Rihanna – ANTI – The STiXXclusive Review

I know what you’re thinking, and yes this is for real, and no I’m not joking; this is a Rihanna album review. Yes. 100% correct you are. Don’t bother trying to ask any questions or seek any further understanding as to why this is happening. It’s too late. You’re buried too deep within this paragraph to get out now so you might as well stick around and enjoy it, alright? Alright. Welcome! This is a new experience to a certain degree, because the West Indian Queen of Pop (I said it) has been away for a minute, but she’s back with the jump off, and she certainly built quite the anticipation for herself since her last release, Unapologetic. Now, I’m not about to metaphorically sit here in front of you and tell you that I’ve been a big fan of hers for the duration for her career, because that’s simply not true. Have I cared for a bunch of her music? No. Did I mess with the many of the popular singles she had? Yes. Did she have one of the most memorable hooks with Run This Town that we’re going to hear for the next 15-20 years? Likely, but that’s not the point. Where I grew to appreciate her more had nothing to do with the music, but how she was growing as a beautiful woman, and beautiful is just one of the many words that I could come up with to describe her, because she is foine (all emphasis). When you see her all up on your social media feed every day of the week, it just becomes a force of habit to develop either a celebrity crush or pure disdain to even glance upon them. I rolled with the former, and so because of the buzz that was surrounding the aura of Fenty, the surprising leak sprung and I just went aboard, because why not? There are moments that happen within the music industry that you want to be a part of, and being as many of them happen in such an instant, you want to be able to experience that, so this was that time. Really the only tastes of Rihanna that majority of people who aren’t diehard fans, had received from her prior to ANTI, were FourFiveSeconds and Bitch Better Have My Money, so really I had no idea what was to be brought to the table outside of maybe another pop-ish album, but here we are, and allow me to indulge.

When Rihanna dropped her first bars on Consideration, I was like “wait a minute, what’s going on here?” It’s as though she approached the beat with a rap mentality and just coasted. The beat too was (for the sake of using) wavy, smooth, melodic, and it was certainly a sound I wasn’t expecting. I also wasn’t expecting SZA to make an appearance like she did as well, but she certainly coasted as well.

“I got to do things my own way darling
Will you ever let me
Will you ever respect me? No
Do things my own way darling
You should just let me
Why you ain’t ever let me grow?”

Artists are usually told to stay within their own lane to do what works for them because if it sells, then you don’t need to switch up anything. These lines gave me the impression that Rihanna wanted to make this album the way she saw fit, and wanted to explore a different realm that most people hadn’t heard from her outside of just brief examples of what could have been. Now, I’m not well known to her full discography but I know that it’s the Pop sound that many people crave from her. Only Girl In the World, Disturbia, Diamonds, and We Found Love (I could really go on forever) are examples that would make that narrative make sense, but the title of the album, ANTI, is like she’s going against her own self to make a more fulfilling project. Well if the album were to sound like what the first song off the bat, then damn, we got ourselves something dope. This was an unlikely collaboration, but I’m glad it came about because SZA fits well on almost any sound, and then you have Rihanna who needs to description as to what she can do over a variety of sounds. As I patiently await SZA’s next album, this will hold me over until that time. It came together well and I found myself having to run it back a few times because it was that addictive.

Why is that some of an artists’ really good songs are so short? Jay-z’s Beach Is Better is the first example that comes to mind because really we needed more of that, but his explanation gives a certain ‘understanding’, although it’s still not satisfying. James Joint is Rihanna’s contribution to the why-the-hell-is-this-song-so-short playlist that you may have stored somewhere in your iTunes (or not; whatever). The reason why Rihanna grabs so much appeal from young 20-something to early 30-year-old women is because she’s relatable in a sense to some of the everyday activities in which they embrace. Smoking weed is one of them, and if you’ve followed her along social media (especially Instagram), you’ll know that she loves her some tree, and God bless her for it. Also, we ‘know’ about her relationship woes, and that too connects with many. This little sampling of smooth highlights her need of two things: the weed in which she already seems to be under the influence of, and also this particular person of interest whom she would desire to be around, no matter how detrimental it may be towards her. She just wants to lay back and kick it – the simple things. Don’t we all, Rihanna? Don’t we all. The baseline humming throughout, reminds me of Thundercat strumming his life away, but really it’s hinting that she’s trying to get away from that particular sound that people wanted her to bring. Thus far, it has been enjoyable.

