On January 28th, nearly three years after her previous album, Rihanna drops her eighth and latest full-length record, Anti. Despite this being the biggest gap between releases in her career, the album was worth the wait.
A lot of anticipation surrounded the release of the album as the singer had been working on it since November 2014. Three promotional singles came out prior to the album’s release, yet none of them made it to the final track list. Once Anti hit the shelves, however, curiosity was at its highest amongst fans.
The album itself is a satisfying surprise. Its sound is nothing like Rihanna’s previous work, which took increasingly heavy influences from dance and electro house. All of that is left behind on Anti, where instead we hear songs rooted in R&B and pop, with a contemporary touch to it as well as stylistic influences unprecedented from the singer.
“Work”, the album’s first single, manages to bring out that novelty. The song features several dancehall and hip hop influences (namely with Canadian rapper Drake being featured on the track) which, with its simple beat and melody, contrast with Rihanna’s previously seen complex style. It’s refreshing as the spotlight is on the singer’s unique vocals which beautifully blend into Drake’s short rap. This creates an emphasis on the lyrics and enhances the portrayed intimacy between the two.
“Work” is far from being the biggest highlight of Anti. In fact, it is hard to pick one favourite; each song has its own distinct feature that separates it from the others, thereby instilling variety throughout the album. Still, there is a certain gloominess brought by the heavy presence of bass throughout most songs, and the striking absence of any upbeat tracks.
Despite the fact that not one song on the tracklist could bring out all of Anti’s uniqueness, there are quite a handful of them that truly distinguish themselves from the lot. Desperado’s lyrics express a desire to escape loneliness. It has a synth-pop sound that is entrancing, yet not too dizzying. We find ourselves swaying along to Rihanna’s low voice as she sings, “There ain’t nothing there for me, there ain’t nothing there for me anymore; I don’t wanna be alone.”
Another highlight would be Love on the Brain, a quality soul track, with influences from doo-wop. Rihanna’s performance in this song is effortless, natural, and fits the dreamy and more cheerful side of the song perfectly. The next song on the record, Higher, showcases the singer’s incredible voice in an astonishing way, where her high notes are raw and throaty, yet still clear and enchanting to hear.
The song that stands out the most, however, is Never Ending. It breaks the constant presence of the bass and synthetic drums, and instead brings in a melody driven by a simple set of chords on acoustic guitar and the singer’s soft voice. It is a gem in the album—its sound is the most attractive of all the songs, and the lyrics, the most honest.
Overall, Anti is an album that stands out for its diversity and uniqueness and is sure to become a highlight in the young singer’s career. The album’s promotional tour, Anti World Tour, is set to stop by Montreal on April 6th and 7th, at the Bell Centre.
Written By: Sarah Boumedda
Originally Published: March 2016