There’s no doubt that the release of Rihanna’s eagerly anticipated new album has been a complete shambles. From the postponed release dates, to her non-stop teasing of its arrival, it certainly has been a long time coming.
ANTI finally stumbled across the finishing line following Wednesday’s leak, today’s official release and Rihanna’s subsequent announcement that she’s giving it away free.
So, was it worth the madness that has surrounded it?
Loaded takes a track-by-track listen.
Consideration feat SZA
One of the more upbeat tracks, but that’s not to say the you’ll be swinging from the chandeliers whilst listening. Rihanna’s distinctive vocals are at their best, minced in with R&B singer SZA’s frequent interjections. It’s short and sweet and prompts an immediate replay.
A pretty forgettable offering, reminiscent of an end of album track you’d find on an old Whitney record. To call it a track is a stretch as the interlude is just over one minute long.
Kiss It Better
Some welcome rock guitar riffs by Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt from the off offer up hope. It feels more like the Rihanna of old as she asks“Fuck your pride, and take it on back boy, what are you willing to do?” Confident, a sexed up woman on a mission – this is where Rihanna is at her most comfortable and best. She previewed Kiss It Better in 2014, posting a clip while working on it in the studio. Rihanna doing a 80s power ballad definitely works.
Work (featuring Drake)
There’s no sign of FourFiveSeconds, American Oxygen or Bitch Better Have My Money, so Work is Anti’s lead single, put out just before the leak. It’s the obvious primary choice. Work certainly doesn’t work for everyone, and verges on being downright annoying at times with her almost parody bashment vocals, but her original underground fanbase are likely to welcome it. Rihanna’s vulnerability often shines through when she teams up with Drake (What’s My Name and Take Care). Work is certainly at the opposite end of the spectrum from her demanding persona in Bitch Better Have My Money. Expectations were high, too high perhaps, and it might be that Work was worked on for too long.
Reflective once again of the sinister tones of Bitch Better Have My Money, Desperado sways from left to right with heavy hitting drums throughout, with Rihanna stressing that she doesn’t want to be alone, over and over. Rihanna sometimes has a tendency to drift off towards the end of a line of lyrics as if she couldn’t be arsed finishing the sentence. There’s a lot of this in Desperado.
Awful title aside, Woo could just work in clubs. Production comes from the-Dream, Travis Scott and The Weeknd, so it’s a little less Rihanna and more of everything else. Again, she sounds in danger of nodding off at times and although it threatens to take off, it never quite gets there.
DJ Mustard ups his production talents for Needed Me, and angry Rihanna is back again, singing: “Fuck your horse and white carriage.” It’s hard to tell it apart from some of the other tracks on the album, but the strong bass and signature Rihanna attitude carries it through.
Yeah, I Said It
This sensual track slows it all down as Rihanna whispers some come hither lyrics throughout. She’s horny and she wants everyone to know it. Few do sexual whispering tones just like Rihanna when she really tries. Piano sneaks in and out, but again, it’s pretty short and ends leaving you wondering if your download just cut off for some reason. (Five of Anti’s 13 songs are under two-and-a-half-minutes.)
Same Ol’ Mistakes
This six-minute cover of Tame Impala’s New Person, Same Old Mistakes, sees Rihanna show off her vocal range. From the off, the mood is slightly trippy, with more than a hint of synch. Although a cover of a track only released last year, Rihanna appears to also sing over Tame Impala’s original backing and it works for a track nearing the end of the album.
Those who dislike ANTI are likely to see a great irony in the name of this track, but this certainly marks a departure for Rihanna. Soft, acoustic, and a very obvious nod to Dido, it’s one of Loaded’s favourites off the album. Listenable, radio friendly and breezy.
Love On The Brain
Rihanna does doo-wop in another vastly different track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Beyonce album. Rihanna can do a lot of things, and singing in a tone that’s a nod back to the 50s isn’t beyond her reach. Another experiment.
Another vintage style song leaves the listener wondering if they’ve been tuned into a number of different albums at once. Higher and Love On The Brain are nothing like anything else on ANTI, which is all over the place and neither one thing or the other. This raspy love song would be alright, but on another more cohesive album.
Close To You
The opening piano notes are reminiscent of Stay. She’s great when she’s vulnerable and the sadness builds up well to some good hooks. A final indication that Rihanna could just be best when left on her own without all the bells and whistles, with only a piano to accompany her.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1