There was a thread on Twitter after the album came out that had video mash-ups with songs from ANTI, and for Kiss It Better it looked like an 80s movie with a couple driving down a lonely highway with the top down, and that is all you need to know about the vibe that this songs brings about. It was exactly what I was thinking of (not to that great of detail) when I first heard the song, because it definitely carried that retro feel that you could place in a movie from that time period.

“No one else gon’ get it like that
So why argue? You here, here to take me back
Who cares, when it feels like crack?
Boy, ya know that you always do it right”

When you were a kid and you fell and got a boo boo, your parent (usually the mother) would kiss you on the wound to make it better. Now, when it comes to heartbreak, the heart is too far buried within the depths of your chest cavity to kiss directly, but there are other things that you can do to hopefully tend to the wounds. Personally, I’ve never been back together with someone after a break up, but I do understand that desire of wanting ‘that old thang back’ with someone because of that history, chemistry, and really that love that was there during the good times. The thing is, that’s all people think about – those good times. Not realizing that the bad that came with them were the reasons why they’re not together. It’s a double-edged sword, but I’m not here to council anyone on the subject of love. Rihanna (with all of her physical glory) is making it known that ‘you’ll never find, as long as you live, someone who loves you quite like she does’ (I’ve heard that in a song before). What sacrifices are you willing to make for someone in order to patch things up and get things moving forward again on a good note? There are so many questions and usually the answers can go great or turn out horrible, but that’s the beauty behind the madness (thanks, Abel) and why people either are prone to or they embrace falling in love. Many people thought that this song should have been the lead single rather than the song next up, and I agree that it would have been more well received, but again, there’s no harm being done with what’s currently being heard. There’s no clear front-runner for what’s the best song at this point, but this is certainly the most dynamic.

The aforementioned song that served as the lead single for this album is Work, and as the think-pieces flew in from left, right, and centre about just exactly what she was saying, just know that this song will really only sit in well with a particular group of people. Not to exclude, but I’m doing it – West Indian people, let us take the floor for one moment (or many moments) and embrace the greatness that this song provides outside of just the record itself. The dancehall vibe (I don’t know what this ‘Tropical House’ foolishness is) that it gives off just triggers one thought into my mind – Caribana. Being that Boi-1da & PARTYNEXTDOOR were the minds behind this song, and given Rihanna’s already known Bajan background (or Barbadian, whichever term you want to use), it was just due to happen. I mean, really, outside of Pon Di Replay & Man Down what else has she made that has close ties to her home & native land and the region that encompasses the spirit of the music that Work provides? Exactly – nothing comes to mind. Yuh kno sey Rihanna body set good, suh she haffi work pon it fi keep it ripe an sharp an nuhbaddi cyah badda wit she cah yuh dun kno she nu have time fi di foolishness.

Translation: Rihanna’s body is amazing, so you know that she has to work on it to keep her physique intact. You can’t mess with the greatness, because she won’t give you that time of day.

The beauty of this song is that so many people will think that this is just gibberish that is spewing out and although the mumbles through the hook would be the only argument, there’s no denial that this song will be played well throughout the summer if you live in a region that has that West Indian vibe that is embraced, much like here in Toronto (there’s no on like us, so that’s damn near impossible). The literal only thing I didn’t like about this song was the fact that Drake was on it. I’m aware that Take Care & What’s My Name are smash hits, and they’re almost everyone’s favourite dream couple, but this song was not the time for him to hop on the track with his melodies and distract us from Rihanna’s creative process (thank you, Kanye). Like many people and myself agreed on, I’m glad he didn’t try his bootleg patois to put any more damage on the song that she already provided. Dear Internet, I still need a version of the song without Drake on it. Any time now. When I really found appreciation of it was when it came on while I was at a show and the crowd went nuts and women were gyrating their waistlines in sensual motions (not twerking – absolutely not twerking). Thank you, Robyn.

