ANTI (Deluxe)


May 15, 2019

ANTI, The Album Nobody Wanted But Rihanna Needed.

Written by @FerSP from Fernando Sempere / 14 mins read

Let's go back in time. It was January 27, 2016, just the day of my birthday. Every Rihanna fan was eager for the arrival of her new album: ANTI. After three singles spread over three years (the country beat “FourFiveSeconds”, “American Oxygen” and “Bitch Better Have My Money” with an amazing video), plus the rare experience of Anti DiaRy, we all knew it was only a matter of time before the long-awaited LP could be on our hands. And, suddenly, all the unbelievable happened: Rihanna was releasing, without any warning, the album's first single: “Work”. I received that song as the best gift I could have had that day. Although the first time I listened to it, the song seemed strange, little worked and without any potential to be a single, little by little the sticky rhythm of this dancehall and reggae theme got stuck in my brain. I remember listening to it in my room, full volume, thirty times in a row and my roommates begging me to stop. But I just couldn't. I had doubted Rihanna for a moment, how strange it was that she hadn't released a totally commercial song as the first single from an album that, due to its late arrival (she used to release a record per year), had created immense expectations. But I was wrong; Riri risked it all with a silly, repetitive and tropical theme, which invited to dance from the first second. Wait ... Rihanna? being risky with her music? Well, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The following week, also by surprise, the whole album came to us ..., and the world put their hands to their head, including myself. Not even one of the songs sounded like anything that Rihanna had released before; “Work” seemed to be the most commercial item on the album (it was soon able to sell more than 8 million copies worldwide, giving her #14 #1 on Billboard and becoming of the biggest successes of his career). Thousands of criticisms were received on ANTI, while I saw myself in a halo of confusion while listening to all the songs for the first time. In front of us, there was this strange and experimental album, where the disco diva in Rihanna told us goodbye. Had been the title of the album a clue all along? Few stopped to analyze and find the need for this album in the career of the singer, something that we discovered at its own time.

I Am Rihanna And I Am Here To Make It Clear.

Let's put the cards on the table and do a little review. Here we have the eternal struggle: the record companies tend to squeeze their most popular artists, giving them hugely commercial songs, leaving behind the personality of the artist because they are only interested in money. We can say that Rihanna has been one of the strongest exponents of this fact in this century. Look at the 'Let me cover your shit in glitter I can make it gold' lyrics in “Consideration.” She says it herself: her name can turn anything into a success. She has always been surrounded by catchy and danceable pop songs that we still remember today (“Only girl”, “We found love,” “Umbrella” ..., still sound in the clubs, easily) and that have made her the artist with the greatest sales of all time. Despite being regarded as a commercial artist, Riri has always known how to give her touch to each record and this has been due to the way she has managed to capture her life in them, giving them a personal touch and connecting with the audience. There is that little "something" that only the best artists have, that something that springs from within them and it is almost impossible to avoid: they can express what they feel and, in this way, transfer their feelings and emotions to the outside world. It seems that Rihanna has finally felt that need, or rather has been able to take 100% the reins of his career in her last album. If with “Unapologetic”, the singer from Barbados gave us a little nod of what could come, with some more experimental and intimate songs (powerful and cheeky themes like “Jump” and “Pour it up”, or beautiful and elegant as “Get it over with” and “Nobody business”) with ANTI, she sets herself up to try new musical flavors. She already gave us clues with her Anti DiaRy, where she told a story, her own story, about how she was an industry puppet for years and how she has finally been able to take full control. As a fan of Rihanna I think it was something we were looking forward to: seeing a Rihanna out of her comfort zone. Record companies diminish the creativity of their artists in order to get the most out of the sales lists, when what they should do is to create a balanced mix between the artist's vision and what might sound on the radio. Riri, taking advantage at the time of the rising tendency of mixing up commercial musical with the most experimental sounds (a trend that reigns today) decided to risk everything and, thus, Anti was born.

Rihanna decides to open the album with “Consideration”, a choice more than a thought. It is a declaration of intentions where the singer, the safest way possible, has a parade with a firm step on a catwalk with miles of eyes and spotlights pointing towards her. In a cocky and aggressive voice, she sings: "I have to do things my own way / Will you ever leave me? Will you ever respect me? No." Don´t you already know about this album is about? She makes it clear to you from the first moment. Along with a beginner SZA, sweet and bright to the subject, Riri sings about doing things her own way and how she has been mistreated by the industry. A powerful, short and effective song that helps you put see from her perspective and, finally, understand her. Then, we will find the first interlude of the album. It is “James Joint”, a track with soul vibes, relaxing with a little sensual air, where the generic Rihanna, who made you dance and live on a constant Saturday during 7 albums, invites you to spend a Sunday hangover on the sofa resting and doing practically nothing. It follows by “Kiss it better”, which is the best song of the album in my eyes. Rihanna sings to a love of the past in this pop and R&B song, which is reminiscent of the 80s and the great singer Prince. Without losing a bit of elegance, Rihanna presents a song that is an explosion of sensuality, an environment in which she has always moved like a fish in water. It is easy to let yourself go with this theme, which takes over you, transporting you to that passionate atmosphere that is born from the song where electric guitars reign. Chosen as the second single from ANTI, it was complemented by a B&W video that did not help when it came to getting sales. It was pity, because I always expected a video in pink and red tones, with lights and millions of sparkles, with a Rihanna wrapped in rubies and all kinds of precious stones in a smoky, beautiful, passionate and tremendously hedonistic setting. It was going to be the first single of this era, but following the general motto of this album (I-do-what-I-want), Riri decides to release “Work”, the most catchy song that we found on her album, cause of its repetitive lyrics and its lazy and fun atmosphere. The icing on the cake is given by Drake with his raps (does anyone doubt the amazing musical tandem by these two artists?). It was a world success, although many have not been able to predict it. In the first part of ANTI, we are presented by a series of powerful and good songs, however, there isn't no type of connection between them, which is an exception of experimental environment and new sounds that this project represents. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Rihanna has been able to reinvent herself more than ever in her eighth album. Following this, we find "Desperado", fifth song of the album, coming from the far west. This dark theme, which could well be an upgraded Rated R song, samples Banks with his "Waiting Games" and is a medium tempo with dubset and electronic touches, where we see a comfortable, and again, cocky Rihanna. Again, there are some verses that could be interpreted as shade: '' I will not try to go against you / Actually, I go with you '' or '' Need me, there is nobody to leave me behind '', reinforcing the the position of the omnipresent diva that has been carved during her well-used ten years of career.

