Album Review: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

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This is fascinating. Rihanna has hit her new peak of musical maturity with an album comprised of an eclectic mix honoring countless sub-genres of hip-hop and pop music. This collection begins with the frenetic 8-bit rap/reggae sounds of the track, “Consideration,” featuring up-and-coming power singer SZA. “ANTI” then shifts to more low-key vibes found on the track, “Yeah, I Said It,” which has vocal arrangements reminiscent of Mariah Carey and a backing track that might remind you of stoner-electronic producer Pretty Lights.

Many of the tracks found on “ANTI” are very introspective and lack any “jammable” rhythms. On the other hand, “Same Ol’ Mistakes” feels like a dark and slowed down version of the bubblegum pop music one would find walking down the aisles of Old Navy. You can tell that every piece of this song is extremely deliberate and thought out, but still kept buttery smooth and warm enough to fool a vinyl snob.

A recent trend in many pop/hip-hop albums has been to include a singer-songwriter style featuring minimal drums and emotional guitar riffs such as “Never Ending.” To showcase just how much soul Rihanna has, “Love On The Brain” has her belting Amy Winehouse-type lyrics over twangy electric guitar and organ. “I’m drunk and still with a full ashtray, with a little bit too much to say,” she croons out in “Higher.” Sonically sparse, this song features nothing but an old repeating Baroque violin loop and her stadium-filling voice. Expect to hear this at the end of every set from her upcoming tour.

The only song that is problematic is “Close To You.” This soft-rock anthem is a snore-fest and even includes the stereotypical dark piano and orchestra in the background. This is as radio friendly as it gets.

There are a couple of songs that sound very experimental. “Goodnight Gotham,” for example, has one repeating chopped-up line under screaming synthesizers and punching drums. This song is quickly followed by “Pose,” another wacky song with squeaky samples and snappy trap snares.

This album definitely lacks the catchy hooks that were a staple of her past albums, but that’s not a bad thing. “ANTI” is more about introspection and relaxation than partying and climbing the Hot 100 ladder. Been there, done that. This is more real and revealing than any album Rihanna’s put out.