Moving into the body of the album that steps away from the seemingly light-hearted sounds, to a more gloomy & intensive direction, Desperado is first on the docket with the Bonnie & Clyde narrative (go with me on this) that suggests two victims of heartbreak to runaway with each other as far as they can in order to escape that feeling. Desperado is also the name of a movie starring Antonio Banderas & Salma Hayek that’s served as an action movie, but still that dangerous couple that the two make, you can tie it within this song.

“If you want, we can be runaways
Running from any site of love
Yeah, yeah, there ain’t nothin’
There ain’t nothin’ here for me
There ain’t nothin’ here for me anymore
But I don’t wanna be alone”

I think Rihanna has answered the question that Alicia Keys posed on Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart – the key (to success) is not to do it alone and run away with someone who shares the same sentiments, by any means necessary. Seems legit. Rihanna was seen linked with Travis Scott for a while, which brought about speculations that they were a thing, but really it was his sound that brought about some influence, as was an example here and on the song to follow.

Woo is all Travis Scott all the time, and I’m not mad at it at all. I didn’t expect that beat drop to kick in like it did, but dammit, it did and I was bopping along for a long time. I think I had this on repeat the most, along with another song that’ll I’ll bring up later. This song makes you wonder what Rihanna could do if she wanted to make an album filled with strictly trap beats. Her & Travis; her and Future. Listen, autotune can do wonders, but just the natural charisma that she gives off, and her level of chill, I don’t see how she can’t pull it off. Rihanna is the lust Queen and this anthem certainly helps back up that statement. There’s a certain power that a woman loves to feel when she knows in her heart that no matter how hard you try to move on and say that you have better, she will still be more superior.

“Bet she could never made you cry
‘Cause the scars on your heart are still mine
Tell me that she couldn’t get this deep
She can almost be the worst of me
Too bad she’s just eating off your dreams
Let me know when you’re ready to bleed
Baby you just need to send for me”

The art of wooing is to enchant and devilishly persuade someone into your court. It’s like wrapping someone around your finger seductively, and this good girl turned bad & R-Rated (moretimes X-rated) certainly knows what to do when she wants to put you in that mood to ruin your whole life (stress), but will make you enjoy at least some of it while she’s doing it. These West Indian women are no good (I’m lying – they’re amazing). This is one of my favourites because the beat alone just carries such a force that I’m glad Rihanna took upon. Very enjoyable along with the melodies that her and Travis lay down, so thank you Travis, because you laid your hands and blessed.

A wise woman once said that men can be treated like hoes too. It was either my best friend, Mirna, or it was another friend of mine, Jamz. Either way, Men have this feeling like we can’t be treated the same way we treat them in terms of ‘using’ them for the simple task of having someone to fuck around with. That’s just what’s normal, but when it comes to women having that power to call us over for a fuck and then sending us home like a simple business transaction? Oh, it’s madness. Madness I say. Some men are more for it, and some have to put their feet down and not stand by. There hasn’t been a song of great magnitude to really capture that feeling from a woman’s point of view (unless you listen to Trina or Lil Kim religiously) until now. Needed Me is that song that almost immediately down my Twitter feed, women were yelling (I’m sure they were literally yelling as they were typing) “Yaaaaaas BITCH! SAVAGE! YOU BETTER SLAY THESE NIGGAS!” You know, something of that variety. Either way, men took a backseat and Rihanna stepped up to the mic on some “oh, you thought you were staying the night” shit and slapped away all that dignity. Allow me to present the Exhibits.

“You was good on the low
For a faded fuck
On some faded love
Shit, what the fuck you complaining for?
Feeling jaded, huh?
Used to trip off that shit I was kickin’ to you
Had some fun on the run though I’ll give it to you”

“You was just another nigga on the hit list
Tryna fix your inner issues with a bad bitch
Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage?
Fuck ya white horse and ya carriage”

Listen, Robyn, I’m going to need you to find some respect for the male species right about now because this is some shit here. I found this track to be hilarious because Men don’t like the script to be flipped and us be on the other end of the savagery. Men big each other up like “Yo you smashed _______ and just dashed her like that? Savage!” You know, stupid shit. But in this era of the Group Chat on iMessage & BBM, Rihanna’s basically speaking for the women who have ‘needed’ an anthem to highlight their behaviours towards treating men like tings (or ‘jawns’, or ‘hoes’, or ‘jits’). The beat was smooth as hell (shout out to the production on this album for real) and the whole message of you needed the girl more than she needed you, but she’ll take the sex anyways, is just cold. I know some men don’t want to admit that they’ve been the side dude before, but brother, you have definitely been a side at some point or just good to call up once in a while when you need to smash. It’s life. The world turns, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

