Album Review: Rihanna – ‘ANTI’
It’s the first album from one of the biggest artists in the world and it really is…something. For nearly two years, Rihanna has been hard at work creating her eighth studio album, ‘ANTI’. The lead up to ‘ANTI’ has been far from ideal. Three (mostly underperforming) buzz singles rolled out over the course of a year, countless push backs occurred, a seemingly abandoned interactive campaign with Samsung came in at the ninth inning, and now a leak before the album’s official announcement has rounded things out. The Navy is treading rough waters these days and, in our opinion, it doesn’t sound like things are going to become any smoother any time soon.
With everything that has come with ‘ANTI’, we pride ourselves on being able to keep an open mind when it came to the roll out and the music. When many others called Rihanna out for changing things up a little, we embraced everything for what it was. It’s called ‘ANTI’ for Christ’s sake – nothing about this album was going to be like a typical Rihanna release. We really tried with this one, but ‘ANTI’ is so lackluster that we’re more confused coming out of the record than going into it.
Ri talked a good game when it came to this record. She billed it as “timeless” and “classic” – an album full of songs that she could sing 15-20 years down the road. We don’t know what she was thinking when she said that, but none of these songs fit the description. MAYBE one or two.
‘ANTI’ is nothing but a collection of boring experimental mid-tempo 2-3 minute songs that we’d soon rather forget. It’s hard to believe it took a few years, multiple delays, and three “buzz singles” to create this album. Every single thing about it seems rushed or everything was just sat on until whenever Rihanna felt like releasing it.
One single word to describe nearly every song on this album is: fine. ‘Consideration’, a Jamaican trip-hoppy declaration of independence, is just fine. The album’s sole piano ballad, ‘Close To You’ is just fine. “Lead single” ‘Work’ is just fine. The Spanish guitar led ‘Never Ending’ is very one level and simply just fine. We couldn’t pick these songs out of a line up. So underwhelming, so disappointing, and above all unmemorable.
Hey, here’s another word to describe a few more songs on this record: boring. ‘James Joint’ is gone with a blink of an eye. The bass-driven ‘Desperado’ is lazy. ‘Woo’ is borderline inaudible and obnoxious. ‘Yeah, I Said It’ …said what, exactly? And don’t even get us started on the monotonous Tame Impala cover of ‘Same Ol’ Mistake’.
There’s literally one intriguing song on this record, and that’s the trappy DJ Mustard produced ‘Needed Me’ – but we’re still unsure as to why. At best, it sounds like a leftover from a recording session where Ri was just messing around in the beginning of an album cycle.
Now, we mentioned one or two songs that really fit the bill of being “timeless” and “classic”. It’s more like three so forgive us on that. Of course, they’re ‘Kiss It Better’, ‘Love On The Brain’, and ‘Higher’ – the three songs we knew about way back when we first heard about ‘ANTI’.
Rihanna has always admired Prince – even going as far as to covering many of his songs on a few of her tours. Rihanna fully embodies the rock god on ‘Kiss It Better’ – a tender and vulnerable electric-guitar driven mid tempo that finds Ri singing differently about heartache than before.
Meanwhile, Rihanna jumps back to the Motown era and channels a soulful sound on ‘Love On The Brain’. There’s really nothing like her smooth falsetto and a sweeping orchestra of soaring strings to make you forget about the rest of the mess that fills this record. Kidding (sort of), but it’s a nice contrast to all the dance and club anthems Rihanna has been known for over the years.
And then there’s ‘Higher’. At times, it’s so screechy that it literally becomes painful to listen to – but on the other hand, you can really appreciate how raw and cinematic it is as a whole. Even if that whole is literally 2:01.
The bottom line is that Rihanna did not need to re-brand herself and her sound into whatever ‘ANTI’ is. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing. There’s nothing wrong with trying something new either. We understand wanting to branch out and evolve…but there’s that and then there’s ‘ANTI’.
We mentioned that after listening to ‘ANTI’ we were filled with more confusion than ever before. Who the hell really executive produced and allowed this? Where are the previous “singles”? Where is ‘A Night’? Why this direction? Why this vision? Why this sound? Why now? Why these songs? What happened to the twenty something tracks that she was supposedly debating to release? What changed from ‘FourFiveSeconds’ to now?
It’ll be very interesting to see how this album performs. There’s no lead up, no hype – just one big ol’ leak. There’s no doubt about it that this will 100% be her worst selling album to date. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit, to be honest.
We’ve been wrong before and we’ll be wrong again. We very well may be wrong when it comes to this record. We’re eager to hear Rihanna talk in depth about ‘ANTI’ and explain the vision behind this polarizing piece of work. We don’t agree with the direction she’s heading in, but there’s one thing we can agree with. It’s something she said on ‘Desperado’: “there ain’t nothing here for me.” Damn straight, Ri.