As the wait for a new Rihanna album reaches the eight year mark, looking back at her last full-body project remains no less exciting than it did on release day. Rihanna’s seventh album ANTI was released following a four-year wait from her last project, and an elaborate collaboration with Samsung to build hype through cryptic videos. Following an accidental leak onto the streaming platform TIDAL, the album was officially released January 28th, 2016. Spanning across thirteen tracks on the standard edition, ANTI finds Rihanna exploring new genres and blending sounds together like never before. On the opening track, “Consideration”, Rihanna joins forces with SZA to deliver a declaration against critics who question their presence and process in the industry. Following the dreamy “James Joint” interlude, Rihanna delivers the timeless “Kiss It Better”, fusing elements of 80s and 90s ballads with modern synths and hints of R&B. Next up, ANTI has back to back tracks that cemented themselves in pop culture, including the Drake assisted “Work”, “Desperado”, “Woo”, and the anthemic “Needed Me”.
Following the swelling synths and entrancing production on “Needed Me”, the album shifts from heavy bass and large production to a raw, simplistic, yet just as effective sonic landscape. Whether it's the entrancing “Yeah, I Said It”, "Same Ol' Mistakes" (a flawless rendition of Tame Impala's “Same Person, Same Old Mistakes''), or the acoustic guitar driven “Never Ending”, Rihanna confidently steps into genres new to her, and does it effortlessly. Through it all, “Love on the Brain” serves as a clear standout track on ANTI as Rihanna’s emotive vocals fuse with a doowop and soul inspired instrumental. Next up, “Higher” continues to highlight Rihanna’s vocal range and ability to transport a listener into whatever landscape she wishes through her emotive vocal performance. Tripling down on this, the piano driven “Close to You” closes out the standard edition of ANTI on a sweet, personal note with a touch to every listener's heart. Listening back eight years later, ANTI has truly cemented itself as a timeless body of work. While constantly bending genres and taking the listener in a new direction, ANTI is able to have songs like “Work”, or “Same Ol' Mistakes” sit on the same track list as a song like “Close to You”, and somehow have it work.
As she recounts experiences through her career and personal life, ANTI feels like a look at Rihanna’s diary, and in doing so, is the solidification of her artistry. Though she has since successfully ventured into the business world, Rihanna first proved with ANTI that she is truly a musical force to be reckoned with. While Rihanna fans may be adding yet another year onto their time in the new album waiting room, ANTI sure is a way to leave people on the edge of their seat. If anything, ANTI’s legacy has proved that Rihanna's full return to the music industry will be one for the books.
- Logan Bandi