Rihanna and her fans have been fighting an uphill battle. Three years of mismanaged promo, odd single releases and intense speculation finally climaxed on Wednesday when Tidal accidently leaked the record. Here we are now, with ANTI in our hands, and it’s a strange record. It eschews everything Rihanna was known for: big dance records, pop hooks, and hip-hop bravado.
Here’s the thing: if ANTI is supposed to be Rihanna’s true artistic statement, it’s uneven. There’s an unfinished quality to the record; a seriousness that’s undermining. The production feels skeletal and the lyrical material isn’t that memorable. As a pop album, it can be too obtuse to enjoy and brushing it off as experimental seems like an undercooked excuse.
That being said, ANTI has interesting ideas. “Consideration” finds Rihanna and SZA switching off patois verses to affirm ANTI’s mission statement of breaking away from pop. “Kiss It Better” a gritty 80’s styled power ballad showcases her vocals well and has the best single potential. “Higher” is gorgeously rough with its waltz-like sample and Rihanna’s vocals. The best track is “Same Ol’ Mistakes” though. The Tame Impala cover is a reworking of “New Person Same Old Mistakes.” A lush combination of neo-psychedelia, funk and electronic soul, it’s the direction the Barbadian singer could and should pursue.
The other tracks are almost dismissable in their unremarkability. If ANTI is just a transitional record, maybe it’ll be worth it in the long run. For now, it isn't. ANTI is available for free download from Tidal. Check out the video for the promotional single, "Bitch Better Have My Money," below.