Rihanna’s newest album “Anti” is a bit all over the place. That is the very first thing fans will realize upon listening to it all the way through. There is an intensity that comes with Rihanna’s vocals and the overall emotions the album elicits. It is altogether nostalgic for loves lost, but equally about accepting life and not letting those past loves dim the view of the present.
“Anti” is different from any prior work Rihanna has released. Unlike “Loud,” it lacks a clear pop song that you will hear over and over on the radio. “Anti” is a definite removal from one of her earliest albums, “Good Girl Gone Bad,” which was slightly reminiscent of early 2000’s R&B interwoven with pop. “Anti” is Rihanna as her fan base has never seen her.
“Anti” is raw and with each new track, the listener is taken on a different auditory journey.
“[It] is a chaotic and scattershot album, not the product of a committed artistic vision, or even an appealingly freeform aesthetic, but rather an amalgam of approaches, tones, styles and moods,” New York Times writer Jon Caramanica said.
Its disconnectedness, which is attributed to songs that all seem to be created from a different stylistic stance, creates a vibe that is unlike any other current pop album.
The standouts on this album are all so exceedingly different from one another that it is impossible to say there isn’t a song here for everyone. “Kiss It Better,” the third track on the album, is classic Rihanna. It contains hints of her 2009 hit “Rockstar 101,” as it meshes a cool R&B beat with some distorted guitar riffs, adding a kind of smokiness. That song in particular is where Rihanna most comfortably lives – the state of sexy with an edge.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Love On The Brain” combines a Beatles-esque groove with Rihanna’s powerful vocals to create an incredible composite of two vastly different musical styles, especially when “Higher” is played immediately afterwards, which borrows stylistic properties from masters like Etta James.
The pleading track, “Desperado,” is different from both “Kiss It Better” and “Love On The Brain” while still conveying its message in a sultry manner that only Rihanna can truly deliver. The only factor that binds these songs together is Rihanna’s potent voice.
This is not a cohesive album for the simple reason that the songs do not really mesh at all. Individually, they all flaunt Rihanna’s skills, but they do not belong on the same record. This can only be explained by the fact that Rihanna has been creating music for so long that she does not need to release an album that is cohesive in order for people to listen to and love it.
Rihanna’s current position on the global stage has led to the release of a disjointed work like “Anti” – a work that does not need to have a pointed message or direction because her fanbase is already so large. “Anti” feels like the work of an underground artist and not one of the world’s most beloved, modern R&B singers of the day. Although, this is not to say that the individual songs on the album are not fantastic.
Overall, this album scored a three out of five stars; it is certainly not what listeners expected to hear from her after three years.
“Its muted mood and tempo may be initially disappointing for an artist who’s been at the forefront of pop and, often, innovated it,” Billboard writer Julianne Escobedo Shepherd said.
It is clear that Rihanna struggled all throughout the process of creating “Anti,” but releasing a collection of songs and calling it an album seems a bit of a misstep. This album, while melodically beautiful, leaves something to be desired and would have benefitted from some sort of comprehensive message for listeners to take away.
By: Claire Brown, A&E Reporter