For the past three years, Rihanna has been harassed with questions regarding the release of her eighth studio album. Rumors were rampant regarding delays, dropped collaborations and many questioned whether it would ever be finished. After a three-year lapse, Rihanna released “ANTI” exclusively on Tidal last week, which stirred discussions about digital downloads, writing your own music and the pressures affecting artists in the 21st century. ANTI proves that her fans not only love her music but also the drama and conversation that follows any of her projects.
Through an agreement with Tidal, the album could be downloaded for free if you signed up for a 60-day free trial. This lead almost five million downloads in less than a week, making the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certify it platinum. Yet other prominent album trackers such as Nielsen refuse to recognize the accomplishment, saying that a free online download is not the same as a CD purchased. This has brought about questions of how an album is certified platinum in an increasingly digital world.
Rihanna follows many other artists like Taylor Swift who have taken a stand against piracy. She differs from this pack, however, in her creativity. While Swift had teams scouring the internet and deleting any unauthorized content, Rihanna brokered a deal that could guide the recording industry into the future.
Since Billboard only counts the number of albums actually sold and not ones given away for free, “ANTI” debuted at No. 27 on the Billboard charts. However, it is anticipated that it will skyrocket to No. 1 in the coming days. In addition, her first single off the album, “Work,” debuted in the Billboard top ten. Rihanna has nothing to worry about in terms of her profitability or popularity. Through her agreements with Samsung and Tidal, her upcoming World Tour and album sales in the coming weeks, “ANTI” will be a huge success.
As with many of Rihanna’s other projects, the discussion is about more than music. Fans and critics immediately commented on the number of people getting free copies of the album on Tidal. Many were also quick to question how much of the album Rihanna actually wrote herself. There was far less criticism of the actual music itself.
In the accreditation for “ANTI,” Rihanna is stated to have co-wrote most of the songs. However, in co-writing, did she really do anything? Sia, a famous singer-songwriter, has claimed that singers like Rihanna and Kanye West do not actually write their music. They give her ideas about what they want and do not turn up to writing sessions for more than ten minutes. Does that deserve accreditation? No matter how much controversy Rihanna may obtain for album sales or writing her own music, she is still one of the most talented singers in the industry and the No. 2 bestselling female artist. It’s hard to deny the catchiness of her songs–a result of great lyrics and truly talented vocals.
The main thing that should be talked about is the actual music. Sixteen tracks comprise the deluxe version of “ANTI,” which left out singles including “Four Five Seconds,” “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen.” Unlike Rihanna’s other albums, “ANTI” is not packed with Top 40 singles but rather comprises several songs that speak more of a narrative. Rihanna had full control over the production, which one can tell because the songs are all very original and different from her past discography. The album is very moody and intimate, as though Rihanna is speaking directly to her fans about her experiences. Fans of Rihanna’s more radio-friendly songs may not like it but her true fans will appreciate its genuineness.
The first single off of the album, “Work” feat. Drake, was released 48 hours before “ANTI” was dropped on Tidal. It is not the deepest track on the album, but is a fun club collaboration that will be popular on the radio. The chorus consists of Rihanna chanting “work work work” over a heavy beat.
“Higher” is a hidden gem. The two-minute song explores Rihanna pleading with her lover to come over and keep her company. Her raspy voice as she belts the chorus is a wonderful change from the auto tune-packed songs on other albums. She sings, “I wanna go back to the old way / But I’m drunk and still with a full ash tray / With a little bit too much to say.”
My personal favorite song on “ANTI,” “Consideration” feat. SZA is a gritty, distorted opener with a catchy beat. It immediately attracted me to the album and when listening to other songs, I always wished I could just go back to “Consideration.” SZA, a neo-soul singer, has an enchanting voice that helps the song come together. The song describes Rihanna’s music career and how she wants to produce her own work. The haunting voice of SZA as she sings, “when I look outside my window I can’t get no piece of mind” is one of the best lyrics on the album.
Another popular song, “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” is a cover of the Tame Impala song, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” However, she put her own spin on it and it turned out to be one of the best songs on the album. The chorus details Rihanna’s inner debate over whether the person she loves is healthy for her. She broods, “Feel like a brand new person (but you make the same old mistakes). Well, I don’t care if I’m in love (stop before it’s too late.)”
However, not every song on the album is up to the same caliber. Songs such as “Woo” and “James Joint” are deep disappoints that drag the album down. They seem poorly put together and rushed so that the album could be released. Overall, the album has its mix of good and bad songs, but the powerful ballads surpass the weaker, sloppy failures.
After three years, “ANTI” is finally here, representing a different direction in Rihanna’s sound as she finally takes control of her music. But was it worth the wait?