It’s sexy time again, and really when is it never that time when Rihanna is involved? Honest question. Yeah I Said It puts that emphasis on sexy because it certainly got hot in certain bedrooms since the album’s release. There’s a term that we in Toronto have used often since (in my case) the days of middle school and it’s “deal with the mattaz” meaning you need to assess the task at hand and deal with it in a respectable manner. In other words, do your job. In more words, like Rihanna was alluding to in this song, you need to ‘tear dat ass up,’ or as she said, “homicide it.” But Jesus, ah suh she gwan? Tek time nuh Rih Rih (not translating that part, just keep it pushing). But in all seriousness, this is a sexy ass song, and that emphasis carried from Needed Me is brought along when Rihanna says that she doesn’t need a particular designation in order to have some boot knocking coitus. You know Rihanna had one up her sleeve for the freaks & lovers to get busy to, so well done on her part.

Now, before I get right into Same Ol’ Mistakes, I had no idea that this was a Tame Impala cover until it floated around on my timeline and I investigated an article that had written about it. I think it’s dope when artists cover music either to give other artists shine or generally just loving the song enough to make their own versions, and really I think Rihanna opened the door for a few more Tame Impala fans, because their album, Currents, that the original song (New Person, Same Ol Person) appears on, is full of all of the fire emojis that you can place within the comments section of any website. I won’t lie, I had no idea who Tame Impala was until this song. I had to take a listen afterwards because of this one song; she really did it justice and a little extra. I had it on repeat because of the beat itself, but the song fits within her own personal narrative of ANTI, which is her feeling like someone brand new, but in other facets of her life, she finds herself making the same mistakes over and over (hence the lack of success in love).

“I can just hear them now
“How could you let us down?”
But they don’t know what I found
Or see it from this way around
Feeling it overtake
All that I used to hate
Worried ’bout every trait
I tried but it’s way too late”

And at the same time, it fits the whole ‘trying-to-fit-in-a-box narrative that she’s trying to move away from. It’s absolutely bananas in a car, so I can only imagine what it’ll sound like live in concert. I know there are people who like Rihanna to stay within her lane, but I appreciate stepping out of the zone to bring about something different to achieve a new wave of success, so it’s fantastic that she chose to do this cover.

The final leg of the album brings in the softest of songs to finish the album and it starts off with Never Ending, which has the acoustic guitar all over, and it’s one that I can hear on one of those soft rock radio stations because it’s safer on the ears. The power of being under the influence runs deep and often contributes to being the subject of great songs, and I feel as though this is an underrated song on the album because it’s really a good song. Music is a continuous way of life for many, and all that comes with it happen to stick around with it. What I mean by that is that there are many habits both good and bad that come with the task of creating music, and drugs are big influencers of that, and I’m going to be cliché here, but love is a drug. It’s addicting for some, other people try it for a bit and tell themselves that they’ve had enough, and others simply can’t have enough of it. It’s a ‘never ending’ cycle when it comes to the good and bad that love can bring to a person’s life at any given time, but that’s just how life works.

“This feeling always gets away
Wishing I could hold on longer
Why does it have to feel so strange
To be in love again?”

Just as she put it, it’s a strange feeling to be in love after it’s been away for quite some time (believe me), but that’s what happens when you’re a hopeless romantic. It again emphasizes why her music speaks to so many women, but for the first time, I could really have a sense of where she’s coming from in some ways. This is a song that I think will grow be to be more appreciated within her catalog, because it’s quite impressive.

Alluding to that point of Love being a drug, Love On The Brain & Higher are also both songs that support that narrative, and they’re presented in ways that would have been better served had Rihanna had more vocal strength, but I do applaud her attempt. They both have an old school sound behind them, and the soulful nature of them both call on strong vocals that a lot of people tied together to Amy Winehouse, and I did agree, because she would have (and I’m pretty sure there are examples that you can pull up) where she would have made these enduring hits for years to come. I like Love on the Brain more than Higher because there wasn’t the need to strain her vocals much like she did on the latter, and also I appreciated the writing through and through.

