Album review: Anti

rihanna-cover-art-roy-nachumIt has been four years since we’ve heard from Rihanna, which is quite a stretch seeing as she released an album annually between 2005 and 2012 ending with her last album Unapologetic.

Rihanna is back with the somewhat surprise drop of her eighth studio album Anti, an experimental hip-hop record less focused on commercial success and more focused on what Rihanna wants to hear and say.

The record features 13 brand new songs with the previously-released singles Four Five Seconds, Bitch Better Have My Money and American Oxygen nowhere to be found on the new album.

Many of the songs centre around themes of love with sex, men and drugs and are quite short, averaging around the three-minute mark with the exception of Same Ol’ Mistakes running nearly seven minutes long. Rihanna’s vocal talent is showcased on this album with songs like Love on the Brain featuring strong vocal control and power.

The album begins with Consideration which addresses her split with long-time record label Def Jam Recordings. Rihanna was originally discovered in 2003 and signed to Def Jam to release her first album Music of the Sun back in 2005 which spawned her first successful single, Pon De Replay.

Rihanna has now been signed to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation with whom Anti was released. The song talks about needing to do her own thing and asking if she will ever receive respect, to which she answers “no.”

It is interesting to note that on her 2010 release of LOUD, Rihanna features no writing contributions whereas almost every song on Anti features a writing credit from the singer herself.

Kiss it Better, co-written by the controversial Natalia Kills, proceeds after the James Joint interlude. This song has the most potential for being a single after the album’s lead single Work.

Work, featuring Drake, is an up-tempo, Jamaican, dancehall-inspired beat and serves as the most commercially-friendly song on the album. It’s no surprise that this was chosen as the lead single and it instantly hit number one on the iTunes chart in over 70 countries around the world upon its release.

Tempo-wise, the album begins to slow down after Work with Desperado and the jerky and distorted sounds of the Travis Scott-assisted track Woo.

Needed Me features production from DJ Mustard and serves up some of Rihanna’s best lyrics to date. Fans have instantly pegged it to be about female empowerment with the lyrics talking about Rihanna being needed by a man in a relationship rather than the other way around.

The album ends on a slow note with Close To You, a piano ballad which describes losing a connection with her lover.

In addition, a deluxe version of the album has been released and features three more up-tempo songs titled Goodnight Gotham, Pose and Sex With Me.

Although not full of the radio-friendly hits which Rihanna’s career was built off of, Anti is a refreshing return set to dominate the first quarter of 2016. It’s almost as though Rihanna is trying to prove her artistry and credibility as a vocalist and songwriter on this album rather than trying to make as much money as possible.

It will be interesting to see how the album is received by pop music consumers and whether it will spawn any more commercially-successful singles over the course of 2016.