Darkness Fits Well On Rihanna

In what could be the second part of the album, it is where we find the most curious issues of ANTI. In “Woo” we discover a totally sinister and lugubrious Rihanna. A violent, hypnotic and disturbing track, where the singer enters the world of trap and where it is impossible not to remember the influence of Kanye West with that touch of voices distorted and vocoder. She did a good job with the song. Point for her. It is followed by “Needed me”, chosen as the third single of this era, which was a quite unexpected success (#7 in the Hot100 and first positions in streaming services). Rihanna takes her gangster side in this song that speaks about revenge, which we are not able to clearly see in the video. In this R&B ballad/mid-tempo with dubset touches Rihanna makes us share her resentment with phrases that we could remember forever, like ''To feel a little more, and give a little less ''. A song that could well belong to The Weeknd (a collab that I am impatiently waiting for), where Riri is to blame for having a little boring and simple base that, at times, seems little worked. With these last three songs of sinister atmosphere, Rihanna scores a goal, because they can be linked to perfection. Even so, it's no wonder that “Yeah, I said it” comes to us like water in the desert after so many energetic tracks. We need to take a break after so much intensity, so Rihanna invites you to sit on the sofa so she can whisper in your ear in a calm and sensual way. A background piano sounds for this neo-soul melody, produced by Timbaland. It is quite minimal and simple but works thanks to its short duration. The surprise of our lives comes with the following song, sampling Tame Impala, she presents “Same Ol 'Mistakes”, moving the song to a decadent R&B environment. With a duration of more than 6 minutes, the unexpected turns don't allow you to get bored and makes it an indispensable for good ‘’chill’’ moments either alone or with friends.

Rihanna, Goddesses Of Versatility.

If there is a quality to highlight of Rihanna's is her versatility, both aesthetically and when singing and adapting to the sounds. In this way, Rihanna completely changes the record in the acoustic “Never Ending”. From dark to innocent and sweet, the singer talks about a break up in this soft and delicate theme that samples Dido. Of great melodic beauty, anyone who listens to this song will see themselves moving their head to the rhythm a few seconds after starting. We arrived at the fan-favorite song of the album: the incredible “Love on the brain”. It is one of the best vocal interpretations of the artist's entire career, where she shows us a torn and warm voice. Acclaimed by critics and audiences (#5 on the Hot100 without much promotion), this doo-wop/soul ballad with vintage airs -50s and 60s-, shows us a rich vocal roll unknown in Riri, in a song that deals with the ups and downs of a toxic relationship and where Rihanna makes it totally hers and make you feel with her, getting excited and transmitting that feeling. (Has anyone been able to forget his performance at the Billboard Music Awards with this song?!). Following the same trail with “Higher” but more corrected and increased. This rare avis is the jewel of the album, where a totally drunk Rihanna (''This whiskey got me feelin’ pretty'', that's how this little marvel begins) and desperately she sings to her beloved. The singer leaves out her Amy Winehouse side and tears the vocal cords in a song that transports you to an old sepia-toned film, perhaps a distant memory, and encloses us in a classic and delicate environment, totally opposite to the rudeness of the lyrics, but in their union create something totally beautiful, original and sincere. B-R-A-V-O. Needless to say, this is a good option to exploit in her next project. The Barbados singer closes her album with a piano: “Close to you”. Without reaching the level of “Stay”, she presents an intimate and beautiful ballad that comes to touch the fiber and infects us with nostalgia – Is it worth spending a moment in the Deluxe version of ANTI? YES. It opens with the interlude “Goodnight Gotham”, the only disappointment that I find in this album, because we all expected a collaboration with the magnificent Florence Welch, but apparently the idea did not come to fruition. The last two songs of ANTI show us a cool and daring Rihanna, with urban and street sounds. With “Pose”, quite similar to “BBHMM”, Rihanna confronts her haters with a powerful and catchy base where she lets loose and throws plenty of shade. Finally, “Sex With Me”, softer and more cheerful, shows Rihanna full of self-love, security and flirtation to the core ('Sex with me, so amazing' 'sings) and encourages us to feel the same so that she does.

ANTI, A Good Way To Follow.

Having said all this, I admit that I was wrong at the beginning: ANTI is an album that grows on you at its own pace. Some listeners state that at first it sounds strange, but that you end up falling in love with it as you keep listening to it. This shows us that we should never judge a CD by the cover, or in this case, for the first time you listen to an album. We can extract a great message if we focus on the meaning of this album, and it is the need to risk and experiment, but always being true to oneself. Rihanna has finally been able to do something of her own, something that demonstrates her concerns, ideas and aspirations. Something new, but without ceasing to be an artist who, despite not having a great vocal quality, manages to transmit and connect with people through her personality. And this simple fact is, in my opinion, the one that has turned her into an icon that has the world under her feet. ANTI is a new path for the Barbadian, a well-built road that has yet to be polished and improved. Although perhaps, this is a transitory album, a link to what can be his true masterpiece. Hello, R9. We are waiting.