“I got to do things my own way darling, will you ever let me? Will you ever respect me? No…”
Rihanna has returned with her eighth studio album Anti after leaving music label Def Jam in 2014. She’s now signed Jay Z’s label Roc Nation; a move that’s allowed her to become Anti‘s executive producer. Armed with this new title and its responsibilities; Rihanna has cut her three major singles ‘FourFiveSeconds’, ‘BBHMM’ & ‘American Oxygen’ from the track list. It’s a bold and unusual edit, but Anti is a bold and unusual album.
It deviates from 2012’s Unapologetic with its jaded beats and apathetic attitude; but once Rihanna finishes her Tame Impala inspired cover ‘Same Ol’ Mistake’, her anti-romance attitude dissolves and is replaced by a series of acoustic, dreamy, slow-burning ballads. If ‘Take A Bow’ rates highly on your list of favourite Rihanna tunes, you’ll enjoy the sweet ‘Never Ending’ as well as the final three songs ‘Love On The Brain’, ‘Higher’ and ‘Close To You’ which are all cut from the same romantic cloth. Whilst her vocals are exceptionally well executed on these tracks, the abrupt change disrupts Anti‘s flow, and will divide listeners in to two groups; the ballad lovers, or the bad attitude lovers.
For those who favour the bad attitude on tracks like ‘BBHMM’, the first half of the record will hold greater appeal. Opener ‘Consideration’ sees Rihanna casually declare: “Cover your shit in glitter, I can make it gold…” alongside SZA’s equally confident vocals . ‘James Joint’ is a brief, dysfunctional tune that leads in to ‘Kiss It Better’ –“Man, fuck your pride, just take it all back boy…do what you gotta do, keep me up all night” – a defiant, seductive tune laced with romantic guitar riffs. Her thick Barbadian accent is equally as intoxicating on ‘Work’ – her most recent collaboration with Drake.
‘Woo’ she reflects on the disposable nature of ex-lovers over jaded synths, and the prevalent distorted bass line on ‘Needed Me’ fits the singer’s intense apathetic lyrics – “Didn’t I tell you I was a savage? Fuck your white horse and the carriage” . She is both master and muse of her own satisfaction, allowing you to “Take it home on your camera phone…” if you can handle it.
There’s plenty to complain about on Anti – including its “botched” digital release (The Guardian) – but the album is experimental in its production, delivery, and content. Whilst the results won’t appeal to everyone, it’s a step in the right direction for artists like Rihanna who are looking to create personally authentic, less commercially-driven R&B.
Anti is available now via Roc Nation.