It’s been three years of RiRi wielding her middle finger in the air since the release of Unapologetic. Now, she’s dropped the last bomb with Anti. Releasing the album for free on online streaming service Tidal, Rihanna turned her back on pressure from labels, putting the focus on what is truly important — her voice. And it still went platinum.
Rihanna has continued to stay relevant despite only releasing a few hit singles in the past few years while her other songs slipped into the cracks. This time, it’s different. There are no “singles” to focus on. Each song is so unique, it would be impossible to highlight just one.
Though the Rihanna Navy may be discouraged by the lack of cohesion on Anti and its failure to follow the mentality of hit single “Bitch Better Have My Money,” it’s this very discombobulation that makes Anti a true testament to Rihanna’s talent. From biting songs such as “Desperado,” where the slow thud matched with her choppy, rusty voice elicits a sense of intimidation, to her soft pleas in “Close To You,” we finally hear Rihanna as a multifaceted artist — not as the image cooked up by her label.
Rihanna shakes off any desire to fit the mold of a role model with this album and focuses on her range and talent instead. But in explicitly stating she doesn’t care to fit a certain description, she ends up being the very inspiration she isn’t consciously trying to be. Anti is an album featuring tracks that are biting and tracks that are humbling. Each song sounds so unique, it almost resembles other artists — not the Rihanna we’ve come to “know” over the years.
Aside from “Desperado” and “Needed Me,” the softer tracks on Anti are unexpected for an artist whose career thrived on radio-worthy hits. The indistinct interlude “James Joint” almost sounds like a track from The Internet, with its slower sound that isn’t carried by her voice. “Love on the Brain,” one of the gentler tracks that truly highlights Rihanna’s versatile vocal range, almost sounds like it should be on a Beyonce album.
It’s almost as if the Barbadian singer is rebirthing herself to wake people up who have been led astray by the whips, chains and buckets of blood from her past music videos. She wants to remind everyone that she is a musician, one who vacillates from being hard or soft. She wants to cut across the paths that were paved for her without her consent and create her yellow brick road instead.
“I need to do things my own way, darling,” Rihanna sings in “Consideration.” She has. With the same self-determination, Rihanna has reestablished control with Anti. And it’s beautiful.
Contact Ilaf Esuf at [email protected].