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New Music: Rihanna

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, February 9 2016 —

Rihanna’s new album is a force to be reckoned with. Like the artist’s previous release, ANTI is an ambitious step forward for the pop star, featuring a collection of songs exploring different genres and musical influences. ENT_Rihanna

The most staggering aspect of ANTI is that the album establishes Rihanna as a musician capable of more than pop hits. Each of the record’s 13 songs showcases different aspects of Rihanna’s work.

While there are undoubtedly some surefire hits on the album — most notably her collaboration with Drake on “Work” and the trap-influenced beats and woeful lyrics of “Desperado” — many tracks see Rihanna abandon her traditional pop sound.

“Never Ending,” for instance, features the singer’s vocals overtop a simple acoustic backing and more closely resembles an indie rock anthem than a pop ballad. And “Love on the Brain,” undoubtedly the album’s most ambitious track, plays like a Motown classic, but with explicit lyrics tackling domestic violence.

“Consideration,” opens the album with lyrics focused on the artist’s self-image. “I got to do things my own way darling — will you ever let me? Will you ever respect me?” Rihanna sings overtop a minimal beat that highlights her assertive voice.

Rihanna’s change in style shouldn’t come as a surprise — her previous albums all featured hints of creative innovation. But on ANTI, those ideas are finally fully-formed.

Though ANTI is a cohesive work as a whole, many of its tracks are short excursions that explore singular ideas. “James Joint” is a surreal interlude about smoking weed played on top of a synthetic orchestral background. And “Higher” is a contemporary take on iconic soul singers like Aretha Franklin, though Rihanna’s voice doesn’t quite match up with the artists she’s channeling.

Though it’s hard to tell which sound she’ll settle on for her next album, ANTI proves to her harshest critics that there’s more to Rihanna than just her pop image.

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