A track by track review of Rihanna’s, “Anti”

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By Eva Bryner, Copy Editor

Rihanna finally dropped her heavily-awaited eighth studio album, and it’s nothing like we expected.

“Anti” was first released on Tidal, a streaming service, which was the only place to hear the album for 24 hours. After that, the deluxe version of the album became available on iTunes. “Anti” is breaking records records, and in just two days, after 484,833 downloads and 5.6 million streams from Tidal alone, it went platinum. But enough statistics, let’s talk about this album track by track. I can’t bring myself to leave anything with an album halfway complete.

Let’s start with the first track, “Consideration (feat. SZA).” This song becomes a thesis for the album: gritty backing, impressive vocals, and an entirely catchy chorus that captures the more R&B elements that this album carries throughout. It’s a refreshing change from Rihanna’s previous M.O. of club pop. “Consideration” is only made better by SZA’s influence on the track. Other than her, this album only features Drake on its only single, “Work.” “Work” is an interesting song in that it’s completely different from the last Drake/Rihanna duo, “Take Care,” which was a pop anthem and the title track on Drake’s second album. This collaboration is different, it’s weird, gritty, and heavily influenced by Janet Jackson and reggae pop. Rihanna’s vocals are what have turned people off to this track. In the final cut of the track she sounds like she’s either improving or doesn’t know the lyrics and is just feeling it out, which is exactly why I love it. I’d rather not understand the lyrics and feel the energy of the song than have a dispassionate song on the album. Drake’s verse is classically heartfelt, “If you had a twin I would still choose you/I don’t wanna rush into it if it’s too soon.” However, it feels a little misplaced and clean compared to the rest of the track. It’s almost startling to hear understandable vocals in the middle of the track after all of Rihanna’s vibing, but I can’t complain about Drake.

The track following “Work” is “Desperado.” This isn’t a standout track on the album but it will make you feel like a complete bada** with its deep synths and relaxed vocals (reminiscent of Drake). Following that is “Woo,” a track that favors those who like Kanye West with its atonal guitars and gritty beat. Next in line is my favorite track, “Needed Me.” It comes near the middle of the album and it’s completely insane. The beat throughout is just ridiculous and brings the tracks otherwise downtempo feel to an acceptable place for the middle of the album. The downtempo feeling is carried on through “Yeah, I Said It,” a groovy toned down version of some of Rihanna’s earlier songs. “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is actually a Tame Impala cover and brings the gritty side of this album to a close, letting us down gently onto the first of the more vulnerable tracks, “Close to You.” It’s got beautiful acoustic backing and layered vocals that lament the feeling of being in love.

Even though there are slower, more ballad-esque songs near the end, “Love on the Brain” is a definite high point. Rihanna channels her inner Amy Winehouse in this song, along with the classic ‘50s doo wop backing in the chorus. But despite the playful front, the lyrics are darker than you’d expect. Following this track is “Higher,” a song that almost made me vomit (but in a good way), it’s that insane. Starting similar to “Love on the Brain,” this track sports a simple backing of strings and piano but that doesn’t even matter once the high point of the song happens. Rihanna’s vocal ability is the only thing you need to focus on in this song. The notes she hits are almost unholy.

“Anti” closes with a somewhat simple ballad, “Close to You.” Its all around simplicity makes it an easy song to get emotional to, and has a completely different tone than what started the album. None of the grit we heard in “Consideration” shows up in the slightest by the time we get to “Close to You,” and because of this, you could easily argue the album tells a story through its composition. The deluxe edition comes with three bonus tracks which are well worth our time but don’t tie into the theme of the album for me. They feel extremely individual, and it makes sense that they are just extras. I really love “Goodnight Gotham,” a song that samples Florence + the Machine’s “Only if for a Night” and splices her vocals more and more as it progresses. The other two deluxe tracks are ok, “Pose” is extremely produced and weird as Rihanna gets. “Sex With Me” is such a great song lyrically, and the beat is really simple which just makes the song work and helps it stay under complicated.

As a whole, “Anti” is impressive to say the least. Every track flows, tells a story, and is unique to the album. The start of “Anti” is gritty, tough, and really pushes the listener to pay attention to each track. But as you progress through the album and get to tracks like “Never Ending” and “Close to You” it gets more and more intimate, creating a relationship with its listener. This progression is so intense, and is one of a million reasons you should listen to “Anti,” which currently is available on iTunes and Tidal.