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Monday 21 March 2016

ANTi by Rihanna

Hey everyone!

As promised, I have started working on ideas and writing entries for my blog! To get used to the idea of blogging I have decided to write an album review first!

I have decided to review the album ANTi by Rihanna.

Rihanna has been in the public eye for over a decade, she has ranked up a net worth of £160 million and sold over 54 million albums worldwide. With 8 albums released and 13 number one singles achieved that makes her one of the top-selling artists of all time.

ANTi is the 8th studio album released by Rihanna. The album was released in January this year through Roc Nation for Tidal and other selected countries, but was not released in the UK until February. I have read various articles about the Roc Nation/Def Jam confusion and I am annoyed journalists are still stating that ANTi was released through Def Jam. In May 2014 it was publically aired that Rihanna left Def Jam to sign to Jay Z’s home of Roc Nation, it was a clean break from the label, which meant no shade was thrown at the new transition. Luckily this was the case for Rihanna because she was able to receive all her recorded masters and release ANTi through Roc Nation. Not to mention, sign a deal with Samsung for all promotion prior to ANTi’s release.

There have been a lot of questions about this album and why it took so long to release but speculation has laid down grounds on Rihanna not being 100% happy with the album, which is why the release was pushed back. There are no facts regarding the later date of release but her dropping three singles of off the album make you suggest the speculation.

You will remember the three diverse tracks that were dropped into the charts last year, Four Five Seconds, American Oxygen and Bitch Better Have My Money. American Oxygen and BBHMM didn’t have that much success however with Four Five Seconds featuring McCartney and Kanye, that brought a different audience and was the more popular of the three. For me personally the better release was American Oxygen, the song has a mature lyrical content that focuses on how the world is shaping today, I’m genuinely surprised it wasn’t featured on ANTi. Rihanna is known for making a statement and standing up for what she believes to be right or effective, so having a song like American Oxygen dropped really makes me question if it didn’t suit the overall musicality of ANTi or if there were other issues involved for the track listing.

ANTI has 13 tracks, however if you have the deluxe edition then you will see it has 16. There are only two published features on this album; they are “Work” featuring Drake and “Consideration” featuring SZA.  ANTi shows a different style of material that we are used to hearing from Rihanna. Previous albums have had elements of Pop, Dance and R&B, not to mention a little Dubstep. Anti incorporates Dancehall elements with a mix of old school style when it comes to lo-fi bass and downtempo minimalism. Rihanna stated that she wanted to create an album that was soulful and aggressive, I would have to agree she has achieved that but not musically, more vocally. This album is clearly directed at relationships and exploring the hurt that comes within one. It shows love, a need to be loved not just from someone, but from yourself.

ANTi opens with Rihanna’s attitude towards break from her previous engagements with Def Jam, this is “Consideration” with the vocals of SZA featuring on the track. 
“Kiss It Better" is one of my favorites from the album, it has an infectious beat and the lyrics ride it well. The downtempo makes it have an 80’s movie feel. In my opinion it incorporates a similar sound of of Purple Rain by Prince, the timbre of the song creates warmth and harmonically you can hear the different elements throughout the song. Lyrically there is nothing of significance here, considering there were five writers on this song. However, Rihanna’s vocal performance makes parts of the song stand out so you feel a connection with the overall track.
 “Woo” has a basic guitar riff with only two guitar chords repeated; there is no dynamic change. You can hear fragmented percussion programmed in at the verses and chorus but nothing makes the track stand out like others from ANTi. Rihanna’s distorted vocals are clearly inspired by some of Kanye West’s later work on 808’s Heartbreak. If you listen to the start of the track from 0:16 you can hear the distinctive similarity on West’s track “Welcome To Heartbreak” ft Kid Cudi.
When "Work" was first released as a single I really disliked it. To me it was another song based around the need for sex and promiscuity but hearing this song played continuously and seeing various Vine’s and Twitter posts with the song being the core of discussion, it has since grown on me. I have seen mixed reviews for this track mostly surrounding the vocal performance on Rihanna’s part. People need to take into account that Rihanna is Barbadian and Jamaican Patois is something she is used to, it is how people speak in the Caribbean and in other parts of the world. If you are familiar with artists such as Vybz Kartel, Lady Saw and Spice you will understand Dancehall and how it incorporates terms like “haffi” (have to) and “ah go” (going to) in a majority of the genre. This is a feel good track, it does make you want to dance, and it has the break beat that you want to hear when you listen to a minimalistic Dancehall track.
On ANTi there is a cover version of Tame Impala’s track “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Due to a good twist Rihanna’s writers have put a spin on the original, renamed it “Same Ol’ Mistakes” and laced it in a psychedelic essence that also incorporates a feel of a hip-hop as well as that pinch of R&B.

