It seems that Rihanna is starting to get away from the commercial image. The cover of her new album, Anti, already seemed to promise that. A little girl carrying a big crown with a balloon and stained by a red spot is very different from what we were used to see: Rihanna’s face on the foreground showing her distinctive and exotic Barbados’ beauty. This new image could be interpreted as the reason of her new music: the role of ‘princess of RnB’ had started to be too big for her.
Her new work is full of novelties. Rihanna just changed her recording company from Def Jam to Roc Nation, founded by Jay Z. The small company worked mainly with hip-hop, RnB and pop artists, such as J. Cole, Rita Ora and Willow Smith. That change also remarks a new kind of producing her album, a more independent way.
On the other hand, the variety of producers is very wide, being more than twenty going from one of the most known producers, Timbaland, to a long list of new talents. But the big absent is the polemic rapper Kanye West, who was supposed to be producing the album. Rihanna admits that “Kanye definitely wanted to be involved in making the album, so he did start helping me make it. Now we just have to wait to get back in the studio together. His schedule and mine are totally opposite right now, but I think this month we’ll be back in the studio”.
The track list is a mixture of genres and styles, going from the dancehall and the reggae to the electronic. She has been definitely enjoying and playing with music in order to give the best of herself. That’s probably the key to get one of their objectives: “I wanted songs that I can perform in fifteen years, not any songs that will burn out”. Nowadays, she confesses, she doesn’t want to perform some old songs because they don’t feel like her anymore.
It is also notable that none of the singles that she had released before the CD are on it, not even Bitch Better Have My Money or FourFiveSeconds. This fact might represent the intention of the singer of running away from the basic idea of buying an album to find what you already know and just taking out singles to promote you next work. As I see, it is like if she was saying “here I am, I have lots of different and new things to sing, if you listen to my album you will be surprised”.
What I wanted to mean by “New Rihanna. vs. Old Rihanna” is the fight that she seems to be on. As we listen to the album we can figure out how the artist deals with her older style, like in Love On The Brain or Kiss It Better, which have a stronger RnB character. But also we see the intention of making new music, like in Woo or Desperado, where Rihanna takes out her roughest and most experimental part. Those songs are the darkest ones, with a slow rhythm and a cocky attitude.
The birth of the new Riri
Needed Me is, in my opinion, the best description of the album. It contains electrical sounds but it is still RnB and Rihanna demonstrates the power of her voice. The melody isn’t catchy, maybe because the final version was, in fact, still a proof.
In spite of that, one of the things that the critics have reproached to the artist is that the album seems to have two very differentiated parts, which doesn’t make a homogeneous work. It is a shame to see that the intention was different from the result when she said “But I want people to go for the ride. The songs have to make sense together.”
The shadow of ‘old’ or ‘commercial’ Riri is found in Work. If we had to choose a single, it would be this track because of some reasons. Firstly, there is an important rapper on it: Drake, with the one she worked previously, always showing a good feeling between both. Secondly, the repetitive sounds and lyrics that define the song are one of the characteristics of hits. And, finally, because Work was the first song that had an official videoclip.
Anyway, Anti is, without any doubt, an inflection point in Rihanna’s career. She has demonstrated the maturity of a girl who has been singing for more than ten years, at the age of 28, but who still has a lot to learn.