After four years of waiting on the next album, a year’s worth of rumors, and what seemed to be a maze of clues thanks to a lot of Samsung’s cross-promotion, Pop Princess Rihanna FINALLY dropped her highly anticipated album, Anti, this past Thursday. And as the world normally does when Rih does anything, it literally stopped for everyone to run over to Tidal to stream the album, and download it for THE FREE thanks to Samsung and that $25-million deal Rihanna signed with the company last year.
Anti’s original 13-track compilation features appearances from SZA, Drake, and Rih-Rih’s alleged new boo Travis Scott, in addition to collaborations with hit-makers DJ Mustard, Hit-Boy, Brian Kennedy, Timbaland and one of my favs No I.D. In relation to her previous albums, Anti shies away from Rihanna’s familiar Pop and EDM sounds—this one is like a dancehall meets R&B/Soul. The album collectively doesn’t follow up to the summer hit “BBHMM” single, but it definitely shows the bad girl’s vocals have improved dramatically since her earlier projects. Remember her “What Now” record off 2012’s Unapologetic and it’s vibrato excellence? Well yeah, she def put in “Work” with this one.
So let’s get into this album review!
The record opens with the SZA and Rihanna collab “Consideration.” The song starts off with this “Welcome to Jamrock” dancehall feel, but it’s definitely not the mystical fantasy filled with stardust and unicorns that I expected from a SZA/Rihanna collab. A little disappointing, but it’s an okay tune to start with.
“James Joint” made me laugh. This stoner interlude was released back in April in celebration of 4/20. And it does just that. The interlude’s follow up, “Kiss It Better” is a hit!!! It starts off with that lit electric guitar intro we all know and love thanks to the good 90’s jams (think TLC’s “Red Light Special” with this one). This track has that ol’ school 90’s ballad feel; the lyrics are bold and really sexy. Surely won’t disappoint your Netflix & Chill playlists.
The album’s first single “Work” was TOO full of hype…and quite frankly, it wasn’t worth the hype. It sticks to the dancehall reference of the album, but the lyrics are really lacking on this one. Without the feature from the 6 God, Drake, and it’s catchy hook, I honestly don’t think this one would be as popular as it is on your airwaves right now.
“Desperado” does something different for the album. It’s mid-western meets R&B theme sounds like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Drink You Away,” just without the same power. It’s an okay track. Not really crazy about this one, but it’s the next track that I think we were all anticipating—the Travis Scott and Rihanna collab. “Woo” sounds like a Travis Scott instrumental with the heavy auto-tune background vocals, metal guitars, and that techno synthisizer we’re all familiar with thanks to Scott’s “Antidote.” It’s very “raid-like,” as Scott coos the chorus of the record, while Rihanna talks that talk through the verses. The lyrics sound like shots fired about an ex and his new chick…but that’s none of my business!
The next track “Needed Me” is what I’d like to think as Rihanna’s intentional song of comfort for the ladies to remind those good for nothing exes that think they really out there doing something, that they’re not. It’s a cool half-way mark through the album.The album’s ninth song “Yeah, I Said It” reminds us all of why we call her bad girl Rih-Rih. It’s rhythmic synthesizing beat and mystical instrumentals bring back the sexy to the album and is for sure your next 50 Shades tracklist addition. Thank Rih-Rih!
“Same Ol’ Mistakes” sounds like a techno meets some really lit drum cadences under the sound of a mellow singing Rih. It gives that mystical touch I was looking for on “Contradiction,” but it also sounds like the kind of song you would hear walking past Forever 21. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but it’s cool.
“Never Ending” seems to be misplaced. It’s mood and instrumentals doesn’t quite fit the mold and theme of the album. The song tells the story of a deep and addicting love of the heart over a beautiful Spanish guitar—it’s a great song, it just doesn’t go here!
These next two tracks come as a MAJOR surprise from the Pop Princess. “Love on the Brain” is a gem!!! This R&B ballad takes us back to the roots of R&B, when music used to make listeners feel. With the organ, that ol’ school high hat, a good ol’ bass guitar AND RIH SINGING THE HELL OUT THIS SONG, the song is a showstopper—she went straight Etta James with this one! It’s a beautiful contradiction of the Rihanna we’re used to, as she shows off her amazing growth as an artist. “Higher” follows up with the ol’ school R&B vibe and GOSH her range!!! Her raspy voice effortlessly climbs in octave on this one. It’s almost too good to be true in its short 2-minute duration.
The final track of the album, “Close to You,” is a chilling ballad to a great piano instrumental about losing the connection with a lover. It’s beautifully written by Brian Kennedy, James Fauntleroy and Rih-Rih, full of passion, love, and honesty, which makes you fall in love even more with Rih’s developing artistry.
The backend of Anti proved to be worth waiting for; if you don’t listen to the album through, I promise you’ll regret it! If you downloaded the deluxe version of Anti, I’ll say the rebellious “Goodnight Gotham” should have been the album’s opening track, as it would’ve done better as an intro-anthem for the album. “Pose” is your next Rih-Rih turn up track and “Sex With Me”…I mean I think all of us could imagine what that kind of experience with Rihanna would be like…“amazing” like she says! But I personally don’t care. It’s a throwaway track, but since it’s a bonus track, I guess it works.
According to the good peeps over at Tidal, the album was streamed more than 13 millions times in its first 14 hours—kind of lit if you ask me? Rih will be touring this spring with Travis Scott on the Anti tour, sponsored by Samsung. Based on the album and her repertoire of hits, you might want to check this tour out!