Rihanna's 9th album(!) is upon us after some mistakes over at Tidal. And frankly, after a whole 3-4 years since she's left the pop scene, there's really some needing of her vocals. However, with the way Anti is... for some people, it's either a turn off or a walk out the door. As such, there might not be any comfort for the fans in this regard. But hey, we got an album to review.
After 7 years of Rihanna albums back-to-back, it seemed like the break the Barbadian singer took in the last 3 years was like a pop treatment that maybe got on a little too much. Considering how many singles there were on her previous releases, it was good to take a break from Rihanna as well, especially when this new album was more experimental than I had ever imagined. For the most part, this didn't feel in any way like Rihanna at all. And that could be a good thing.
With no high profile singles leading up to the release, if you take Work featuring Drake, which is pretty mediocre, it certainly felt like a surprise for some fans, especially reviewers. And what does Anti, Rihanna’s latest release feel like?
Well, at first, it felt like a pill that was hard to swallow. Considering the trap, percussion and sleaze synths that are prominent on this album, it certainly needed some getting used to. What's even more obvious and clear was that no tracks on the album bar a slight few could be considered singles that would actually land decently on the charts. It was like a new Rihanna that took getting used to for sure.
What was really consistent would be Rihanna herself, when the chill efforts and the slow pieces seemed to fit her pretty well, though not perfectly. She seemed to blend in with the tracks and was like an instrument attached to the production, making the vocals seem much more in tune with the songs. Desperado, Needed Me and Love on the Brain feels more like the Rihanna of old with a bit of roughness and grit attached to it, where the vocals simply take over the wheels. While the RnB feel and vibe may have slowly crept down, though still in there somewhere, doesn’t really matter as much considering the drastic turn that is prominent here.
While the production is a little jarring on the first few listens, I think that it is inevitably going to take some getting used to, especially for hardened Rihanna listeners and fans. While the darker edge of her previous release, Unapologetic, did carry that tone pretty well, there’s still some of it in Anti. One of my favourites, Close To You, seems like a mix between Stay and California King Bed, and will feel instantly familiar to fans and listeners alike. The somber and calm piano piece brushing together gracefully with Rihanna’s voice goes together pretty well.
Then, on the opposite side of things, the experimental side of things either start to shape up pretty poorly, or Rihanna just simply lets it go. Most of the tracks here either hit the contemporary sector or just simply is too boring and empty to show for it. Work featuring Drake is more than just a ‘chill’ track with a mumbling chorus and Woo’s ability to strike up a decent melody comes off as disarray and disingenuous, having no potent ability to take a break from the constant short electric guitar riff that takes place throughout the whole song. While the former is not as bad on a wholesale look, it’s definitely not a good song at all.
All in all, this album has got to be either polarizing or intriguing to listen to, considering the fan-base in question. Still, Rihanna does a fine job with her vocals for the most part, with the bigger question marks lying in whether the sudden experimentation of genre and instruments might eventually turn heads for non-listeners. While it's not the worst Rihanna album, and it taking quite a sharp turn from her previous release, I can see why the record being on most anticipated lists may not possess that same number when it comes to year-end charts. Granted, it is a Rihanna album, and while her singles are what comes to mind most of the time, I guess by placing emphasis on the vehicle that would carry the tracks could potentially help her in the long run and not just carve success from singles all the time.
Anti is worth taking a look, if anything, marred by the overthrowing production and for the most part consistent vocals from Rihanna.
Favourite Tracks: Kiss It Better, Desperado, Close To You, Love On The Brain
Least Favourite Tracks: Woo
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.