Rihanna’s ‘ANTI’ Album: Review Revue
There’s something to be said for the brazen nature of Rihanna, who up till now has operated on the surface like a one-woman hit-making machine, that she would even dare to release an album like the appropriately-titled ANTI. (Read our own review here.) Defying the expectations, no doubt, of her label, the record plays like a new foray into more experimental territory, results be damned.
Not unexpectedly, music critics seems split down the middle, and ANTI is being branded as mostly a mixed bag. Whether it’s a bag you’ll want to pick up for yourself remains to be seen. But perhaps our roundup of what reviewers had to say can help inform your decision.
:: The New York Times says RiRi seems “blissfully adrift” with ANTI: “That all these songs exist side by side reaffirm that Rihanna is our least aesthetically consistent — least aesthetically committed? — major pop star. At this stage of her career, music may be the least essential brick in her house. And as Rihanna has made clear time and again, not only is the sum greater than the parts, but the sum might also have nothing to do with the parts whatsoever.”
:: The A.V. Club gives the album a B+: “The ‘don’t give a fuck’ posture that Rihanna has adopted in her public life naturally works its way into the DNA of the songs here, making the moments when that façade cracks incredibly compelling. She clearly knows what she wants — whether it’s a single late-night encounter on ‘Yeah, I Said It’ or to be with someone else on ‘Love On The Brain’ — and she’s adamant in her pursuit.”
:: BET says we should all overlook ANTI‘s lack of commercial appeal: “She might have figured out that she is and always has been a massive world entertainer that can’t ever be pegged into one genre. It’s her gift and her curse. Though, whether it’s a curse is totally up for debate. We’re already eight albums deep and eleven years in. In the end, that’s bigger than thirteen No. 1 singles.”
:: The Telegraph isn’t letting Rihanna off the hook so easily, however: “It will satisfy the appetite of fans and the curiosity of the internet for the moment but poses interesting questions about what happens next. Because being cool and credible is all very well. But what, really, is a pop star without hits? Rihanna might be about to find out.”
:: Slant isn’t very impressed at all: “The sense that the largely joyless Anti lacks focus is furthered by the fact that ‘Higher’ and ‘James Joint’, which both clock in at under two minutes a piece, scan as mere sketches. The ultimate impression the album leaves isn’t just that of an artist who failed to follow through on her vision, but who never bothered to conceive one in the first place.”
:: Says Cosmopolitan, “Artistic ambition aside, Anti still doesn’t have much of a cohesive theme. In enlisting so many different producers and writers to help her grow, Rihanna has amassed a bunch of songs that sound cool individually but don’t really operate as a unit — singles that can’t be singles because they’re too down-tempo, too weird, too lacking a guest verse from Nicki Minaj. Anti has this in common with another surprise album that functioned more as a statement of independence than a commercial hit — 2013’s BEYONCÉ, criticized from the beginning for having no singles.”
:: The Evening Standard says the album is “mostly daring stuff, but that makes the retro soul of the closing ballads, which feature her best singing, feel like an afterthought. A foray into jazz on ‘James Joint’ lasts little over a minute. It’s a confused collection that doesn’t merit the years of build-up.”
:: The Guardian sums up both sides of the coin with this: “It’s hard to work out from its contents whether in a few albums’ time its author will be back to churning out neon-hued anthems or embedded even deeper into the musical leftfield, because its contents are neither the kind of unqualified success that confidently maps out a future direction or the kind of unmitigated disaster that requires her to beat a hasty retreat. Perhaps the answer hinges on the vexed issue of how fans who’ve previously bought into the idea of Rihanna as an imperious provider of bulletproof pop will take to an album that’s sprawling, uneven, exploratory and opaque: the sound of an artist who’s worked out what she doesn’t want to be, without really deciding what she does.”