After three singles, a series of cryptic videos promoted by Samsung in 2015 and an accidental release on Jay Z’s music streaming app, Tidal, in January; Rihanna finally (and officially) released her much anticipated album, “Anti” and “Anti Deluxe” last week, in time for Black History Month.
“Anti” translates as a long musical letter written to a lover by a woman who is proud of her independence and feels she doesn’t need a relationship, but really wants the affection and acknowledgment that a relationship can give. As per usual Rihanna, the album emits tough, sexy vibes expressed through deep drawling basses and (insert four letter word here)”____ you” lyrics. But,considering the hype built up by unlocking Samsung sponsored video rooms, being certified platinum in less than 48 hours and Rihanna being the most streamed female artist in 2015, “Anti” is disappointingly anti-impressive.
The first single, “Consideration,” featuring neo-soul singer SZA, with its airy drum and nearly off-putting monotone lyrical styling, is reminiscent of early 90’s hip-hop, before P. Diddy made it “All about the Benjamins”. Lasting only two minutes and 41 seconds, it’s over before you can decipher what Rihanna (or SZA, since their voices sound very similar) means when she says “Please give my reflection a break.”
The following song, “James Joint”, which is less than half the time of “Consideration”, leaves you wondering “what the hell is going on?”. Essentially a narration of Rihanna smoking weed with her lover before they share a kiss, the point of the interlude/track sounds suspiciously like a last minute attempt at achieving the minimum album play time required by Rihanna’s contract.
Out of 16 songs on “Anti Deluxe” or 14 songs on “Anti”, only two (“Needed Me” and “Work” which are on both albums) possess the quality, creativity and delivery that Rihanna’s #Navy deserve for being such loyal fans. The unapologetic confidence created by the summer head banger, “Bitch Better Have My Money”, which is not included on the album, is left behind as an echo of 2015. But, “Needed Me,” is sexy enough to enable the assertion a woman needs to continue after realizing her lover was cheating on her. And though Rihanna’s slurred words sounds like she’s either drunk, high or needs speech therapy, her current Caribbean-beat single “Work” featuring Drake, is nothing to Tweet about. But, Drake’s presence on the song creates a dubious placebo effect due to the popularity and success of “Hotline Bling”, and you end up liking “Work” just because Drake is on it.
“Anti” is anti R&B, anti pop, anti folk and anti country. In fact, it’s so anti any one musical genre, it awkwardly encompasses them all. Granted, Rihanna’s style has been unpredictable since she switched personas from good to bad best exemplified by her album “Good Girl Gone Bad” in 2007, but “Anti” is haphazard even for Rihanna. So random in fact, that the only continuity it possesses musically, is the album title itself.