Rihanna – Anti review

Superstar divas Rihanna and Beyoncé were playing a very public game of who could be the most provocative temptress, and still get their songs played on the radio, for the a good few years. That’s the way it seemed at least, what with all the flesh on display in their music videos and other controversial moments, all of which prompted tea-sipping elitists and defends-of-taste to decrying them both.

By now, most us are familiar with the Barbadian queen and her rumpy-pumpy reggae and steamy pop. She’s gone from an innocent island girl (‘SOS’) to a whip-loving dominatrix (‘S&M’). Anti is her eighth album, and sees the pop star crossover to the trap and alternative R&B sounds of the moment.

If you’ve come this far and you haven’t yet heard ‘Work (feat. Drake)’, what planet have you been living on for the last 12 months? Anti’s lead single is its finest moment: a calypso rhythm that makes you shake your booty, a simple, catchy hook and some rap spice from Canada’s answer to Denzel Washington. ‘Work’ is a standout track, but it is a stylistic outlier here. The rest of the album is heavily influenced by trap (‘Desperado’) and the music of younger R&B stars, such as SZA, who appears on the dark, psych opener ‘Consideration’.

Parts of Anti do feel forced, like the phoned-in folk of ‘Never Ending’ and the bland ‘Love on the Brain’, both of which could have been replaced by the dirty stylings of the deluxe edition bonus tracks ‘Pose’ and ‘Sex with Me’. Still, on the whole, Anti is a strong attempt by the Barbadian pop queen to sidestep into a realm that SZA, Tinashe and Jhené Aiko have had on lockdown.

Anti is out now on Westbury Road/Roc Nation.

Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @aarnlee.

Image: Westbury Road/Roc Nation/UMG