Album Review: #13: Rihanna - Anti
by sarah Muhammad
It does not even seem to be well over a decade now since Robyn Rihanna Fenty first came on the scene, signing to Def Jam Records back in 2005 under then label president, Jay Z. From 2005 to 2012, with the release of 7 multi-platinum selling albums, over 50 singles, 200 million records sold and 138 total music accolades, including 12 American Music Awards, Rihanna has become an international music icon to forever be cemented amongst the legends at only the age of 28. With a four year hiatus since the release of Unapologetic, many began to wonder if the pop phenom had began to plateau. However, with the release of her eighth studio album Anti back in January, we found that the answer was unanimously, no. The first single on the album “Work” featuring Drake quickly rose to the top of the charts following its release and still remains a party hit after a full year. The Boi-1da and 40 produced reggae/dancehall track served as a revival of Rihanna’s island roots and stood out as a dance sensation in clubs everywhere. The on-and-off love fling between Rihanna and Drake became more apparent to fans surrounding the success of the single, particularly in the filming of two versions of the music video and in various live performances. But even with the overwhelming success of “Work”, the rest of the album does not go without its shining accolades, particularly on follow up singles “Kiss It Better” and “Needed Me”. While “Kiss It Better” is an captivating power ballad with deep synth arrangements and incredible electric guitar riffs, “Needed Me“ is a dark and edgy tune hinging on the wave of the ‘Bad Bitch’ anthem, with lyrics such as “You was good on the low/For a faded fuck... You was just another nigga on the hit list/Tryna fix your inner issues with a bad bitch/Didn't they tell you that I was a savage?”, serving as a lyrical representation of how Rihanna appears in real life. Production gets a standing ovation on this release, with breakout versatility going to DJ Mustard for “Needed Me“, Travis Scott for his signature beat style on “Woo”, Kuk Harrell on the opening track “Consideration” and James Fauntleroy for “James Joint”, a dreamy track with intertwined themes of love and drugs. Rihanna delivers perhaps one of the best vocal performances on her final single, “Love on the Brain” a 1950’s inspired doo wop ballad where the singer reminisces on the tumultuous heartbreak and emotional trauma of a past relationship, which many rumored to be a reference to her controversial relationship with R&B singer Chris Brown. Lyrics from the chorus (“Must be love on the brain/That’s got me feeling this way/It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good/And I can’t get enough”) only add to this assumption. Taking a leap into divergent territory, the singer performs an intoxicating cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” (shortening it to “Same Ol’ Mistakes”), staying true to the original performance style but doing great justice to the synthpop hit. The final track on the deluxe version of the album, “Sex With Me“, also became a popular song despite it being unreleased as a single, offering a seductive yet exuberant self-proclamation anthem to women around the world about the exclusivity of their bedroom skills, with lyrics such as “Sex with me is amazing/with her it’ll feel alright”. Some of the more passable tracks on the album include “Desperado”, “Never Ending” and “Higher”, lacking a feel of supremeness that seeps throughout the rest of the album and perhaps appearing out of place in the sequence of the album. Anti represents the culmination of growth being of icon status and learning through experience for the singer, making it one of her most versatile and artistically precarious releases to date. The title itself represents the singer's refusal to succumb to mediocrity and continue to find new ways to push the bar.
Best Track: “Kiss It Better”
Best Production: “Needed Me“/”Work”