Anti is the eighth studio album by the Barbadian vocalist Rihanna. This has been a highly anticipated release, as Rihanna has not produced an album over the past four years, despite dropping a few hit singles in 2015 such as ‘American Oxygen’, ‘B*tch Better Have My Money’ and ‘FourFiveSeconds’ featuring Sir Paul McCartney and Kanye West.
Interestingly, these successful tracks did not make it onto the album, which was originally meant to be released in 2015 too. Since the news arrived that Anti’s appearance would be delayed until 2016, rumours have sparked that this was because Rihanna did not want to clash with Adele’s sensational comeback LP, which was also four years in the making. Additionally, this has given the Bajan pop star more leeway to having the best RnB album of the year.
Rihanna’s last album – Unapologetic – was undoubtedly a success, with two international hits ‘Stay’ and ‘Diamonds’. However, this latest release marks a slight change of direction for the singer as it features more powerful and truthful lyrics. In the opening track on the album – ‘Consideration’, featuring SZA – Rihanna sings “I’ve got to do things my own way darling”, suggesting that she has not been able to create her music the way she would like to.
“This latest release marks a slight change of direction for the singer as it features more powerful and truthful lyrics.”
The fact that Anti went platinum in less than forty-eight hours suggests that Rihanna being able to do things her own way has certainly paid off. This is slightly surprising, because the album was leaked on Tidal and many were able to get free downloads. Clearly, however, this did not affect the sales figures, as the following day when the deluxe copy was released, it sold one million copies in less than twenty-four hours. Featuring three extra tracks on top of the original thirteen songs on the album, the deluxe edition is great for her fans, as it shows Rihanna’s return was seriously worth the wait.
The various influences of the artists and producers who have helped to create Anti are clear throughout the record. New single ‘Work’ boasts a great collaboration with Drake, replicating the appeal of their previous hit together, ‘What’s My Name?’ Equally, Travis Scott’s influence – one of the main producers of the album – is emphasised on the track ‘Woo’, in which his style is evident. In addition, DJ Mustard also receives a producer credit, and there are a variety of standout cuts on the album that reflect his sound – for example, on the track ‘Needed Me’, which shows off Rihanna’s persona with her discussing her independence in relationships. There are also some more mellow tracks on the album that really highlight Rihanna’s vocals, such as ‘Higher’. If you are a fan of Rihanna’s new gothic look, however, then the bonus track ‘Goodnight Gotham’ will really tickle your fancy.
Strikingly, Rihanna does not feature on her album cover for the first time, which I feel is significant, as it reflects a progression in her control over her own creation. The album cover is instead a young ethnic child that could possibly represent a young Rihanna, with a gold crown covering her eyes and a balloon next to her. The colours of the album cover may be symbolic – split between red, which evokes passion but also danger, and the white of the lower half, which represents innocence, purity and safety.
“The various influences of the artists and producers who have helped to create Anti are clear throughout the record.”
The sound of the music itself differs from Rihanna’s previous albums such as Talk that Talk and Good Girl Gone Bad, as it does not feature many upbeat, commercial radio hits such as her 2011 number one ‘We Found Love’, produced by Calvin Harris. Anti is an entirely new sound – ‘Work’ and ‘Sex With Me’ epitomise this. However, ‘James Joint’ is one of the less favorable tracks on the album – marked by well-trodden and uninspiring lyrics about the joys of marijuana and falling in love, it is only a minute long and has a very repetitive beat.
Indeed, there are a lot of drug references in this album, usually drawing a comparison to the feeling of love – ‘Kiss It Better’, in fact, compares love-making to smoking crack. The music in this track, however, is more impressive – the electric guitar opening the song provides a contemporary rock inspired feel. This suggests that Rihanna is not holding back any longer when it comes to the lyrical content on this album. This album sets itself apart to other big pop artists at the moment, as it breaks all the conventions and screams independence.
Overall this is a strong comeback from Rihanna, and also a great way to kick off the year for her fans, who will surely now be eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Anti world tour with supporters Big Sean and The Weekend this June.