Since its official announcement in November, the arrival of Rihanna’s eighth studio album has been rather convoluted. From the inconsistent social media PR to its premature release on Tidal, the promotion of Anti has felt less flawlessly manufactured than the popstar’s previous releases. Perhaps that’s a good thing. There is something raw about this new album.
The psychedelic, expressive opening track ‘Consideration’ featuring SZA echoes the works of Sia. Delicate acoustic tracks like ‘Never Ending’ offer a stark contrast to the more slow-burning R&B, but rather than lack cohesiveness this mix of genre feels honest. This album has heart and soul, and rejects the conventions which have dominated her career thus far. This feels very much, more so than any previous album, to be fully controlled by Rihanna herself – it is notable that, other than the collaboration with Drake, Rihanna’s voice appears almost completely solo.
Sure, the references to marijuana remind you that this is undoubtedly a Rihanna album, but she appears to be distancing herself from the loud, catchy pop which brought her fame. It’s difficult to define a particular single-worthy track, not because the offerings are bland but because nothing feels radio-dominating in the way Rihanna’s work usually does. This album seems to be Rihanna asking herself about the kind of music she actually wants to make. In the past she has made her point, from pop classics to controversial jaw-dropping videos, the question seems to be “where do I go from here?” From Anti, it would appear the answer is to focus on the music.
This article originally appeared in Qmunicate magazine