After many hints about its release, Rihanna’s eighth studio album, titled ANTI, finally dropped exclusively on the streaming service Tidal last week. The album’s use of diverse-sounding styles, ranging from soulful R&B to dancehall, disregards the generic expectations placed on pop star’s music, giving us a final product that is perhaps the most creative one in Rihanna’s career in its endeavor to avoid being placed in a stereotypical box.

‘ANTI’ by Rihanna Album Review

Rihanna’s last album was 2012’s Unapologetic, and fans have been thirsty for new music by Rhi Rhi ever since, especially because she released her first seven albums in the span of seven years from 2005 to 2012. For most of 2015 there has been hightened anticipation about new music from Rihanna, with each single released over the course of the year causing a lot of stir about an impending album launch.

As a result, there has been some controversy regarding the album’s release last Wednesday, when early in the morning the single “Work” featuring Drake appeared on the Jay Z-run music platform Tidal and other music streaming platforms. To everyone’s surprise, the album, which is produced by Jay Z’s label Roc Nation, appeared in full shortly after the single’s release. This was apparently done by mistake, as the album was quickly taken down from the streaming service’s page, but by that time subscribers had had the opportunity to download the album, and it was leaked online.

With a little less than a month before Rihanna’s ANTI World Tour kicks off on February 26, the album was finally made available to select audiences through Tidal.

The album that was released last week did not feature any of the singles that Rihanna put out last year as anticipated — the Kanye West and Paul McCartney collaboration “FourFiveSeconds,” the smashing hit “B–tch Better Have My Money” and the hip-hop anthem “American Oxygen.” This said, the album’s 13 songs (16 on the deluxe version) sound truly fresh and new, avoiding the redundancy of already familiar hits.

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The opener on the album, “Considerations,” features singer-songwriter SZA, who proves to a strong match for Rihanna’s vocal character. This track perhaps deliberately sets out the tone and intention behind the rest of the album with the songstress affirming “I got to do things my own way, darling.” And with a disparate-sounding ANTI, Rihanna does just that.

“Yeah, I Said It,” co-written and co-produced by Timbaland, is a smooth RnB song and perhaps the album’s most explicit one. Conversely, the album’s concluding ballad titled “Close To You,” in which Rihanna sings about overpowering affection, shows us the musical polarity of ANTI.

One of the most surprising features of ANTI is the hypnotic cover of Tame Impala’s “Same Ol’ Mistakes.” Rihanna’s mellow vocals make this a compelling and powerful rendition of the indie band’s track. By being deliberately toned down in its atmosphere, ANTI openly challenges Rihanna’s flashier work on her earlier albums and perhaps hints at a new direction for the star’s music projects.

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