Ever since the day that Jay-Z signed Rihanna to Def Jam Records in 2005, Bad Gal RiRi has been endlessly churning out music. In fact, ever since that year, she has released an album without fail. In 2005, ‘Music From The Sun’ was released, in 2006, ‘A Girl Like Me’, in 2007, ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’, in 2008, ‘Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded’ which included extra singles like ‘Disturbia’ and ‘Take A Bow’, in 2009 ‘Rated R’, in 2010 ‘Loud’, in 2011 ‘Talk That Talk’ and in 2012 ‘Unapologetic’. Just reading that list is exhausting. Much to the despair of the Navy, ‘Unapologetic’ would be the last of the annual tradition of the Bajan superstar up until the release of ‘Anti’ in 2016.
In 2015, Rihanna made a comeback after a long break when she released single ‘Four, Five Seconds’ featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney. The track pricked many ears up, firstly due to the fact that it features Beatles legend Paul McCartney, but secondly because we hadn’t heard Rihanna and Kanye West like this before. They’re stripped bare singing alongside an acoustic guitar and are vulnerable, a stark contrast of their performing persona. Much to the success of the song, it only took the edge off of our hunger and very much left us craving for more. So then she dropped ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. To this day, it is one of our favourite Rihanna songs. It is unapologetic, fierce and cocky. The ‘shots’ in the ad-libs combined with the lyrics quenches the thirst of the trap star RiRi that we had missed so much and set high standards for the body of work that was in the process of being made.
Finally, after various teasers, Anti was released in January 2016. She may have kept us waiting for four years, but it was more than worth it.
We are thrown into ‘Anti’ at full force with the first single ‘Consideration’ featuring SZA. It acts as an introduction and explanation of the delay of the album as she sings, “I got to do things my own way darling”. And she certainly did. She delights fans by singing in her native accent as she asks the world, “Would you mind giving my reflection a break from the pain it’s feeling now?” as she addresses the demands and expectations that the world places upon her as a celebrity but also as a young woman. She also sings, “Let me cover your sh*t in glitter, I can make it go”. One can only imagine the meaning of such an act… but it’s brilliant. When SZA begins singing, it takes a few seconds to realise that it’s not Rihanna anymore. This becomes a recurring theme in the album as she experiments with a variety of styles. The track isn’t one for the charts but its daring beat and lyrics acts as a statement for RiRi.
Then we have “Work” featuring rapper Drake which exemplifies what she does best. Her native accent instantly creates a distinct sound to her music which makes her distinguishable from other artists in this field. Create an incredibly catchy chorus and add a verse by Drizzy and you have a huge hit. The video is yet to be released but our bets are on the pair fuelling rumours.
Rihanna – Work (In Studio / Behind The Scenes)
“Love on the Brain” is our favourite track on the album. The song is bluesy and sounds like an instrumental from a 50’s Mo-town girl band record. Singing over the vintage production comes something ultra-modern; Rihanna’s voice and way with words. After checking and realising that there isn’t a feature artist on this track, we hear RiRi sing in ways we have never heard her before. She belts out the chorus and then sharply switches to falsetto. Against the distinctly ‘old’ sound, there are lyrics that only Rihanna could be capable of such as, “It beats me black and blue but it f*cks me so good and I can’t get enough”. As usual, her honesty reveals her vulnerability and makes her music relatable to millions. This is a track about the frustrations of being in love which exudes from the song and a line that resonates is “What do I got to do to get in your mother f*cking heart?”
Rihanna – Love on the Brain
Interludes are a popular outlet in this album for Rihanna. Not quite an interlude but a song lasting for a short 2 minutes, “Higher” pushes her voice to the edge. It is untamed and free as she goes full throttle in this song. Rihanna breaks the fourth wall between her audience and herself as an artist as she sings, “I know I could be more creative and come up with poetic lines”. Ultimately, she could sing in a carefully controlled way and leave out the references to getting high… But that would be dull.
Another theme which Rihanna loves to sing about that is highly documented is sex. The world has got over feelings of prudishness and raised eyebrows and has proudly embraced her vocal views on her sexuality. Well, some of us. And if we hadn’t before, we certainly have after listening to this album. In “Sex With Me”, she is confident and proudly brags about her seductive powers. “Yeah, I Said It” is more subdued with the piano loop and mellow beat and carries a similar vibe to The Weeknd’s sound.
Rihanna told MTV News in March 2015 that she “wanted to focus on things that felt real, that felt soulful, that felt forever”. Essentially, she wanted to step off of the hamster wheel of commercial pop and its demanding schedule to create a body of work that would be timeless. ‘Anti’ feels real. The album acts as a universal diary and expresses the sub-consciousness of young women around the world. Once again, Rihanna has managed to bring together juxtaposing feelings. ‘Anti’ is frank yet ambiguous… seductive yet vulnerable… familiar yet foreign. She has shed all pre-conceptions and has defiantly made an album that represents her. It’s powerful.