"Rihanna's collaborators truly work to showcase her talents; the cohesive glue is her phenomenal, chameleonic vocals, ever the focal point."
Sixteen weeks ago, Rihanna posted a photo of text on Instagram about the meaning of her album title. It read, in part: "By continuing to follow her instincts, [Rihanna's] work strives to make an impact by doing the antithesis of what the public expects."
Her eighth album ANTI has done just that. None of her three singles following 2012's Unapologetic made the record. Whereas her previous albums had one filler (or two) for every banger, there are no clear standouts on ANTI. Rather, it's Rihanna's most eclectic and consistent offering yet. Reggae-pop lead single, Work, featuring Drake, is sure to be a favourite (her Bajan drawl is irresistable) and there's bouncy opener Consideration (featuring the stunning SZA) — but the rest is mostly moody and downbeat, alt-R&B, or neo-soul ballads, with a few surprises (the blues rockin' Desperado). There are hints of Miguel's smooth, slow jams (Kiss It Better); Frank Ocean's experimental layers (James Joint); Amy Winehouse's passionate, powerhouse vocal stylings (Higher); the alt/commercial crossover and carefully curated track order as heard on Beyonce's last album. There's a Tame Impala cover, Same Ol' Mistakes, produced by Kevin Parker himself — Rih makes it hers but sonically it's very similar to the original.
No song goes as hard as BBHMM, but as a whole ANTI is considered, nuanced, and grows on you with each listen — brewing excitement for what direction she'll take next. Rihanna's collaborators truly work to showcase her talents; the cohesive glue is her phenomenal, chameleonic vocals, ever the focal point.