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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | July 12, 2020

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ANTI: Rihanna makes her own rules

ANTI: Rihanna makes her own rules

| On 13, Feb 2016

After three years without an album, Rihanna’s Anti finally hit the scene last week, bringing with it a glaring switch in the pop heavyweight’s style. As her eighth studio album, Anti is easily Rihanna’s most standout to date, departing from party anthems and setting the scene for a more mature version of the Rihanna the music industry has seen develop from a teenager.

Before her three-year break, Rihanna released seven albums in seven years; making a name for herself as one of the world’s biggest pop stars with hit after hit. 2012’s Unapologetic saw huge success, debuting at number 1 and receiving a Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album, so the voluntary break during what seemed to be her career peak left many dumbfounded.

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Anti’s release answers the questions surrounding her break perfectly: she wanted to leave her image behind and do something new.

Anti represents a significant move in the singer’s career, transitioning her from a singles act to an albums act. The first song of the album, “Consideration’”, opens with the line “I got to do things my own way darling”, and the song continues with Rihanna expressing her desire to depart from the expectations of record labels and create content that indulges her own tastes. This dub-inspired tune sets the tone for the rest of the album, carrying into neo-soul/jazz song “James Joint’“ and taking us on a journey of the latest turn on her road to longevity as an artist.

Anti is an album best listened to from beginning to end. While the content jumps between genres and styles, each song carries smoothly into the other thanks to smart production, connected by similar undertones that manage to make the transition between two different styles an art form rather than a clunky switch that stalls the album’s sound. Rihanna incorporates numerous styles in Anti, from mellow jazz and psychedelic sounds to 80s/90s style power ballads and 50s doo-wop. Venturing into such genres might find a lack of connection with long-standing fans, however such a move also brings the chance of diversifying her listener base and attracting broader audiences.

In 2015 Rihanna spoke to MTV about her upcoming album, stating that she wanted to “create music that is timeless”. Her discontent with what is an admirable folio of hit songs spoke volumes of Rihanna and the image her label had created for her throughout her career.

“I find that when I get on stage now I don’t want to perform a lot of my songs because they don’t feel like me.”

Now, with Anti, Rihanna is breaking from these confines. The album notably lacks names that have usually been present in her content. Sia Furler, Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Calvin Harris submitted for the album yet Rihanna chose to pass on them all. Rihanna is credited on all the songs (excluding the cover ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’), and while other talents are cited, the lack of the usual hit-maker teams makes Rihanna’s intentions clear.

As the title suggests, the album is everything you wouldn’t expect from a Rihanna album. It ventures down a road of the singer’s own personal tastes, embracing the freedom to produce the music she wants to create and displaying a more alternative and diverse folio than anyone expected.

 

Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala play an unexpected part in the album, granting Rihanna permission to cover their song “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”– which is retitled “Same Ol’ Mistakes” on Anti. While the cover does not venture from Tame Impala’s original, the song does act as a valuable player in Anti’s sound as a whole, complimenting the folio of songs perfectly.

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While Tame Impala are a credit to themselves, this is definitely a huge deal for Australian musicians and the bridging of genres. In 2015, Rihanna was announced as the most successful digital singles artist of all time, with more than 100 million gold and platinum song certifications. Her influence on the industry in undeniable, having played a major part in introducing electronic dance music (EDM) to the mainstream, and should Anti ‘s singles find similar success to those in her past, it is likely a shift is due for mainstream music.

While only time will tell whether Anti’s singles will have the same impact on the charts as Rihanna’s previous endeavours, the album is a definite pinnacle in the singer’s career. Her versatility and daring attitude towards crossing genres has secured her as an artist to watch in coming years, and if Anti’s anything to go by, you will not be able to guess what’s next.

Image credits: Vanity Fair, Christopher Polk, End of the Road Festival, Rolling Stone