihanna’s. “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” The song is essentially about her work towards not releasing songs that are “burnt out.” It’s a smooth track that is top-notch.
There is some first-rate writing on the album thanks to Rihanna, making Anti an experiential experience. This experience is complemented with some great sound production and engineering. In order to achieve the moody sounds that Rihanna wanted on the album, she teamed up with producers like Hit-Boy, DJ Mustard, Brian Kennedy, Timbaland, and No I.D., among others. Anti is a far cry from the EDM club and dance projects of Rihanna’s past, but this album’s distinct sounds is one of her best.
If songs like “FourFiveSeconds” and “American Oxygen” were any indication, Rihanna has seemingly changed her musical course of direction and delivers an album in Anti that stands strong on its own. Rihanna opens up with a collection of moody and love-infused tracks that will have you feeling all sorts of emotions. Although I loved the Rihanna of the past, I applaud her for the changes that she has made in order to deliver this fine product of her creativity.