I have noticed that there are a lot of similarities to other artists work on this album. To many people there are issues regarding this, some say that ANTi is not original and using other artists work is just a way to sell an album, while others despise the writers and production team for not being creative enough. Personally there are a few tracks on this album that are lazy, if I can use that word without drawing negativity; I believe my opinion to be accurate due to the amount of similarities there are. With the song “Love On The Brain” there is a 1950’s touch to the sound, but the chord progression and guitar line are very close to Al Green’s “For The Good Times”, not to mention a feel of Amy Winehouse’s “Wake Up Alone” within some of the verses.
The song “Desperado” is my stand out track for this entire album, but as I have mentioned about other artists work, there is an astounding resemblance to Banks’s song “Waiting Game”. If you listen to the start of the Banks track and the start of Rihanna’s you will trigger the melody in vocal harmony straight away. With the masked resemblance to so many songs on this album I feel bad for really loving this track because it does sound so similar to another’s work. “Desperado” is powerful song and there is a deep meaning to it. Everyone has their own perceptions of what a song’s story is, or what creative purpose it holds, so people will think differently to how I feel regarding this song. Desperado means a reckless person a criminal, outlaw, lawbreaker, so this song pretty much stands a ground with what the meaning behind it could be. The music is edgy, and has a beautiful undertone; it’s dark and dirty and makes you feel like you’re in your own version of Django Unchained. Mike Schultz was the producer for this track, and rightly so, because he is a fantastic producer to achieve magic through sound. The song structure is witty; the overlay from verse to pre-chorus and then to chorus really adapts well into the song and gives the vocal production a whole other meaning. There are not many songs of Rihanna’s that I enjoy, but this one I do because the layup in vocal, lyrics and melody marry together so well.

Having listened to the deluxe album and the extra tracks available, to me I wouldn’t have spent any extra to get them, because they are the three worst tracks on the album. When I heard Rihanna’s writers created a song called “Goodnight Gotham” I was really hoping we had some of Rihanna’s Chase and Status influence on this track. I was expecting a dark and dirty Dubstep ambiance with a deep bassline and some really bad attitude to accompany it. Everyone who follows our good buddy Bruce Wayne knows the story, so using Gotham in a track line, you do start to make assumptions to what kind of sound you really want to hear. Instead when I listened to the track, I was so disappointed. The song doesn’t feature any vocals from Rihanna, it’s just a looped sample of Florence and the Machine’s “Only If For a Night.” The whole song is just one line repeated over and over again for 1:29. Considering this track had a mix engineer, two mix assistants, a recording engineer, a vocal production analyst and was recorded by two people, it shows how much money can be wasted and how studio time is spent.
The two other songs from the deluxe are “Pose” and “Sex With Me”, you don’t even need to think about the lyrics for these because they are just an aggressive boast from Rihanna about how rich she is and how her beauty is not matched.

This album holds no creative value especially when Rihanna’s album Rated R is still out there gathering dust, to me Rated R was the height of her career and really made her excel as an artist. With the hype surrounding this album and the long overdue wait I was really disappointed with this release. I am a fan of Rihanna’s music but not her personally; I say that without meaning to be negative or cause any upset, that is just my view and opinion. I believe Rihanna to be a good singer, but I believe her label and her recording team to be much better. The downside of this album is the amount of similarities to other artist’s work and the lack of commitment to creativity as a whole package lyrically and musically. There are a few songs that stand out for me on this album but they are not originals in my eyes, they are feed from other sources of creativity, effective though they maybe, for me I wouldn’t have gone out and bought this album for my own listening purposes because I did not enjoy it.

Having said that when you are a fan of an artist or band you really stick by them throughout their whole career and will never have a bad word said against them, but I believe that to be dishonest, because lets face it, no one ever does please us entirely. I have been a fan of various artist and bands growing up and I have always been able to admit if that individual’s work was not to a standard I know them for. That maybe because I have worked in the industry and I know how demanding a deadline can be and how hard a label can push their artists, but with that I can accept change within music. This album has not changed Rihanna as an artist there is no distinctive ‘new sound’. Rihanna has no boundaries and limitations to a genre so there can never be a whole new sound direction in her career. If her writers know anything, they know what catches her eye and how to manipulate music to suit her need. This has been one of those occasions.

I rate ANTi by Rihanna       |      ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


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