Pop’s true rebel queen is back. After a four year gap since Unapologetic, Rihanna has returned with her next studio album that embodies the sensualities of life. ANTI, while released under unfavorable circumstances, to say the least, is here and is full of pop bangers that will definitely blow up the airwaves.
The album begins with the groovy ‘Consideration’, a nostalgia-inducing track with an accompanying lo-fi, almost 8-bit beat backing it and groovy bass line. This track really sets the stage for Rihanna’s attitude exhibited in most of this album, and introduced the central subject of many tracks: love. Rihanna has a very calm yet somewhat tired - or annoyed - demeanor behind it. Another highlight track is ‘Desparado’, the most badass track on the album. Instigating a cowboy vibe tinged with the soundscape of a rich man’s hotel, this song serves as the biggest track on the album, making the most of its relatively intimate sound. There’s not much going on it - background harmonies are subtle, the percussion isn’t anything flashy, the bass line following the deep piano chords. What makes this track so huge is its HUGE bass and Rihanna’s brooding lyrics (”If you want, we could be runaways / Running from any sight of love / Yeah, yeah, there ain't nothing / There ain't nothing here for me / There ain't nothing here for me anymore / But I don't wanna be alone”). The final quarter of the album features some stand out tracks. ‘Never Ending’ is the acoustic ballad that movie trailers will eat up, beautifully featuring a lovely vocal performance from Rihanna and a largely simple track that builds up ever so slightly to keep the track flowing by the end. The instrumental for ‘Love On The Brain’ feels like it was taken straight from a Beatles song and plastered with synths. Rihanna channels here inner Sia and delivers some of her best vocal work on the album. The accompanying orchestral punches and gospel influences add a lot of color to the track, too. The symphonic Sia sound is evident on ‘Higher’, as well. The closing track on this album, ‘Close To You’, is the most stripped back on the entire record, and features only Rihanna backed by piano, eventually resolving with an orchestra and acoustic guitar, and is one of the most beautiful tracks on the album - an excellent closure to an album centered around love.
This album, however, does have it’s weak points. The three track run form ‘James Joint’ to ‘Work’ is the lowest point of the album. ‘James Joint’ seems to rip off Flying Lotus, and the lyrics sound like a confused teenager wrote them. ‘Kiss It Better’ is horribly cliché, straight out of the 80s. While it is admittedly catchy, it has no real substance to it that would separate it as a song of its own. ‘Work’ also isn’t bad on its own, but the Drake feature feels wasted with an uninspired first and repetitive lyrics.
Rihanna’s ANTI definitely has a powerful message to deliver - girl power. Love isn’t just a man’s game. Rihanna makes this evident throughout the album, singing of desire and passion. The album starts strong but immediately falls off, only improving in the latter two thirds of the album, and in a big way. The rebel queen is set to make her mark on 2016. These songs will be all over the radio.
Favorite Tracks: Desperado, Never Ending, Closer To You, Consideration (ft. SZA)
Least Favorite Tracks: James Joint, Kiss It Better, Work (ft. Drake)