Album Review: Rihanna, ANTI

 Rihanna.  ANTI . 28 January 2016. Roc Nation Records. 

Rihanna. ANTI. 28 January 2016. Roc Nation Records. 

The first couple notes of the opening track on Rihanna’s anticipated eighth studio album (three years & some months since her last), ANTI, immediately opens with a punch that transforms into the grit of 12-bit crushed drum sounds. Immediately, I am won.

The opening track, titled ‘Consideration’ features the sultry vocal accompaniment by SZA (of Top Dawg Entertainment). I’m still so enamored by this track, that I have to pause the album & sink my claws in a little deeper.

A producer by the name of Scum. is listed in the track credits, also known by his alias, The Antydote. This Chattanooga based producer is prominent on emerging artist Isaiah Rashad’s entire catalogue, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Complexion’ and claimed by TDE as an in-house producer. The God (as my friends who pay attention to this kind of stuff would say), Kuk Harrell is also listed as the vocal engineer on not only this track but throughout the entire album. Harrell, a golden globe nominee has worked with the likes of Mary J. Blige and Beyonce; his previous ties to Rihanna’s vocal production for ‘Umbrella’ earned him his first Grammy.

The cohesiveness of ANTI is wrapped around the synergy of two attributes- stripped down production that makes you feel as if Travis Scott is lurking just around the next phrase (it’s Lit!), in turn lending emphasis to the vocal and lyrical context of the album.

I’m sure by now we’re all familiar with the only radio hit on the album, ‘Work’ featuring Drake, but here are a couple other favorites on the album - ‘James Joint’ plays out like it was made for/by The Internet; the third track is ‘Kiss It Better’ and we’re already building on a slow winding simmer; ‘Woo’ was produced by Hit-Boy with co-production and vocals by Travis Scott, & rightfully so- will have you ready to twist your shirt off and  throw it in the air all while reciting the lyrics (Bet she could never make you cry / Cuz the scars on your heart are still mine / Tell me that she couldn’t get this deep); the cover of Tame Impala’s ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’ is sound, but surprisingly safe; ‘Love On the Brain’ is a ballad-type that transcends doo-wop in 2016; ‘Higher’ juxtaposes Rihanna’s smoky vocal registers against another ballad-type love song.  

The overall feel of the album and lyrical context make it very clear that there are no pop fluff fairytales being sold. As 2016 saw the revival of the album, Rihanna’s early adoption proved that you can simultaneously exist as a pop-hit songstress and album princessa. - Caroline Beleno