“And babe I’m fist-fighting with fire
Just to get close to you
Can we burn something babe
And I run for miles just to get a taste
Must be love on the brain
That’s got me feeling this way”

Higher is like a long drunk text at an ungodly hour that a lady sends off because she’s missing her man friend and would like to spend some casual sexy time with. It’s short, but it gets to the point of its intended purpose. Everyone (seriously, everyone) knows that Rihanna is not the strongest singer out there. She has her range, she makes her hits, everyone’s happy, and we all go home, right? Right. But look at it like this, Madonna isn’t exactly Mariah or Whitney, but I’m sure she’s tried to reach to the heavens for a note that just wasn’t in her grasp. There are a couple of instances that I believe people think they’re the best singers in the world: 1. When they’re in the shower, and 2. When they’re drunk. This is why they serve alcohol at karaoke bars. So, as much as this song might be hard on the ears because there are certainly times where she cracks and it just goes not quite according to plan, the circumstance (not using it as an excuse) can allow it to give it a little pas. Just a little. But if you were drunk and recorded a song that you thought was fire and didn’t care how you sounded, you’d probably belt this one out too. I’m sure I’m not going to actively listen to it religiously, although it is only 2 minutes, but I can understand why there are criticisms towards the song. Also I can step away and appreciate the context in which those criticisms stem from, so it’s bless.

It didn’t really occur to me that Love on the Brain sounded like a Beyoncé song, because Close To You, to me, sounded the closest thing to one that was written by the Bey, especially how it was brought about, but this is Rih’s time, so I’ll focus on that. This is a beautiful song. It got right up under the ribs and directly into the feels from the first line. Dramatic, but effective.

“Nothing but a tear, that’s all for breakfast
Watching you pretend you’re unaffected
You’re pulling our connections, expecting me to let you go
But I won’t”

Tears are salty, so I don’t think that’s great breakfast food, but Rihanna seems to be living the lines of “for better or for worse” from a wedding vow or reciting the chorus for Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go. Either way, she’s holding on for dear life, the love that she has for this person, and in a way you hurt for her because she’s wanting to be close to this person who wants her put themselves further and further away from her as the stages of a break up commence and get deeper as time goes forward. For those who have had that ‘one-that-got-away’ and it still somewhat stings when you think about it, I feel like this is the song that can thoroughly go through those emotions (depending on what end of the spectrum of heartbreak you’re on). It’s a lovely ending for what is a surprisingly good album, and I’m glad I wasn’t a snob towards it, because she really put her foot in it.

I keep pronouncing ANTI like ‘aunty’ (an-tee) and I don’t know why, but that’s beside the point. I really did not expect to like this album. I only really listened to it because it was such a big deal that it leaked, and then everything else spilled over. I’ve never purchased a Rihanna album ever, and I’ve certainly not cared that deep enough for me to go out of my way to do so because she always had a Pop sound to her, and that just wasn’t my flavour, but to quote Katt Williams, this shit right here nigga? This is some pure, unadulterated grown-ish (she’s just about to touch 28) music that I don’t feel a lot of people were expecting. Because she was knocking out albums year after year, the extended absence must have put her in a different place & zone to the point where she wanted to go against the grain and deliver something completely left field. From the Samsung deal, which played a role in the ANTIdiaRy app, to her exclusively releasing on Tidal first, it was a business approach that I certainly wasn’t expecting, but at the same time, as a casual fan, why would I? I just found it nuts that, not only myself, but other men who wouldn’t consider themselves really fans of Rihanna’s music, were vibing to it and enjoying the music. That’s probably the main takeaway from this. She made an album that she wanted to make and had the courage to do something out of the norm, which successfully paid off. I would absolutely say to listen to this album, because it’ll be in plenty conversations for the duration of this year once videos start popping up and she starts plugging more singles and such. There’s something for everyone to enjoy on this, but the fact that it’s not just exclusive to a particular set of fans, that’s what I appreciate. One time for the Fenty. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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