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Staff roundup: Rihanna’s ANTI

In light of Rihanna's latest album, ANTI, and genre trasition that came with it, the Arts and Entertainment staff at the McGill Tribune got together to write up their initial thoughts on Rih-Rih's latest project.

Is ANTI a good album? Sure it is. It’s simple and stripped down, allowing for a cohesive but emotive performance that follows through with Rihanna’s title claim: This album is anti-everything else she’s made. It has its low points of course: “Love on the Brain” sounds like it was pulled straight out of your first middle school dance and “Work”—despite the fact that it’s the clear single pick—was a waste of a Drake feature. The stand-out track has to be “Desperado,” a slow, romance track with a traditional Rihanna edge that makes it come out feeling like a smooth club hit. But what ANTI is lacking is the bangers that make Rihanna who she is and that best display her vocal prowess. I wanted the album that “FourFiveSeconds”, “BBHMM”, and “American Oxygen” alluded too, or at the very least some more songs like “Stay,” which was the perfect mix of slowly emotional while still displaying a strong vocal performance. Instead we received an album that, if made by anybody else, would never have gone platinum, if it even made the Billboard Top 100. Without Rihanna’s name on it, ANTI is just another experimental pop album, and not a very memorable one at that.

—Morgan Alexander, Managing Editor

ANTI is Rihanna’s eighth studio album and a conscious, confident stride away from her harmless EDM-pop past. Since 2015’s brassily sung and coolly aggressive single “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Rihanna seems to be growing stronger and stronger with the power of not giving a fuck. Fortunately, this attitude translates into ANTI as a genre-bending sonic maturity. “Love on the Brain” and “Higher” show an affection for gushy classic soul. Then there are the hip-hop tracks like “Yeah, I Said It” and “Needed Me,” which show Rih at her most biting, as she drops lines like “didn’t they tell you I was a savage?” chill as hell over ominous Travis Scott-like beats. In “Work,” a dancehall inspired Drake duet, Rihanna is hard and to the point as she shout-sings in patois for her guy to, “Nuh bother text me in a crisis.” Drake then coos about how much he loves her, due to her work ethic, presumably. Perhaps the most compelling song is “James Joint,” a jazzy cool down from ANTI’s more aggressive moments. “James Joint” is reflective; Rihanna, full of curiosity and admiration, questions her lover: “How you live and love like, ‘F-ck rules?’” Her recent voice has been raspy, snarling and remarkably sensitive at the same time; ANTI demonstrates a new kind of rawness we can only hope takes off in popular music.

—April Barrett, Arts and Entertainment Editor

For most of my life, I’ve considered myself a Rihanna agnostic. Aside from her work with Kanye West and her fantastic video for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” her music has largely remained pleasantly catchy background noise, with songs like “Diamonds” and “Cheers (Drink to That)” intermittently bubbling up into my mind. So listening to her new album ANTI is by far the most Rihanna I’ve gotten in a single sitting, and I was surprised to find how fantastic and formally inventive the album is. She runs the gamut of genres across the album, starting heavy and hazy with “Consideration,” and then spends the rest of it gradually winding down into more soulful, ballad-y sounds–the pulsating drums and breathy vocals of “Love on the Brain” harken back to motown gospel in the best way possible. Despite this, it never feels like Rihanna runs out of energy. The 16 songs, written by Rihanna and literally 49 other people, make the wise move of not overstaying their welcome, resulting in an album that’s both densely focused and relatively huge in scope.

—Christopher Lutes, Arts and Entertainment Editor

After months of ‘ANTI-cipation’ Rihanna’s latest endeavor, ANTI, sets her up as more of a darker force amidst the pop culture landscape. While the album does have some forgettable tracks that blur together, there are a number of tracks, notably “James Joint," that expand the time tested R&B formula by adding unique melodies and instrumentation into the mix. Throw in the extensive amount of collaboration imbued into the album, from the SZA and Drake vocal features to the production work of Timbaland, and the result is an album that’s sure to resonate.

—Luka Ciklovan, Staff Writer

ANTI is like nothing Rihanna has ever released before, but even so the record feels like the perfect embodiment of Rihanna’s spirit: Sultry, cool, and ultra-confident. With impeccable vocals and stripped-down instrumentation “Consideration” is an enticing introduction, and the following songs “James Joint” and “Kiss it Better” are no disappointment. Overall ANTI presents a series of love songs to weed and sex, appropriate for late night smoke sessions or the quiet hours after everyone else has drifted out of a house party. This album could have been the soundtrack to many nights of my past and probably will be in the future: late night drives home from parties and dates and friends’ houses. Each track on ANTI tends to waver somewhere between romantic, sad, and sexy, although often Rihanna’s vocals (which have seriously never been better) embody all three. Many tracks blend jazz undertones with new-wave-y instruments, reggae, and Motown in a surprising turn away from Rihanna’s usual hit-machine repertoire. Plus, according to a friend, “Kiss it Better” is “the perfect song for Tindering because it’s the perfect rhythm. I’m literally swiping left to the beat of this song, and I love it.” I love it, too.

—Evelyn Goessling, Staff Writer

After a year of spotty singles, Rihanna is back with her most interesting album yet. Finally free from the clutches of Def Jam’s hitmaking goliath, Rihanna has only herself to answer to now. The results are scattershot, but intriguing nonetheless. “James Joint” and “Higher” are winning forays into traditional soul, while “Yeah I Said It” is a sultry and satisfying trip-hop slow jam. That being said, the record’s certainly far from perfect. “Never Ending” and “Close to You” are dreadfully bland ballads and “Same Ol’ Mistakes” doesn’t really add anything to what is already a great Tame Impala song. Nevertheless, this record was a pleasant surprise for me. If Rihanna can build on this, her next project will be special.

—Eric Noble-Marks, Staff Writer

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