Correction: Feb. 6, 2016—It was brought to the editor’s attention that Rihanna sings “Work” in Jamaican Patois, an English-based creole language. We didn’t understand this at the time we published “Rihanna let me down, and I still haven’t forgiven her” and realize calling the track “incomprehensible” was insulting to Rihanna and Jamaican people. We have removed the paragraph “Rihanna seems to live in a post-language existence on tracks ‘Woo’ and ‘Work.’ She’s incomprehensible (a habit she may have picked up from Travi$ Scott). They were clearly designed as radio fodder. The titles alone are uninspiring and pseudo-deep (see: ‘Desparado’),” because we no longer see its validity in the review.
Rihanna has built her entire reputation on how good she is at simply being cool. Anyone else naming a song “James Joint” would have turned off even the most dedicated stoner, but Rihanna touches it and it turns to gold.
Unlike other recent releases from female artists at the top of their game, ANTI is not the exact manifestation-defined artistic vision such as Beyonce’s Beyonce: Platinum Edition or Selena Gomez’s Revival, nor is it anthemic and predictable like a Taylor Swift or Adele record. The album is a myriad of ideas and influences, featuring artists including Drake, SZA and a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Ol’ Mistakes.” The result is a mixed bag.
The assertive, powerful and dark Rihanna axiom is nowhere present on ANTI. Rihanna’s aesthetic has always been very “Bitch Better Have My Money,” but the classic Rihanna we came to know and love never makes an appearance on the album. This deathly compromise doesn’t reveal a new and endearing side to Rihanna as she may have intended it to, because she never fully commits.
“Needed Me” is the indecisive, flavourless middleground represented on all of ANTI. The lyrics are typical Rihanna, “trying to fix [someone’s] inner issues with a bad bitch,” but this proclamation is delivered monotonously and with an entirely forgettable melody. Was this the songwriter’s attempt at an emotional ballad, reminiscent of “Stay”? It’s as if her writers and producers – or whoever controlled the creative process on this album – got bored and fell asleep halfway through the album production process.
The album’s saving grace is Rihanna’s flexible vocal prowess. “Love On The Brain” is an Amy- Winehouse-esque, jazzy do-wop song. This is an instance where straying from the cultivated Rihanna image really works in her favour and she uses a voice we’ve never heard before.
The album was doomed to fail, burdened by a stifling love from her fans and the weight of their expectations. However, one thing is clear: ANTI is about Rihanna releasing something new and keeping the musical aspect of her career alive, not necessarily to achieve the perfect album or have record-breaking sales.
With a highly anticipated tour with The Weeknd and Travis Scott, and guaranteed eye-catching music videos to follow, the ANTI rollout is far from over. Music is merely one spoke in Rihanna’s wheel; a wheel that does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Alessandra Licul is singer from NYC. Her hobbies include singing, photography, writing and fanatically obsessing over the local music scene. She is the proud owner of an adorable dog and is currently studying music business and music history. She likes coffee that has so much sugar it doesn’t taste like coffee and vodka with so much cranberry juice it doesn’t taste like vodka. She also never says no to a plate of tacos.