Anti, it’s a brave statement of intent to set ones’ self-up as Anti for if you don’t immediately seem anti enough or your sense of anti is unclear you come in for immediate criticism. Rihanna on her latest release has aimed for the Anti pop record and perhaps taken a sly dig at the lack of artist freedom in the record industry. But one of the strongest criticisms of this new release is actually all of this Anti statement is rather bogged down behind the patchy music. Somewhat this is true.
Anti, starts well enough and the opening tracks especially Consideration and latest single Work provide a more experimental edge to Rihanna’s pop cannon. This experimental edge can be seen in part to be inspired by Beyonce’s latest self-titled release. One of the producers of that album NoID pops up with brilliance all over some of the tracks here. The sound of the album is influenced in part by NoID, Arca and the slew of hip hop and RnB albums which have incorporated their sound. However, the strong opening to the album is spoiled by the track James Joint which feels like music for an elevator, there is sadly an idea there but the production and development is stunted and the track is left bogged down.
The track that has attracted all the attention for this release is Same Ol Mistake, which is a cover for a very recent Tame Impala track. Much of the attention has been driven towards the merit of covering such a recently released track. However, this focus is misplaced as the cover is actually a rather lovely one which like many tracks towards the end of Anti aims to allow Rihanna’s voice to come to the forefront.
The juxtaposed nature of the start and end of this album highlight its curiosity. The starts feels like a producers’ experimental playground whereas the latter half of the album comes over as a vocal workout for the artist. The lack of balance between the two is perhaps one of the elements missing on this album and one which leads to the jarring feel of Anti.
Despite the criticism this release has come in for it is an endearing album of an artist trying something different. Ideas may not be fully formed and some concepts seem misplaced but repeated listening turns out to be rewarding as little elements of each track bubble to the surface. There is a sense that perhaps the album would have been improved with the inclusion of Bitch Better Have…and this rings true especially towards the end of the album, the track would’ve broken things up and provided some more grit.
Rihanna is to be praised for this release, especially so considering gone are many of the collaborations and featured artists that have previously adorned her albums. All but two tracks are solely Rihanna. That said Anti’s real featured artists are the producers behind the record and of those there are almost too many to name.
Until Kanye West releases Waves later in the month Anti and the debates surrounding it will be the pop presses main focus of attention, such is the mark of Rihanna and her global reach these days. And despite all of this focus Anti will sell bucket loads, over 1 million copies in its first week in the USA, however the way to really appreciate this record and get under it and Rihanna’s skin is through repeated and rewarded listening.
Not quite Anti but certainly a departure.
(Rihanna’s exclusive deal with Tidal unfortunately means no track link this week)