Barbados’ beauty makes her return to the music charts with her much-anticipated eighth LP, ANTI.
After admiring Rihanna from afar for the last several years, it’s safe to say she embodies the duality of a businesswoman who also knows how to party.
Take her Instagram page, for example, where Rihanna appears to spend a large part of her time on yachts, smoking marijuana or snapping her random car drive. But what we don’t see is Rihanna signing shoe deals with PUMA and sock deals with Stance. Her social appeal has created an inviting image. Wouldn’t you want to hang out with RiRi?
And still, Rihanna’s new album, ANTI, was finally released on popular music-streaming website TIDAL Jan. 27 after a three-year gap since her last project, Unapologetic. The promotion was phenomenal; Rihanna’s three singles in 2015 amped her album like no other. (Ironically, none of the three singles made the album.) ANTI’s lyrical content predominantly touches on themes of relationships and explores what it means to be in love, to be hurt, to need someone and to be true to yourself.
The album begins with “Consideration” feat. SZA. Here, Rihanna’s sultry Barbadian voice states, “she has to do things her own way.” In correlation with the album title, Rihanna alludes to the fact that she wants to make music that feels timeless. With this album, her goal is to perform these songs 15 years from now. Much of her past singles have been quick hits that tend to last no more than a couple of months on the radio. The detail behind the album cover, a poem in braille, and the use of a picture of her first day of daycare, indicate new beginnings—and this album is definitely the start of something new.
ANTI’s lead single, “Work” feat. Drake, takes us back to the dance-hall days of the young pop star. Her vocals are meshed, almost slurred enough to roll off the tongue like ice cream. The song reminds us of summer days, with the sun blazing and living life in the simplest way. However, if you’re really down with #RihannaNAVY like I am, you’ll look up the lyrics. The lyrics suggest a different RiRi, a sensitive and shifting woman, whom we can understand is still willing to love this man as she says, “Who am I to hold your past against you?”
Do we want to see the softer Rihanna? Her album does an excellent job of taking us on this journey of self-exploration. Rihanna talks about sex almost as explicitly as she performs it in her music. Some of ANTI’s most memorable tracks are also the most vicious: “Love on the Brain” incorporates the doo-wop jam and heavy vocals of a wounded woman who is fighting a battle with her sanity, only to go into the darkness of a relationship. “It beats me black and blue, but it fucks me so good,” Rihanna belts, her voice aching for something deeper than skin. Her disconnection of “it” sounds like a ghost that won’t leave her.
Has anyone ever taken your happiness? Have you taken them back because that’s what pride does when it’s true love? “Kiss It Better,” a personal favorite, explores the roller coaster that is love. “Man, fuck yo pride, just take it on back,” Rihanna’s vocals carry the years of pain, alluding to the ego associated with stripping yourself of all emotional walls for the one you care for.
The growth of Rihanna’s artistry is shown in this album. You can hear the assurance of a woman who explores her self, body, sex life and love journeys. ANTI is well worth the wait and Rihanna continues to remind us why wearing your heart on your sleeve can help us all heal.