Jesse Slade ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Great news Rihanna fans: ANTI has arrived. Rihanna’s long-awaited eighth LP was released at midnight on January 28th exclusively on TIDAL with a special surprise: it’s free! You don’t even have to sign up for TIDAL to get the full standard version of ANTI for free, right now.
If you immediately downloaded and listened to the album once it was released, you might be having some mixed feelings. ANTI is vastly different from every other album Rihanna has released throughout her career. Rihanna uses a mix of sounds, some of which will strike a chord with fans, some of which won’t. This is not a pop album — it can’t be categorized. It was evident from her three singles: “Four Five Seconds”, “Bitch Better Have My Money”, and “American Oxygen,” none of which are featured on ANTI, that Rihanna was trying out new sounds in an attempt to break away from her traditional pop hits.
Here’s a track-by-track review:
Rihanna is not holding back. “I gotta do things my own way darling, will you ever let me?” she sings. This one line is representative of the whole album, made by Rihanna and for Rihanna. She is making the album that she wanted, the album that she feels represents her as an artist at the present time. No more pop music — purely different sounds and vocals that almost can’t be categorized by one genre of music. Featuring SZA, this beat heavy track is filled with Rihanna’s classic island fueled vocals. She is clearly trying to get the message across that she is about to break the mold of what “Rihanna music” sounds like.
- James Joint
Classic Rihanna, a short song about weed that isn’t really relevant to the album at all. It does nothing for ANTI, it doesn’t add flow or contrast, it’s just kind of there and is a very forgettable interlude. It’s a filler, very slow and droney, more Lana-like vocals than Rihanna.
- Kiss it Better
“Kiss it Better” opens with an intriguing electric guitar and trap beat combination that is unlike anything out right now. This song is slow and sexy, with a beat you can nod your head to and lyrics you want to sing — “kiss it, kiss it better baby.” It has definite single potential with its repetitive chorus and its beat that carries. This song fits Rihanna’s traditional slow jam vibe more than most of the other tracks on ANTI.
“Work” is the first and only single from ANTI thus far. It was released on iTunes the day before the release of the album, and is still sitting on the singles chart. “Work” is Rihanna’s first collaboration with Drake since 2012’s “Take Care.” This is a fitting follow-up to Rihanna’s 2010 hit collaboration with Drake, “What’s my Name?” Both songs have a more relaxed vibe to them, with a chorus that you can’t seem to get out of your head. Rihanna and Drake are a good pair — they have vocals that suit each other and any song they make together will be a hit in some capacity.
“Desperado” stands on its own. It features an almost alternative production that has hints of her 2009 album Rated R. Rated R was very dark, it wasn’t a pop album, it wasn’t an album that had songs to sing in the shower or listen to at a party — and often songs are one or the other. “Desperado,” however, has a great beat for choreography and an intensity that is refreshing. It isn’t a song that you’ll hear on the radio, but it has a cool feel to it that’s really different from typical Rihanna.
At the very beginning of “Woo”, one can see it had potential to be a hype trap song and easy to love. However, the song doesn’t live up to its opening sound. “Woo” could’ve been a single with the tone that the start of the track brings, but the rest of the song doesn’t back it up. The chorus could’ve gone somewhere greater — it could’ve featured Rihanna singing instead of the heavily produced “Woo” that is nearly the entire chorus. It’s relatively disappointing and incomplete. It doesn’t sound like a full song, there’s no flow or format to it.
- Needed Me
This DJ Mustard produced track is also somewhat underwhelming. Given the fact that DJ Mustard produces virtually half of the songs that get radio play at this point, it had potential to be a hype song that everyone would want to listen to on repeat. It does have a cool vibe thanks to Mustard’s production, but it is fairly anticlimactic and doesn’t really go anywhere. It is, however, catchy.
- Yeah, I Said It
This is the transition song to the ballad half of the album. With a Jhene Aiko feel to it, “Yeah I Said It” is a much nicer transition song than “James Joint”. It isn’t a full-length song and is clearly on ANTI to change the direction of the listener for the rest of the record. It’s a sex song, which Rihanna has the soothing voice to carry in a way that isn’t boring. “Go in slow, but I want you to pipe it”, is a classic Rihanna line. If this had been a full-length song with a pickup in the vocals, it would’ve been a stronger track. On Talk That Talk, Rihanna did something similar with “Birthday Cake.” “Birthday Cake” was a song that was under a minute and a half on the album, and Chris Brown was added to it for radio play to make it a full duet. “Yeah I Said It” had the potential to do more.
- Same Ol’ Mistakes
Rihanna’s cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” is relatively similar to the original. She doesn’t really bring anything new to it, at least not enough to make it a song you’ll want to hear again unless you’re a big fan of the original. The song is over 6 and a half minutes in length and could easily be condensed to a much shorter song that could be considered listenable.
- Never Ending
“Never Ending” is one of the most relatable songs ANTI. The track has little production, so Rihanna’s style and soft voice shine. This is one of the highlights of the album — it is unlike anything she has ever done and it works. It’s a complete song with meaning to it. “It doesn’t have to feel so strange to be in love again,” she sings. It’s a love song that pulls at the feels in the best way possible.
- Love on the Brain
“Love on the Brain” is another highlight of the album. This soulful track with a Meghan Trainor or 60’s style backing is a vocal accomplishment. Rihanna brings power and range to a song that will have parents nostalgic and maybe redeem her for those of you who were doubting her musical ability by this point in the album. It is a beautiful love song that brings it all the way, it is also one of the strongest ballads of Rihanna’s career.
“Higher” opens with stunning orchestration. Rihanna pushes her voice to the limit from the very beginning of the song to the very end. Granted, the song is only two minutes long, and is another song on ANTI that could’ve been more impactful had it ran around 3 minutes. It is powerful and a very different step vocally for Rihanna.
- Close to You
The closing ballad, and a great song at that. Comparable to “Stay” from Unapologetic, this is another relatable relationship song on ANTI. “No you don’t need my protection, but I’m in love, “can’t blame me for checking/I look in your direction hoping that the message goes/Somewhere close to you,” she sings. This honest, real song is another highlight from the album and a solid, emotional close to ANTI.
ANTI doesn’t have the pop hits that many Rihanna fans were hoping for, but it’s different for her, and it’s good.