A mix of rock, hip-hop, and trap with traces of dancehall, ‘Anti' is Rihanna’s first album in over three years, and is her most experimental effort thus far, but also rather boring for those listeners expecting "hits." For ‘Anti,’ Rihanna’s eighth album, she switched out her go-to rent-a-ghostwriters Sia, Ester Dean, and David Guetta for less popular co-writers like SZA, Kiesza, and many more.
New album is anti-commercial
Don’t expect glitzy hooks, powerful choruses, or anything easy on the ear because as the album’s title suggests, this body of work is anti-commercial, which is the complete opposite of Rihanna’s past work. She barely even attempts to sing a hook, unless you count “woo, woo, woo” in the background like an intoxicated Ric Flair.
Instead of taking a radio-friendly approach, Rihanna opted for a more rebellious sound. However, it’s always better to be a rebel with a cause, or at least a rebel with talent. ‘Anti’ comes up short as it lacks both a cause and the artistic merit to back it up. The thing that saves this album from sounding completely lazy is Rihanna’s vocal ability on tracks like ‘Close to You,’ and ‘Kiss Me Better,’ which prove that you can fake it to make it.
The lead single, ‘Work,’ is an ode to Riri’s Caribbean roots. The patois on the dancehall-influenced song seems forced, even for Rihanna, who naturally speaks in a Bajan Creole accent. The song turns out to be an international affair thanks to a verse by Canadian native Drake, who spits awkward lines like “if I had a twin, I would still choose you.”
Rihanna delves into different genres
This isn’t the first time that the Roc Nation princess delved into rock. On her fourth album ‘Rated R,’ Rihanna debuted an edgier and darker image following her domestic violence case with ex-lover and Hollywood bad-boy Chris Brown. She managed to develop an original sound that had crossover appeal, and even helped her get a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and several other top-40 singles. Though it’s too soon to tell, it doesn’t seem as though this collection of songs has the same crossover appeal found in Rihanna’s earlier work.
Miss more than hit for new album
Unfortunately for the album, one of its highlights is only a cover of Tame Impala’s ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes.’ Though it’s hidden under a new title (‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’) it's the same old song. In addition, ‘Love On the Brain' isn’t exactly a cover, but it sounds exactly like ‘Superpower’ by Beyoncé.
Half of the album’s songs could’ve been excluded, which would’ve left us with a great EP like ‘The Fame Monster,’ which catapulted the career of Rihanna’s contemporary Lady Gaga to icon status. Lady Gaga is no stranger to failed attempts at experimentation. Her last album 'ARTPOP' flopped on the charts and was met with negative reviews. Maybe Rihanna could take notes from Gaga and go on to star in some show on FX, win a Golden Globe, and receive Oscar and Grammy nominations before returning to work on her next album.
None of this is to suggest that Rihanna hasn't show improvement since her last album, though. Her vocals are much better, and the fact that she’s unafraid to experiment and try new things is enough to give anyone a round of applause. Her lyrics show more depth as well.
On ‘Never Ending,’ Rihanna sings “Ghost in the mirror/I knew your face once, but now it's unclear” as if she’s unfamiliar with the girl who once sang songs like ‘Disturbia,’ ‘Diamonds,’ and ‘We Found Love.’
‘Anti’ is anti-Rihanna. However, when you’re anti-everything, it’s good to stand for something. Unfortunately, Rihanna doesn’t stand for anything on this album.